(31 Jul 2017) LEADIN:
Celebrities of the past are being brought back to life on the back of people’s heads in Taiwan.
Whether it’s Marilyn Monroe or Bruce Lee – hair stylist Allen Chen is expertly carving the images of famous people onto his clients.
Dumpling chef Wei Chia-sheng walks in to XB Hair Salon in Changhua City, in Taiwan for a haircut with a difference.
He’s a fan of Marilyn Monroe and wants her image carved into the back of his head.
Luckily he’s in the hands of stylist Allen Chen who’s a dab hand at head turning harstyles.
“Ok, let me show you. So this is the American beauty, Marilyn Monroe. The most difficult thing in sculpting such a realistic portrait is the expression in the eyes. It’s the eyes’ expression, and the proportions. You have to be very precise with the proportions of the facial features,” says Chen.
Armed with five electric hair clippers, one razor, and nearly three hours of pure concentration, Chen gradually brings out the facial features of the actress; eyebrows, eyelashes, lips and beauty spot slowly take shape.
“I basically need 5 to 6 electric hair clippers. Some are for rough trimming, and some are for detail sculpting, such as these. And I also use the razor. The razor is for even smaller details. For the eyes’ expression, I use this small clipper. And to bring out the gradation, I mostly use the bigger clippers, because I can adjust them. This is how I do the gradation. Basically, these are all the tools I need to do portraits,” says Chen.
Chen has been carving patterns into scalps since he qualified as a hairdresser in 2003. Two years ago he started to focus on carving portraits of celebrities.
Each portrait requires two to three hours of work. The length of each single hair is crucial to the final design. One hair too short, or left too long could tarnish the perfection of an eyebrow or the curve of a mouth.
Unlike tattoos, having a portrait carved out of hair has an advantage.
28 year-old Wei is one of Chen’s long time clients.
“Hair sculpting and tattoos are similar. In the case of a tattoo, you might regret after some time, and you can’t wash it off. But you feel easier with a hair sculpting. It is different when you wear a hair sculpture, because after one month, the hair grows back. Then you can choose to sculpt something else next time,” he says.
Ho Rui-hsiang, a 19 year-old computer operator has had the image of Bruce Lee cut into his hair. He says he and his friends have a laugh about it at work.
“When working, when I happen to turn my head. Then Bruce Lee would face them (my co-workers). Then they would say ‘Hey, don’t stare at me with Bruce Lee, or I’ll kick his butt!’ Of course they’re joking. Or they also say ‘Just turn your face. I don’t want to look at you. I want to see Bruce Lee!’. I think this is fun. We all work together, and this creates topics for jokes.”
Chen’s talents do not stop at portraits of celebrities. 20 year-old soap actor, Huang Tzu-yi has just had an image of Buddha sculpted into the back of his head.
“I chose to sculpt the Buddha because I sometimes volunteer in a temple, and I am interested in deities. I was proposed two images, then I chose this one for myself. I also saw that on the news, and I thought it was cool and fashionable. This is why I want to give it a try,” he says.
The hair sculpting doesn’t come cheap. It costs around 3,700 New Taiwan (NT) dollars (USD $120) per portrait. The cheapest standard cut for men is around $100 NT dollars (USD $3).
But with the added feature of a pair of sunglasses, the portraits are guaranteed to turn heads and create smiles on the streets of Changhua City.
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