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Photo Essay: Sin Palace Hair Dressing Saloon By Vincent Wong


Sin Palace Hair Dressing Saloon


“Right here in Commonwealth Crescent, you can still partake in one of the most blissful services-available only for men. Sin Palace has been grooming the neighbourhood’s male residents for more than 30 years and Mr Ong is one of Singapore’s last experts in the traditional art of ear cleaning, an experience which was truly heavenly and relaxing! He offers a decent shot at the sides, a clean shave and some nose trimming to follow. Mr Ong and Sin Palace is yet another icon of Queenstown.

Mr Ong Choon Kwee had moved to Queenstown after the Bukit Ho Swee fire. In the 1960s and 1970s, there were hundreds of such saloon offering traditional hairdressing for men but there are only 20 such hairdressing shops left in Singapore today.

Opened every day from 9am to 7.30pm (except Friday), Mr Ong has raised 3 working children with his sincerity and professionalism. Like the other traditional hairdressers, he has plans to retire because of declining business and a lack of younger folks to take over his shop.” Source: www.queenstown.org.sg

One of the last bastions where men can have some good, clean fun. I was there for some.
I first chanced upon this quaint little saloon during one of the RFSG outing to Queenstown couple of months ago. I had a peek then and knew that I would be back for more than a cursory visit.

On a lazy Saturday in September, I drove down to Commonwealth Crescent with the intention of getting some shots of the colorful saloon with the Leica M9P and the 35 Summicron Version 4.
I circled the ground twice before picking up my courage to venture into the saloon. The worst case is a firm “buzz off” wave or, maybe, a bad haircut.

There were two “stylists” attending to their respective customers.
I picked out the boss (Mr Ong) correctly and said hello and asked for permission to take some photographs. He gave me the indifferent look. That was a decisive moment that I couldn’t capture. But most importantly, he also gave me the go ahead gesture.


I didn’t get into action straight away. I sat down on the wooden bench meant for waiting customers and observed for a couple of minutes. It was just like my barber shop 40 years ago…the setup, the cool seat, the messy apparatus tray, the colorful towels, the old style calendar, the Brylcreem-scented smell and the soothing but permeating classic Chinese song. “妹妹我爱你” was the song for the day and I couldn’t get the tune out of my head for the next few days!
Youtube link to song here.
My digital M sprang into action after the short siesta. The color shots were the results.

Since I needed a haircut, I decided to get one when one of the stylists came available. I realised that shooting the M9P while having your hair cut and water spraying around was not a good idea. I switched to the iPhone for the black-and-white mood shots.

I paid S$10 for the S$8 haircut and my stylist asked me to come back for coffee next time.
I will be back to try out the full work…the shampoo, shave, trimming and ear cleaning.

Photographer: Vincent Wong

Leica M9P
Leica 35mm Summicron Version 4 (Bokeh King)

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