What do you like to do when you travel? Eat local cuisine? Visit famous landmarks?

Sure, those are all fine. But for me, one thing I always look forward to doing whenever I travel somewhere new is getting a haircut there. I know it sounds crazy, but each place really does have its own distinct style, different atmosphere, and unique way of getting your hair from head to floor.

Wasai, one of our Japanese writers, is a man after my own heart. He recently went on a trip to Cuba, and while he was there, one of the top items on his to-do list was to get a haircut. Did it end up as a failure or fabulous? Read on to find out!

So you might be wondering why Wasai, a RocketNews24 Japan writer, would head off to Cuba in the first place. Well, the answer is… he just kind of felt like it! Now that relations are starting to normalize between Cuba and the U.S., he wanted to get a look at what Cuba is like before McDonald’s and WalMart inevitably start popping up everywhere.

And to get that authentic Cuban experience, one thing he had to do was get a “Cuban” haircut. And not just any haircut, but he had to go with whatever the most popular male hairstyle was… even though he had no idea what that would look like.

Now you might ask, “why not just look around at Cuban fashion magazines to see what’s in style?” The truth is, he did search around for some hairstyle magazines while in Cuba, but he couldn’t find any. The whole time he has there, he couldn’t find even one, so he had to go straight to the source: a wizened old Cuban barber.

The only question left was where to do the deed. Our reporter wanted it to be done in the most traditionally Cuban place possible, the Kyoto of Cuba if you will.

He decided on Santiago de Cuba in the southeast, the second largest city in Cuba. It is full of historic Cuban landmarks, classical culture, and it even has a picture of a barbershop on its Wikipedia page, so it was perfect.

▼ Ah, you can practically smell the boliche and tamales from here.

Of course, there are many barbershops in Santiago de Cuba, so it was hard to pick just one. But once he made eye contact with a certain barbershop owner, he knew he couldn’t have anyone else do it. The man had the air of an artisan about him. A professional artist of the head, you might say. Here’s a picture of the man who so enticed our reporter:

▼ He doesn’t cut hair; hair simply obeys him and leaves when he tells it to.

And that was all there was to it. Our reporter walked in, requested the “most popular hairstyle for guys in Cuba,” haggled him a bit to get a price of 50 centavos (US$0.50), and then sat down and let him work his magic.

▼ The chair, where hair and tears of joy alike fall to the floor.

▼ The stand where the master’s tools (and music) are kept.

It was a bit strange at first. He would only cut the sides of the head, leaving the untamed top completely untouched.

▼ “Uh, there’s still all this hair on top….”
“All in good time. All in good time.”


Just as our reporter started wondering if he was going to come out of this looking like a mushroom…

▼ “Hey! Everybody! A Japanese guy is getting his haircut! Come take a picture with him!”


▼ People started showing up to see the strange new guest, including this guy in sunglasses who scared the crap out of our reporter…

▼ …until he took off his glasses! Hey, what a nice guy!

▼ “All right, enough pictures, we’ve got hair to cut here people.”


▼ The spectators were moved outside where they could observe and still express their intense enthusiasm.

There were plenty of others, all gathering to see what kind of haircut the Japanese guy was getting. The local children were especially excited, some of them wondering if his hair was going to look like theirs when they finished.

And it only escalated from there. Someone offered our reporter a rum and coke while still in the chair, and then a car pulled up and parked outside the barbershop blasting music. It was an all-out party… in the barbershop!

Despite all that, the barber himself kept working steadily, taking no notice of the distractions all around him. He finally took a little bit off the top, and that was that. His work was finished.

▼ After 15 minutes our reporter turned from this:


▼ Into this:


▼ A before and after for comparison. Not too shabby, eh?


Our reporter was a huge fan of his new hairdo. He thinks it’s the same style baseball players from Central and South America often have, with the sides almost completely shaved off, giving him hope for finally connecting a bat to a ball for once!

The haircut was truly a great souvenir from his trip to Cuba, one that will last forever, well, maybe about a month or two. Our reporter would like to offer his heartfelt thanks to the barbershop in Santiago de Cuba, the master barber himself, and everyone else who showed up to make that day as magical as it was.

I don’t know about you, but if better relations between Cuba and the U.S. means we can go over there to get haircuts like this, then I’m all for it!

Photos: © RocketNews24
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