Kerala Hair Dressers in Pondy Bazaar since 1939 still has an impressive list of celebrity customers

From flattop crew-cut to step-cut and punk-cut, Kerala Hair Dressers has seen a slew of hairstyles go out of fashion. Established in 1939, this quaint little salon stands in Pondy Bazaar, defying time and change. It has retained its old look and character and also its loyal clientele.

Says A. Sandeep, proprietor and grandson of V. Sankunni Nair, who started this hairdressing unit: “The chair you are sitting on is as old as the salon.” The 500 sq.ft. two-room salon has not switched to modern furniture, and persists with antique woodwork made of Burma teak.

Pointing to a huge circular clock framed with Burma teak, Sandeep says, “My grandfather's buddies, watch maker Venugopal and wood craftsman Vedagiri made this masterpiece.”

Of the 10 chairs in the shop, four were made by Vedagiri. “It was in the 1940s, and he made these chairs for Rs. 17 each,” says Sandeep. “In those days, only a few carpenters possessed the skill to make hairdresser chairs.”

Vignettes of the past, these chairs and clock are among features that draw the curious into the salon. “Foreigners have walked in and taken photos,” says Sandeep who has, however, turned down requests to open the salon's doors for film shooting. “It inconveniences customers. My grandfather and my father, S. Aravindakshan, also followed a no-to-films policy.”

Ironically, numerous film personalities have walked into the salon for its styling services. “Kannada actor Raj Kumar was so impressed with one of our hair stylists that he took him to Bangalore and established a salon for him there.” When Pondy Bazaar became a busy stretch, bustling with commerce, many of the film stars stopped visiting us to avoid getting mobbed.

“We still have an impressive list of celebrity customers, including Nalli Kuppuswamy,” says Sandeep. They don't mind sitting in a salon that does not have air-conditioning. “Excellent cross-ventilation and a row of fans make air-conditioning units unnecessary,” says Sandeep. According to Sandeep, another factor contributing to the salon's success is the family that has let this space out to them since 1939 has stood with them. “The present owner, Roop Kumar is kind to me, as his grandfather Subramaniam Chettiar was to my grandfather.”