By Ryan Pangilinan
NORTHWEST ASIAN WEEKLY
Whether it’s a carefully disheveled thick mane or a sleeker, longer style, Asian hair has evolved into a unique cultural force. Across the United States — and definitely here in Seattle — many salons have specialized in styling Asian hair and providing cuts that are native to trends in Asia.
“[Chain salons] are not aware of the trends,” said Euri Song. Song is a hair stylist at Salon Juno, which is located in the Uwajimaya Village in the International District.
Song said that people seek out Salon Juno to keep up with the evolving trends in Asian countries, something that places like Great Clips or Mastercuts are not up-to-date on.
“There are lots of international students from Taiwan, China, Hong Kong, … and they come to us,” she said, “because [chain salons] are not cutting-edge.”
In a blog post titled “The Straight Story on Asian Hair,” from AsianLoop.com, blogger Cythera suggested that the preference has to do with the physiology of Asian hair. She writes: “Most Asian girls are near-religious about exclusively patronizing Asian-run salons. It isn’t entirely a cultural preference, as most girls were born and raised in America.”
Asian hair is often thick, so it’s a bit difficult for chain salons to cut and style Asian hair. Thus, many Asian American patrons go to Asian-run hair salons.
“We specialize in Asian hair, and there is a different way of cutting,” said Song. “When you have thick hair, it’s hard to cut [for some people]. There’s too much density.”
It’s clear when walking into Salon Juno that it is oriented toward Asians and Asian Americans. There’s no doubt that Song can cut a circa-1999 Caesar (think George Clooney toward the end of his tenure on “E.R.”), but she is more known for the kind of work displayed in the hair magazines — prominently featuring wildly imaginative hairstyles on Asian models — on the tables in the salon’s waiting area.
“Here [in the United States], they are three to five years behind South Korea and Japan,” said Song.
Though the cutting technique may not be found in chain salons, independent businesses — such as the Greenwood Academy of Hair in North Seattle — advertises proficiency in Asian hairstyles, though most of its students are white. This may be appealing for some, but to others, it doesn’t matter a whole lot.
Jay A. Lopez, 28, is a Filipino American who frequents both Asian-run salons and chain salons such as Great Clips to get his hair cut.
“For the most part, I’ve noticed that the level of training is about the same based on the two establishments I frequent,” he said.
Like most Asian Americans, Lopez has relatively thick hair that he keeps short and well-kept for his job and personal aesthetic. While he casually says that he will go to either place, he does recognize that there’s a difference in technique when he goes to the Korean-owned hair shop in Lynnwood.
“The most noticeable difference usually comes into play with the utilization of techniques to thin the hair beyond using thinning shears,” Lopez said.
Though he says he has no preference, Lopez may be alone in his opinion. Salon Juno’s customers are, by and large, Asian international students who have erroneously gone to chain salons and were not met with the kinds of styles they sought.
“Great Clips and Supercuts — they don’t [keep up with the trends],” said Song, who trained at Gene Juarez.
“A year of training will not teach you the styles,” she continued. “There is so much to learn. … It’s experience that is needed.” (end)
Ryan Pangilinan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.