With hipster barbershops nearly as ubiquitous as Starbucks and men Googling hairstyles more frequently than women, it’s safe to say that men are the new frontier.
The evolution of men’s grooming has been slow and steady since we first heard the word metrosexual in the 1990s and David Beckham made it okay for men to have pedicures, but it’s been moving at warp speed in the last few years, thanks in large part to social media stars sharing their work and generating a buzz around men’s grooming. Google reported that in 2015, more men searched for hairstyles than women. Okay, so the man bun was one of the most popular searches, but modern versions of the stylized looks from the ‘50s and ‘60s thanks to Don Draper came in a close second. Says Ellen Sideri, founder and CEO of the trend research agency ESP Trendlab, “It’s like waking a sleeping giant.” She also calls men “dream customers.” Not only are they more brand loyal than women, but they’re more likely to buy the products their barber or hairdresser recommends.
Thom Priano, a prominent men’s stylist and one of the founders of R+Co, an upscale line of hair care products, claims that magazines like GQ changed the way men looked. Ads by companies like Calvin Klein featured male models with a very distinct look, which soon became a trend as more men became body conscious and aware of their hair. “When I started doing hair, every child would get a buzz cut at the local barbershop each summer,” says Priano, who points out that men’s hairstyles had very little to offer in the way of variety until the mid-1970s when everything started to change—think long, rocker hair. According to Priano, that look is making a comeback. “What we’re seeing a lot of now is shaggier hair—almost a throwback to rock star hair of the '70s,” he says. Brands like Gucci are driving some of these trends, including hippie chic, a look that plays with hairstyles that are in-between short and long and offer a lot more styling options.
Recently there’s been an increase in the number of salon owners who are creating full-service barbershops within their existing salons—Art + Science in the Chicago area is just one example. When Stephen Szabo remodeled his upscale salon and spa in Pittsburgh recently, he carved out a dedicated men’s area with three chairs and tweaked the service menu to include hot towel shaves as well as cut and color. Every client also receives a complimentary neck and shoulder massage. “I bought three hand massagers from Oster,” says Szabo. If you want to attract a male clientele, you’ll have to up your game. Vaughn Acord, a highly sought-after men’s stylist and founder of V76 by Vaughn, recommends incorporating some of the flourishes typically offered in barbershops—hot towel shaves, powder finishes, a brush to clean up the neck area after a cut. He also suggests creating a display of men’s products, offering Father’s Day promotions or purchasing a chair that reclines so you can offer a relaxing shave or beard trim. “When a man comes in and notices that something has been curated just for him, he pays attention,” says Acord. More important, get your staff trained in clipper cutting techniques.
Of course, all of this doesn’t mean that traditional barbershops can’t learn a thing or two from full-service salons. Take Barber & Booze, a barbershop in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, that just happens to have a full-service bar. Now they’re offering the Repêchage Lamina Lift Mask as part of their Signature Shave service. Also on the menu: the Hangover Rescue that includes a Repêchage Opti-Firm Eye Contour Treatment. Who says men don’t like to be pampered?