A skilled barber in central Vietnam’s Da Nang City offers a quick, gorgeous trim with a difference- instead of using scissors, he cuts his clients’ hair with traditional razor-sharp Japanese swords.
At the Hung Hair Salon in the city’s Thanh Khe District, Nguyen Hoang Hung, 34, brandished two “Katana,” a sharp, shiny traditional Japanese sword, to cut his client’s hair.
“Katanas,” or “samurai swords”, are traditionally made of a specialized Japanese steel called “Tamahagane,” which is created from a special smelting process that results in several layers of steel with different carbon concentrations.
The sword is widely known for its gorgeous looks, remarkable sharpness and the technical challenges involved in crafting it.
Hung practiced for four years to master his sword strokes, which earned him the nickname “Samurai Hung.”
His exploits and exceptional skills were featured in an article in Metro newspaper, a British publication, on October 29.
Hung told the newspaper the swords allow him to attain a light, feathered finish that isn’t possible with scissors.
Born in southern Vietnam’s Binh Duong Province, Hung has been infatuated with hair styling since he was a little boy.
As a 5th grader, he was impressed with the skills of an elderly barber running a sidewalk shop in his neighborhood.
The boy would cut classes to observe him cutting and styling his clients’ hair, Hung recalled.
As he grew a bit older, he began practicing on his male classmates and neighbors.
Few initially trusted him with their hair, so Hung gave them caps in return, he said with a smile.
However, his teachers would then request that the boys have their hair cuts fixed by professionals, as Hung’s cuts were quite out of the ordinary.
In 2002, the young man opened a small hair salon in a market in Da Nang, which he felt he was cut out for after a trip to the city.
“With little money, my shop was furnished only with rusted chairs and fuzzy mirrors, but it drew some 70-100 clients every day,” Hung shared.
The hair magician
After settling down with a relatively good hair styling business, Hung focused on improving his skills and tried out novel styles.
At a hair styling contest called “Hair Sorcerers” held by local channel VTC5 in Ho Chi Minh City in 2010, he beat some 300 contenders, including more experienced ones, to earn the first prize.
The contestants were requested to cut hair without using scissors.
While the other contenders used scythes and other tools, which may give the models’ hair a coarse, split texture, Hung wowed the jurors by drawing out two sharp Japanese swords.
His initiative earned him the first prize.
However, there remained a long way to go between performing his skills with swords at the contest and actually cutting hair with the typically lethal weapon.
It took him three to four years of practicing on hundreds of mannequins’ artificial hair before trying his skills on his first client: his wife.
Hung shared that he would often cut his fingers and accidentally break the swords.
The man shared that cutting hair with swords allows for a smoother, thicker texture and perfect accuracy with certain styles such as a bob, and reduces the cutting time from the usual 10-15 minutes with scissors down to only two or three minutes.
Hung offers hair trimming with swords only when a client demands it, and always ensures absolute safety for his clients.
He usually charges VND200,000 (US$9.4) for a hair cut with scissors, and VND500,000 for a cut with swords.
The hairstylist, who is a household name among local showbiz celebrities, said he has offered more than 100 of his clients the unique service so far.
Hung has pocketed several local hair styling prizes and made it to the final of an international hair styling festival held in China in 2012.
He was recognized by the Vietnam Record Association in 2012 for his feat of styling hair with 11 scissors at one time within a mere 59 seconds.
He shared he had practiced for ten long years to master the skill.
Hung revealed he is planning to apply for a World Guinness record for trimming hair with 18 scissors at one time.
He has been granted direct entrance to the finals of “Vua Toc Viet Nam” (Vietnam Hair King), the country’s first-ever televised reality show dedicated to hair styling, which is running until February.
The finals will gather 40 hair magicians from around the country, who were picked from roughly 400 contestants.
“Vua Toc Viet Nam” is set to air on VTV9 at 7:00 pm every Thursday and Sunday, starting January 8, 2015.
The finale, to be broadcast live on VTV9 as well, is slated for February 14 at 7:00 pm.
The winner will be awarded VND300 (US$14,000) in cash and a hair salon worth VND700 million ($33,000).