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Salons Are Catering to Men Who Want More

Male-themed grooming shops offer camouflage (hair coloring) and hand detailing (manicures).

January 04, 2006|From Associated Press

PHILADELPHIA — Steven Wooke takes a swig from a bottle of Heineken as his left hand rests on a small table, his fingers spread out like a fan of playing cards.

He's getting a manicure -- or hand detailing, as the salon calls it -- and it's a pampering the 24-year-old information technology manager has learned to enjoy.

"My girlfriend notices it," said Wooke during a recent visit to an American Male salon for nail grooming sans polish. "I try to come in every two weeks."

American Male -- which is opening its 15th salon in February, in Las Vegas -- is one of a growing number of salons devoted to men who want more than just a barbershop haircut but don't feel comfortable sitting in women's beauty salons and wouldn't be caught dead entering a froufrou day spa.

The salons are catering to an apparently growing interest among men in grooming. Sales of men's skin care products sold through department stores rose 13% in 2004, more than double the growth for the women's market, according to NPD Group, a marketing research firm in Port Washington, N.Y.

Retail sales in the U.S. men's grooming market are expected to reach $10 billion by 2008, up 25% from 2004, according to Packaged Facts, a unit of MarketResearch.com in New York.

From the decor to the terminology, men's salons are seeking to put some distance between themselves and beauty salons.

Some have sports themes. Some offer free beer. And at least one lets clients light up cigars. Prices for haircuts, waxing, manicures, pedicures, facials, shaving and massages start at about $20.

"Men don't really like going to salons. They don't like being with women in there, and they don't like the smell of the salons," said Howard Hafetz, chief executive of Reading, Pa.-based Raylon Corp., American Male Salons' parent company.

"Men are getting more vain," said Marian Salzman, author of "The Future of Men" and director of strategic content at ad agency JWT in New York. "There's more pressure to look young and sexy."

But is male grooming a lasting trend?

"I do think it's viable," said Michael Flocker, author of "The Metrosexual Guide to Style: A Handbook for the Modern Man." "I think the presentation of the concept is very important. If it looks at all girlie, it will be intimidating to men. If it looks sleek, men will respond to it."

Steering clear of feminine terms, American Male has dubbed manicures and pedicures "hand and foot detailing"; covering one's gray is called "camouflage."

In November, Mac Morgan went to a male salon for the first time. Before the stylist started his haircut, Morgan was led to a vat of orange-hued wax. As part of the hand paraffin wax treatment, the stylist dipped Morgan's hand into the wax until it formed a second skin that moisturizes. Plastic gloves go on and then fluffy cotton mitts.

The 25-year-old software engineer from suburban Philadelphia then reclined by the shampooing station. As the stylist alternately washed his hair and massaged his scalp, she asked how it felt.

"It feels good," Morgan said. "I've been to women's salons. But I feel comfortable here."

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