Global EditionASIA 中文双语Français
Home / China / Newsmaker

Barber trims way to top of his profession

By DENG RUI and TAN YINGZI in Chongqing | CHINA DAILY | Updated: 2021-12-01 10:01
Share - WeChat
He Xianze cuts hair for a customer while his apprentices watch at his beauty salon in Chongqing's Yuzhong district. DENG RUI/CHINA DAILY

Postal-worker-turned super snipper from Chongqing has trained thousands of hairdressers, including world champion

Just over 30 years ago, a young man from Chongqing named He Xianze left his job as a postal worker for the seemingly unpromising profession of hairdressing despite his family's opposition. Today, the 52-year-old is one of the best in the industry and recently mentored Asia's first world hairdressing champion at the WorldSkills Competition, the Oscars of vocational education and skills excellence.

Since 2011, in recognition of his expertise, He has received a special subsidy from the State Council, China's Cabinet. He is the first person in the industry ever to be granted the honor and has pushed hairdressing forward, training thousands over the past 27 years.

In 2015, his apprentice, Nie Feng, who is also from Chongqing, won the hairdressing championship at the 43rd WorldSkills Competition in Sao Paulo, Brazil. She was the first Asian to win the top prize in hairdressing since the competition began in 1950.

"The fashionable bun style during the Tang (618-907) and Song (960-1279) dynasties was world famous, and now Chinese hairdressing has regained global recognition," He said proudly.

He can finish a quick haircut in 20 minutes, both hands moving swiftly over the client's head. It is even said that he can cut hair with his eyes closed. "I don't make mistakes because I've practiced thousands of times," he said.

In his pursuit of excellence, the hairstylist has sets of imported gear, including cutting scissors, thinning scissors, swivel scissors and texturizing scissors. Each set is worth about 140,000 yuan ($21,868). "High-quality tools keep the hair from splitting easily," he said.

Born in Chongqing's Banan district in 1969, He became a postal worker after graduating from junior high school. In 1991, in order to earn more money, he began learning to cut hair under Liang Zhengjian, the owner of a barber shop he met while delivering newspapers.

After training diligently, He opened his own barber shop. Business was so good that he worked day and night to cater to the constant stream of customers. "But still, I felt lost and had little self-worth," he said.

In 1994, he began more comprehensive training at hairdressing schools in Zhejiang province, Shanghai and Beijing, spending almost all the money he earned, around a million yuan, on improving his skills.

"This opened up a new world. The more I learned, the wider my scope grew," he said. His devotion earned him the nickname "hair maniac "from other hairdressers.

"He is obsessed and persistent," said 57-year-old Ji Zhenglong, one of He's former tutors. Ji is head expert and group leader of Team China Hairdressing for the WorldSkills Competition, a group organized by the China Hairdressing and Beauty Association.

He said people should be mindful of the kind of haircut they get.

"What you should really be getting is not the most trendy haircut," he said. "A good hairstyle is one that suits your age, occupation, face shape and figure, one that magnifies your strong points and covers up your weaknesses.

"It should also look good after washing and drying, without extras like hair spray."

The barber said that in the past, the Chinese relied heavily on hairdryer styling, but now fashion favors the natural look.

He noted that Asian and European hair is different, as are people's skull shapes and structures, which makes appreciation and styling different.

In 1997, He obtained a National Senior Hairdresser Qualification Certificate, and his hairdressing skills coupled with an understanding of hair design, art and fashion made him a well-known and well-paid professional in Beijing.

He was the designated expert and leader of the Team China of Hairdressing from the 42nd to the 45th WorldSkills Competitions, and was also appointed to judge various national-level competitions.

"I tutored contestants from many parts of the country, but none was from Chongqing, which made me feel sad," he said.

In 2003, he returned to his hometown and opened a salon in the downtown area.

He spent much of his time visiting barber shops and hair salons all over the municipality, distributing pamphlets and persuading barbers to attend free talks about hairdressing, which he held at the city's finest hotels.

He has lectured for free in 38 districts and counties, at 30 companies and in dozens of vocational schools across the city, spending more than 400,000 yuan in the process.

In all, he has personally trained about 4,000 hairdressers, and thousands of people have attended his lectures.

"I have a calling to help and share. It makes me feel successful and happy," He said.

He said he has two life goals-to be a good hairdresser and to be a good teacher.

This wish to educate came true in 2005, when he began giving instruction at Chongqing 51 Vocational School as a hairdressing and image design specialist. Through the efforts of Ji and He, the school was designated as the National Training Base for the WorldSkills Hairdressing Competition.

He always tells his students that it takes a great deal of practice to become an outstanding hairdresser. To increase their chances, he and his family serve as head models for his students, and he doesn't care if they cut his hair poorly.

In September, He was named a "Prestigious Teacher in Chongqing "by the local government.

Copyright 1995 - . All rights reserved. The content (including but not limited to text, photo, multimedia information, etc) published in this site belongs to China Daily Information Co (CDIC). Without written authorization from CDIC, such content shall not be republished or used in any form. Note: Browsers with 1024*768 or higher resolution are suggested for this site.
License for publishing multimedia online 0108263

Registration Number: 130349