- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 3, 2002

NEW YORK John Ziemba was relaxing over a game of pool, frosty beer in hand, killing a little time before an early business dinner.
He had come to John Allan's Men's Club for a shoeshine, as well. And if he had time, maybe a haircut or manicure. It was a typical visit to the hair salon for the 26-year-old investment banker a trip he makes at least once a week.
"It's not like a girls' salon," he said. "This is a guys' place. Guys had nowhere to go until now."
Upscale grooming lounges for men have become commonplace in cities across the country a growing effort to lure young men to what are, in essence, the classic American barbershop, but with a bit of 21st-century shine.
Advertised as "honoring the sanctity of old-style barbershops while providing the modern amenities of a full-service salon," John Allan's in Manhattan has created a world where men feel like men, even when being pampered.
"We didn't want to go backward," said owner John Allan.
Mr. Allan's 20-year career in the salon business gave him the perfect perspective on the needs of men and the lack of available services. "I decided to fill a void," he said. "I wanted guys to look good and feel comfortable and to reinstate the sense of community that my grandfather had in the 1930s."
Barbershops, and what they meant to mid-century Americana, were all but extinct in the past few decades. The new MGM movie, "Barbershop," has brought this tradition back into the spotlight, illustrating the social and political importance these shops have on men's lives.
"For decades, the barbershop was a rite of passage for a young man, a tradition passed down from father to son," said Tom Haulter, owner of Everyday Joe's in Brownsburg, Ind. "We are rebuilding that sense of community in the shop."
His new shop just outside of Indianapolis has attracted more than 1,300 clients in 10 months, ranging from blue-collar workers to celebrity race-car drivers. But it's not just the haircut that keeps them coming back.
"It brought back a lot of memories," said Dan Anderson, a corporate-technology salesman born and raised in Brownsburg. "Men were sitting around chatting about sports and politics. It had that old, throwback feel to it."
Mr. Anderson remembers going to the barbershop with his dad as a child, but said that all those barbershops in town are rundown now.
After 18 years with the same female stylist, Mr. Anderson made the switch. "I felt kind of bad about it," he said. "But I always felt like an outsider at the women's salon."
When Mr. Haulter, a master barber, cut Mr. Anderson's hair, Mr. Anderson noticed a difference immediately.
The difference is about 3 years of training. A beautician's license in the state of New York requires six months of training. A barbering license takes four years.
Well-trained barbers are a dying breed, said Adrian Wood, master barber and owner of the Paul Mole Barber Shop, which has been a neighborhood fixture on Manhattan's East Side for almost 30 years. But the trend toward upscale barbershops is certainly on the rise.
"Men are rushing back to the barbershops," he said. "Our business has increased incredibly over the last year."
His formula for success is simple: Treat men like men. "They come in and talk to each other, doesn't matter who they are," he said. "There is a level playing field in a barbershop."
Mr. Wood doesn't attract the same type of clientele as some of the new shops, which are entertainment driven.
Everyday Joe's draws a big crowd on Monday nights, owing to prime-time football. Mr. Haulter turns on his 70-inch TV, flips some burgers and hot dogs, and cuts hair. He gives hot-lather straight-razor shaves.
"I thought it was an odd concept at first," said Mr. Anderson. "But my son got a real kick out of it."
Shorty's in West Hollywood, Calif., seems more a dance club than a men's hair salon. Sporting walls of graffiti, vintage furniture and hip clientele, Shorty's has also become a music promoter for up-and-coming disc jockeys. Many of the customers come in to find out what's new in music, what's going on around town.
And, well, there's the haircut, too.
"Shorty's is anti-foofy," said owner Christopher Bair. "It's about convenience, as well as comfort. It's a place for guys who care about what they look like."
Men do care, and they are paying for it $16 at Shorty's, $18 at Everyday Joe's for a haircut, and $61 at John Allan's, where a shoeshine and manicure are thrown in. Still, these services cost a fraction of the price they would pay at unisex salons where time is money.
Woody's Quality Grooming, a popular hair-care line carried in men's salons across the country, has successfully bottled the phenomenon. The packaging is simple and appealing, putting hair gel in shoe-polish tins and shampoo in flask-shaped bottles. And above all, it smells good.
Salons such as John Allan's are producing their own lines. Shops such as Paul Mole's carry more than 500 products for men.
Michael Gilman, owner of the Grooming Lounge in the District, started his business two years ago online and discovered that his clients enjoy the privacy.
"Guys buy a lot of stuff on the Web site, like at-home waxing kits and nose-hair trimmers stuff they won't come in and buy in person," he said.
Women might even be surprised to learn, he said, that "many men worry about wrinkles and back hair, but few are willing to admit it, especially to their hairdresser."

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