The service at barber shops in Taiwan varies but the business has generally lost its edge as fancy salons proliferate throughout the island. There is one in Hualien, however, is generating buzz on social media not only for its old-school service, relaxing experience and excellent cutting skills, but also for the unique background of its owner.
Daniel Bullivant, 28 years old, was born in Birmingham, England. He started working in a barber shop when he was 13 and started to learn how to cut men's hair and trim beards at the age of 16. He continued his training until the age of 20.
Today, Daniel is living in Hualien with his Taiwanese wife and runs a 1.5 year-old barbershop in the center of the city with four barbers including himself, and has many loyal customers that flock to his shop from across the country. His barbershop has been so successful, Daniel is planning to open another store in Taipei City in the near future.
Six years ago, he could not have imagined that he could have gone this far.
In his early 20s, Daniel went on a grand world journey across two-dozen countries and gave free haircuts for a good cause. In Cuba, he met a young Taiwanese backpacker and became friends. At the invitation of this Taiwanese friend, he flew to the island country in 2011, spent his first New Year's Eve in Taichung, and embarked on an adventure into eastern Taiwan, where he met a beautiful and friendly hostel operator, Yachen.
The two were instantly attracted to each other. After leaving the country, Daniel carried on a long distance relationship with his girlfriend 9,772 kilometers away and traveled back and forth between the two countries several times.
Daniel then decided to tie the knot with Yachen and moved to Taiwan in early 2015. On February 2 of the same year, Daniel opened an old-fashioned British-style barber shop in downtown Hualien. He named it "Cutting Edge Barber Shop."
The real British barber shop
Daniel offers customers freshly brewed coffee free of charge (Photo by Liang Ya-chen)
The barbershop in Taiwan has traditionally been a place for men to go to tidy up, though today the operation is facing tough competition from fancy salons all over the place. In some corners of cities in Taiwan, you can still meet one, which is mostly served by local men or women in their 40s or above, with clients of mostly the same age.
Daniel's barber shop stands out in the city not only because of his nationality, but also for his service and classy atmosphere in the store.
"A full service haircut and hot towel shave takes 1.5 hours, and it is rather relaxing for customers to lie there and enjoy the heat from the towel soaked with several drops of essential nut oil which softens up their beard so the barber can give them a comfortable shave," Daniel said.
Daniel explores life through conversations with his customers on barber chairs and makes friends (Photo by Liang Ya-chen)
Initially, Daniel's barber shop started with only four to five people a day. Then one day, a famous blogger came to his shop and gave an excellent rating, which started to bring him to people's attention. Offline and online word of mouth resulted in increased foot traffic.
"Since I have opened my shop, I have met many kinds of inspiring people," Daniel said. "I love this job," he added.
Customers returned every single month. Daniel enjoys building a relationship with his customers through conversations while serving them. He found the perfect work-life balance in this job.
Although Daniel's Mandarin Chinese is at a beginner's level, it doesn't stop him from having plenty of pleasant conversations with his customers. Daniel explores life and culture through conversations with thousands of people on barber chairs and makes friends.
People outside Taiwan also visited Daniel's shop. Just a few weeks ago, before the interview with Taiwan News, Daniel served a man from Jordan and found his curly hair very challenging to cut.
"My customers are pretty international, ranging from Canada, Ukraine, Finland, Jordan, Germany, Netherlands, Morocco, the U.K, and the United States," he said.
Daniel is planning to open a barber shop in Taipei in early 2017 to bring the British men's grooming service to the capital city.
Daniel poses with his customers (Photo by Liang Ya-chen)