KAZAN: "I am trying to find myself - what i will love to do everyday," said Danil, 26, who is training to become a barber. He said he is looking for a job that will not just bring financial satisfaction, but emotional as well. His mother, a professor of Russian, is sympathetic to his search and calls him regularly to find out how he is progressing at the barbershop. I asked Danil, who traveled around the US and speaks good English, what he would like to change in his city. "I wouldn't change something in the city, rather I would change something in our minds and behavior. The world today is far from being an effective system and it ain't hard to see that. Just look at the wealth distribution for example. It looks like a game of chairs, where we have 12 players, 12 chairs and 1 person occupies 11 of chairs. The real problem is that we believe that the world can't be better." He apologized for such a philosophical answer from a young man that hasn't achieved anything, but he said he wanted to get this point across to others.
KAZAN: "I was studying government service, but as I finished my degree, I realized it was not what I wanted to do. I knew I needed a profession and I wanted something connected with fashion," said Alexei, a barber in Kazan. He first worked at a beauty salon before joining one of the barbershop chains that has been rapidly expanding around Russia over the past few years. Alexei works in Chop-Chop, the largest chain with about 55 stores across Russia in more than 40 cities. He said he chose to join Chop-Chop as he liked the concept.
ST. PETERSBURG: When an unknown girl ‘liked’ one of Evgeny’s photos on his VK page, he wrote her to inquire. They soon went on a date, but there was no spark. However, a few days later, not wanting to go to the movies by himself, Evgeny invited her out again. Something clicked. As their one year anniversary approached in March, Evgeny looked for a ring, but couldn’t find the one he wanted. So, one their anniversary day, he proposed, using a ‘ring’ made of foil from a bubble gum wrap. She accepted (and sent her mom a photo of the ‘ring’). Having just taken a big step in his life with the opening of the franchise barbershop Top Gun in St. Petersburg at the end of May with his university buddy, Evgeny - who just turned 30 in June - has just taken another big step, having married his girlfriend last week.
CHITA, EASTERN SIBERIA: Dasha, 21, works in a barbershop in Chita, but grew up near Barnaul and lived briefly in Novosibirsk. I asked how she ended up in Chita...Love took her there, she said. Dasha said she met a boy via social media back in 2010. In 2012, at the age of 18, she moved to Chita to be with him. I asked Dasha what her mom, a school English teacher, thought about her move. "She said if that will make me happier, then I should go [to be with him]. Dasha said she prefers Novosibirsk to Chita and will decide where to live when her boyfriend finishes university. Dasha said she wasn't in a rush to tie the knot. "Many girls get married at a young age and then divorce shortly thereafter."
CHITA, EASTERN SIBERIA: Denis was one of those lucky Russians that made a killing during the 2000s, when Russia's economy nearly doubled. A programmer from Chita, he was asked to help with a some local political agitation work. He said that led to a full-time job from a solid company, lucrative salary, hard assets and lots of leisure travel. We could fly to Sochi for a day to swim. We didn't care about money.'' He said the ''easy money spoiled'' him. Now, Denis is putting his money to work in the Siberian service sector despite rising unemployment and recession. Denis recently opened Chita's first barbershop. He plans a similar woman's shop and then a restaurant with bar. His target audience is people 25 t0 40 that work, have families and ''can spend money 1 or 2 times a month on their looks and an evening out.'' ''People still need to eat, relax and take care of their looks,'' he said, referring to the recession. Denis said Chita is experiencing an influx of people from surrounding villages and an outflow of native city dwellers to bigger, Siberian cities like Novosibirsk and Krasnoyarsk. That is leading to a growing ''village mentality'' in Chita. ''We need to change the mentality in the city,'' said Denis, who regularly jogs and gave up drinking. ''People are waiting for something from the government. How does change begin? With yourself.'' He said he hopes his barbershop will bring a bit of culture to the city in addition to profit.
SAMARA: Alexander, an Austrian, has been working in Russia for a large German retail outlet for the past seven years with stints in Moscow, Rostov and now Samara. At the suggestion of a Russian friend, he co-opened men’s barbershop franchise Chop-Chop in Samara in 2013.
After six months of observing business at Chop-Chop, Alexander decided to create Chica, a woman’s version of the high-end barber shop. His logic was straight forward.
”I realized, if men can pay 1,500 rubles for a haircut (~$50 in 2013), they probably have wives or girlfriends that could afford a similar women’s salon. Samara may not look very good right now, but people here have money.”