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Reformer of Thailand’s Salon Industry and His Love for Trouble

Somebody once said, “Great hair doesn’t happen by chance. It happens by appointment.” It can’t be truer when it comes to the hair salon industry in Thailand.

Long before Bangkok is dotted with hundreds of glitzy hair salons run by Thai and foreign hairdressers with top quality products and services, a hair salon looked more or less like a run-down shophouse that served as a gossip parlor. The society’s negative attitude toward hairdressing profession also kept those genuinely in love with this art from entering a school to undergo proper training, resulting in only sex workers and LGBTQ+ in the business.

What Dr. Somsak Chalachol saw, however, was an opportunity for change. Armed with his passion, the once spoiled brat from a wealthy Thai-Chinese family sold his house and car to pay for hairdressing class and joined an international hairdressing competition. The experience was an eye-opener and further deepened his passion and determination to upgrade the industry to the global level.

That was over 30 years ago. Today, hairdressing and hairstyling is a dream job for many Thai youngsters who view it as one of the most satisfying professions which perfectly combines income with fun and creativity. The image of dirty washing area in a dingy, smelly place is now the thing of the past. No more walk-ins if you would like to have the bestservice and ample time with your hairdresser. Appointment only, please.

But don’t judge the book by its cover. Beneath that lavish, glamorous lifestyle and designer clothes,Dr. Somsak is a firm believer in Buddhism. At the Chalachol Academy, he not only emphasizes the importance of practice and hard work, but also humbleness, honesty, gratitude, and a life in precepts.

What was your childhood like?

Let me share with you why I was a spoiled kid. I was the youngest child. My family had a rice mill, and so my parents worked so hard that they had to leave me in the care of my babysitter. But no matter how busy they were, they regularly made contributions to the temple and supported monks from Forest Tradition temples. My father took me with him whenever he went to the temple. Although I was partying hard while I was growing up, I had never gone astray. Looking back, it was the life vaccine that had protected me all along.

Then I went to study finance, accounting, and banking at Ramkhamhaeng University but later dropped out because I spent too much time playing and partying. That didn’t mean I didn’t like going to school, you know? So, I enrolled at Suan Sunandha Teachers College and graduated with a diploma.

So basically, you don’t like studying in the classroom.

I was considered a smart kid because I always got good grades without studying much. I was also appointed a class leader. So that’s my childhood. Not much discipline, but I knew that my parents worked extremely hard and were successful. What I always enjoy is living life to the fullest.

And that led you to discover your passion.

I like taking care of myself and often went to the hair salon with my ex-fiancé. One day, the salon owner asked if I was interested in buying his business. That was about 40 years ago and there were quite a few male hairdressers. I could see the potential of this business and so I signed up for a hairdressing class.

The full version is available in the 5000s magazine issue 57. Subscribe Now.

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