Through writing this article I have been converted to believing that a proper haircut is not necessarily a matter of vanity, but rather, like other basic choices we make about our appearance, a matter of identity, self-expression and self-care. Hence why barbershops have been gathering places in communities for as long as they have been around. At Hurricane Barbershop, the haircuts are what bring people in but the friendly, laid-back-yet-personal atmosphere is what has cultivated a community over the years.
Now tucked in Hem 53 off of Nguyen Van Cu (on the left just after Tran Hung Dao), Hurricane Barber shop’s all-but-hidden storefront belies its growing status as a mecca for men (and short-shorn women) seeking the experience of a truly satisfying haircut in Saigon.
And, like a real, good old-fashioned barber shop, Hurricane has character, style and a following of like-minded folks.
The interior is understated and practical: classic barber chairs; a mirror for each barber; and shelves crowded with electric clippers, scissors, razors, combs, neck duster brushes and other hair-cutting paraphernalia. With urban art collective 90 KINS coming together in the loft upstairs and empty spray paint cans and fedora hats for light-fixtures, it’s a no-frills establishment with a young vibe. What sets Hurricane apart from both the one-chair haircutters on the street and Saigon’s bigger salons is the vision of the owner and founder of Hurricane: Bi.
Like most successful entrepreneurs, Bi’s idea to open a barber shop was born out of having to do something yourself because you want it done right. A few years ago there was nowhere in town to get a perfect undercut (think Macklemore in “Thrift Shop”). As a poster on the wall at Hurricane explains, it was inspired by vintage styles popular from the 1920s to the 1940s. The undercut was a trademark of hipster culture but, according to Bi, still elusive here.
Over time, first for friends, and then friends of friends, Bi mastered tapers, fades and racing stripes. Before long he realized there was a larger niche he could fill for young people in Saigon. What’s more, he found his calling in having the kind of trustable personality that readily sets people at ease with clippers in hand. “I called it hurricane because it’s like a storm is coming,” said Bi of the early days when Hurricane was more of just a fun idea.
Hurricane is a modern version of a long tradition of barbershops in being a cultural nexus—bringing together both Vietnamese and foreign patrons who can appreciate the tastefully mild pineapple scent of Gold Fingers Pomade. “It’s about fifty-fifty foreign and local customers, business is doing better and better,” says Marsu, Bi’s business partner and protégé.
Its reputation continues to spread mostly by word of mouth because, somehow, Bi’s magic touch still remains unique. All Hurricane’s reviewers on Facebook say essentially the same thing: I have finally found my barber.