80 Years and Counting at Ko Tang

by Pingkan Palilingan
10th January 2017
Since 1936, Ko Tang Barbershop has been grooming generations of men and among them, distinguished individuals like Joko Widodo.

Amidst the rise of gentlemen barbershops in Jakarta, mostly just barely taking their first baby steps, Pangkas Rambut Ko Tang is one that you definitely can’t underestimate. Located in a tucked-away Gang Gloria (an alley in Petak Sembilan, right at the heart of Jakarta’s Old Town) the barbershop has been operating for more than 80 years since 1936.

Needless to say that the barbershop is proficient in traditional mens grooming, offering basic head-to-throat cut, trim and shave services to regular clienteles, mostly senior citizens who have entrusted their hair grooming to Ko Tang for years, or even decades. The barbershop has seen three generations running the place, where now it is run by a trio of barbers — Pi Cis, A Pauw and Dji Sin — whose decades-long experiences have contributed to Ko Tang’s fame.

If you still need more convincing, just look up to their hall of fame that boasts pictures of their distinguished customers: President Joko Widodo, Djarot Saiful Hidayat (Jakarta’s non-active Incumbent Deputy Governor), Sandiaga Uno (Jakarta’s current Deputy Governor Candidate and businessman), to mention a few. There’s a believe-it-or-not myth among the regulars, that a visit to Ko Tang would lead to victory for candidates who are running for ongoing election. Ask one of the barbers about this — they will gladly tell you how Jokowi’s visit played a part to his gubernatorial victory.

Beyond the regular grooming in the hair department, their ear-cleaning service is particularly well-known where it involves a thorough inner and outer ear cleaning using a specific technique they acquired from China. Although the process is not particularly pleasing to watch, it’s nevertheless an interesting spectacle to observe the barbers navigating their set of tools (metal ear picks of various sizes, some with fluffs at their upper tip).

As a place that has survived and stayed original for years in a modernised city, Ko Tang is one precious asset that holds one of Jakarta’s past identity. Curious myths aside, with its stripped-down look that oozes the air of yesteryear all over, Ko Tang is worth a visit whether or not you’re looking to get a haircut.