The one thing that struck us about barber-musician Adam Chan was his humility. Considering he’s the type of individual that guys run to for their look, and brands approach for the whole influencer marketing game, he’s somewhat relaxed about it all. We took a trip to his pioneer space, Hair House Barbershop by Adam Chan, situated on D’Aguilar street to further absorb the vibe. He was quietly finishing up a fade on a client, while the atmosphere of shaves, liquor, and tattoos slowly engulfed us.
His attention to detail is akin to watching a sculptor finish the final details of a statue – with the precision in movement and careful focus that illustrated his respect for the craft. It is this type of skill that keeps his clientele in full trust and loyalty to his house, and is the reason why we wanted to dig deeper into understanding who exactly is Adam Chan.
Tell us a little bit about your journey and how you started Hair House?
I started cutting hair in 1999 and I worked in the same salon for 12 years. My old man always brought me to the Shanghai-style barbershop when I was young and it was my favourite childhood hangout. Then all of a sudden I wanted to become a real traditional barber!
My old man used to bring me almost every two weeks and I always loved the warm atmosphere inside the shop… Barbers talking to each other and all the men about horse-racing and exchanging work and food details. Also, the clean, white decor of the barbershop and the smell of shaving cream and pomade made it my favourite childhood hangout.
My ex-boss thought it was kinda stupid because you can earn more money from ladies. But then I found this location of Hair House barbershop in 2013 and started building my ideal barbershop, mastering traditional shaving skills, and the real fading pompadour haircut.
Cutting hair is it’s own craft. What about this technique do you find most fascinating?
I always like making stuff with my hands, and cutting hair is like sculpting. The same client will come to me every 2-3 weeks for a sharp cut and fade, and I enjoy perfecting it every time. I still find it interesting cutting every single client- some of them come to me for 15 years!
A good, fresh cut is important for a man. What kind of statement do you think it gives off?
A good fade for gentlemen is like good make-up for ladies. A good haircut can be related to many things of a man’s life. You may need a fresh cut for a new job interview, for a new date, for meeting the girlfriend’s parents, for your children’s school interview, for your friend’s wedding… All it takes is 40 mins, and you look like a million dollars out of Hair House Barbershop by Adam Chan.
Do you have a creative routine everyday? Name 5 things you do that keeps the creative ideas alive.
– Listen to old records
– Keep myself exposed to 1950s-60s pictures, old school workers, or 60s geek style.
– Talk to everyone about what their doing and see what they will tell me about it. You can’t imagine how much information you can get from an old man. (And something like a fade + jeans + plain white tee will never be out of style.)
– Play with my son Abram.
– Live as organic as possible.
We hear you also create music, can you tell us a little bit about this other side of you?
My band is called The Fat Jokers and we’ve been gigging for almost 4 years around Hong Kong, sometimes in Taiwan and China. People consider our music old school music too- it has a brass section and is funk rock/folk rock oriented, but to me it has the similarities to the classic haircut I do. There are certain melodies, notes, and combinations that will never go out of style.
Who have been the important influences in your life whether in making music, cutting hair, or just taking your own path in general?
I always have some crazy ideas and I make extremely fast decisions… but my wife is the one who encourages my crazy ideas. She used to be a fashion designer but is a full-time mom now. I thank her for accepting my crazy mind.
What are some do’s and dont’s for mens hair care or grooming?
– Use the right pomade (no matter if it’s water-based or grease-based)
– Know your hair and also learn how to apply pomade the right way.
– Don’t use hair spray as it would look too dead and it’s really bad for the earth.
– Use a straight razor at home.
– Study your own beard growth direction.
– Treat yourself with good shaving cream and an aftershave.
– Use proper shampoo. Don’t use what your girlfriend/wife/mom uses. We have different grease on our scalps and we need our hair to stand while most of the shampoo for ladies tends to make their hair silky smooth.
Who is one person you never expected to walk into Hair House?
Security guards of The Backstreet Boys from Sacramento.
Roll-call: can you tell us about your Hair House team?
– Kelvin Yu: fade master; a guy who used to work in IT for a bank and totally changed his life to become a real barber.
– Benny Kwok: moustache man; he used to be my very first apprentice who worked in the fashion scene for 6-7 years. I can see he’s loving his life more and more everyday by cutting and fading hair.
– Ming Chan: a b-boy used to work in a barbershop in Melbourne; a young and passionate barber who is working with me at the new barbershop now.
You run a tight ship. If one wanted to join, what skills are a must to come aboard?
I don’t care much about their skills ‘cos I can tweak them in our way but a good personality would be a must. Like with my band, we are not the best musicians, but we are good to each other and we love each other, that’s very important. Positive, simple, straight forward- just like what a real gentleman would be.
What principles or skills do you find yourself bringing from music to hair or vice-versa?
Music can help your brain cells. Writing music is quite mathematical actually, so it improves your left brain while its still considered an artistic thing that spices up your right brain. Being a good barber, you need to master your craftsmanship and keep your mind as clear as possible for every single client and good schedule arrangement. I cut 14-16 cuts a day and I can remember their name/job/relationship status/hobbies etc. After all, we are serving humans and it’s gonna be a life-long relationship with the client.
If you weren’t a barber or musician, what else would you be?
A Carpenter, for sure.
What’s next for you?
The Fat Jokers debut album. Keep cutting/fading ’til the day I die.
Hair House by Adam Chan: 2/F, No.20 D’aguilar St., Central, Hong Kong
Photos by Home Kong