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Self-taught Himalayan hairdresser is a cut above
From:Shanghai Daily  |  2019-08-03 04:29

IN a courtyard amid the snow-capped mountains in southwest China’s Tibet Autonomous Region, Tenzin Sonam skillfully cuts the hair of a client, while several others wait in line.

“See, after getting a short haircut, you look much more energetic,” the part-time hairdresser told his client, a doctor in the Tsosisumkyi Township of Ngari Prefecture.

Deep in the Himalayas, the township has poor transportation and a sparse population. Currently, no one operates any barber shop there.

Tenzin Sonam, head of the township, has a notice in front of his house that reads: “Free haircuts, but please wash your own hair and bring your own barber capes.”

The self-taught hairdresser gained experience when he was getting his own haircuts.

“I would observe them doing different styles,” he said.

He could only do some simple hairstyles at first but then progressed to amaze the locals, who even had no idea of what a “hairstyle” was.

“The snow covers the mountains for almost half the year, and we were used to not getting haircuts,” said villager Thokme Tenzin.

“But these days, everyone takes personal hygiene seriously, and we will be made fun of if we continue to grow long hair like yaks.”

Like Tenzin Sonam, Tobgyal is also a part-time barber in the same township. The difference is, Tobgyal’s clients are the students in the school where he is the principal.

Over the years, Tobgyal has done all kinds of stylish hairstyles: Some have heart-shaped hairstyles, some have apple-shapes and others have styles that resembles lightning.

In July 2015, Tobgyal was assigned to work in the Pingguo School. Soon after arriving, he found that nobody was around to cut the hair of its students, and decided to become their barber.

Tobgyal bought his haircut kit online and learned his trade from an online app.

His first experiment was done on township official Losang. It was a disaster. After several failures, however, he gradually got the technique right.

In his school, the students often ask him to give them bizarre or special haircuts.

An 8-year-old student once asked him to do a hairstyle that “looks like a cat’s face,” but Tobgyal eventually gave him an apple-shaped one.

Half a year ago, two female teachers were assigned to the school and it helped to ease the burden on his shoulders.

Now the female teachers comb the hair and make braids for young girls every day, and Tobgyal no longer needs to cut their hair short.

With more stylists, people there are having more good hair days.

“We want everyone in the township to look upbeat and happy with clean, good-looking hair,” said Tenzin Sonam.