Barbering Bonanza

Back in the day, barbershops were neighborhood institutions. They were where stockbrokers, gangsters, and the everyday Joe got a haircut, went for straight-line shaves and beard trims, and hung out to shoot the breeze. While neighborhood barbershops may not be as prevalent today, the concept is making a modern comeback. Recognizing the appeal, the spa industry has caught on, and spas across the nation and abroad are adding barber services to their menus, a trend that capitalizes on a robust and growing market segment: men.

According to Bill Kochanski, brand manager at Woody’s Quality Grooming, the drive behind the burgeoning trend is men taking time for themselves. “The popularity of barber services is increasing, because they’re reaching a younger generation. The new barber is younger, hipper, cooler, tattooed, and has a really cool beard. The appeal is men pampering themselves in a manly way, in addition to the camaraderie.” To that effect, spas have answered the call and are offering hot towel facials, hot lather shaves, and salon services, as well as traditional massages and pedicures. Among barber services, the traditional straight-razor shaves have proven popular, with spas adding their own unique twists. According to Amy Mullen, spa director of the Waldorf Astoria Spa at the Waldorf Astoria Park City (UT), it’s more about the add-ons to the traditional shave rather than reinventing the shave itself. For example, men who booked the spa’s Whiskey and Whiskers ($75, 60 minutes) package, available only for a limited time, were greeted with a glass of locally distilled whiskey. After a close shave, they received a mini-facial. The Waldorf Astoria Spa at El Conquistador, A Waldorf Astoria Resort (Fajardo, Puerto Rico) features a men-specific menu with barbershop influences. In addition to a Barber Shoppe Hot Towel Facial ($140, 50 minutes), male spa-goers can also opt for the Iron Exec ($355,  2 hours 30 minutes) combo, which pairs the hot towel facial with an invigorating coffee and mint scrub and a therapeutic deep tissue and Swedish massage.  “Today’s modern man never has enough time,” says Andréa Magalhaes, spa director at El Conquistador. “So these sessions where they can have multiple services at one time have become increasingly popular.”

According to Todd Brisky, managing director of The Art of Shaving, which has 150 Barber Spa locations across the U.S., the modern-day shave is also about delivering a more relaxing experience in a spa-like environment. There, Traditional ($35, 30 minutes) and Royal Shaves ($55, 45 minutes) employ the brand’s aromatherapy-based products (bergamot, lavender, lemon, and sandalwood) for a luxurious, multisensory experience.

Some spas even have their own dedicated areas for barber services, a comfortable space where men can kick back and feel at home. The Men’s Zone in the 55,000-square-foot Qua Baths & Spa at Caesar’s Palace has a retro Vegas vibe complete with a wet bar, while the recently opened Cowshed Spa at the Soho House Chicago, has two vintage barber chairs in a rustic yet refined decor that gives a nod to the classic British barbershop. The additions of these designated spaces are in sync with the general growth of male attendance in spas, notes Mullen. She says that traditionally, women go to spas in groups—to catch up, drink Champagne—whereas male spa-goers tend to go solo. “Spas and salons need to create an environment where both genders feel comfortable.” These areas dedicated to men, specifically barber services, create a non-intrusive place that Salvatore “Sal” Jeppi, master barber at Qua Baths & Spa, calls “home the moment a man steps inside.” According to him, they feature “a welcoming familiarity.” Scotch, cigars, sports magazines, leather chairs, and flat-screen TVs are common fixtures. The old-world barbershop of Gornik & Drucker, located in the Montage Beverly Hills (CA), even brings in room service from the hotel to satiate the appetites of its clients.

The key to implementing a barber service at a spa is hiring skilled, licensed barbers, says Brisky. Working with a poorly trained barber can have unpleasant consequences:, such as skin cuts and irritation. As a commitment to quality, The Art of Shaving’s Barber Spa has a network of barber trainers—super barbers—who test and train new hires. The Barbershop at the Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa’s Spa Toccare (Atlantic City) has barber candidates undergo several rounds of auditions on staff members, who along with a supervising barber, give feedback on each of the potential hires.

Building customer loyalty is also an important factor. Barber services naturally call for repeat visits, as many men look to be clean-shaven on a regular basis. Naomi Gregory, spa consultant at SpaQ (multiple locations in Australia) recommends providing excellent service to ensure word-of-mouth and frequent repeat visits and partnering with other great brands to provide unique experiences. The spa enlisted Chivas Regal to provide complimentary whiskey tastings and the Australian menswear label M.J. Bale to clothe its barbers.

The combination of barber and spa services can prove to be a powerful one—with more revenue potential than either as a stand-alone service. “Many men don’t have any additional exposure to grooming services before they come in for a haircut,” says Gordon Hirsch, owner of He’s Not Here  (Myrtle Beach, SC). His staff takes customers on a tour of the facility and educates them on manis and pedis, waxing, exfoliation, and facials so they get a picture of the comprehensive experience. Adds Keralea Pratt, marketing brand manager at Clubman, “A barber’s service is typically minimal, with a la carte menus. As such, many services belong together like a straight-razor shave and a facial, and could very easily provide a window to upsell additional services or the retail products used. If your client comes in for a trim or a shave, offer a scalp treatment or a head and neck massage to keep him in the chair and recommend a product or two used during the service for him to purchase for home use.” Thanks to the growing popularity of these old-school barber services and grooming brands, men have no excuse for avoiding the spa and not being groomed to perfection.—Lisa Cheng

Help male clients make the most of their shaving experiences with these pampering products.—Jessica Morrobel

1. Anthony Pre-Shave Oil: Formulated with eucalyptus, peppermint, and rosemary oils to layer under a shave cream or gel, this blend softens and lifts beard hair prior to shaving.

2. Aromatherapy Associates Refinery Shave Oil:  Created with borage, jojoba, and rosehip seed oils,  this shaving oil promotes elasticity and helps strengthen dry skin.

3. Aveda Men Pure-formance Dual Action Aftershave: Made with a proprietary blend of phyto-active naturally derived ingredients, this two-in-one moisturizer and aftershave reduces the appearance of ingrown hairs and improves skintone and texture.

4. CBI Skincare For Men Soft Shave Cream: Infused with oat beta-glucan and olive fruit oil, this shaving cream provides maximum glide over the skin’s surface for a smooth, close shave with minimal irritation.

5. Dermalogica Close Shave Oil: This lightweight shaving formula calms redness and relieves irritation for a pain-free shave with a blend of basil, tea tree, and ylang ylang flower oils. 

6. Liquid Skin Care Shave: Containing aloe vera, chamomile, and green tea leaf extracts, this non-foaming shaving cream creates a protective barrier on the skin to minimize razor burn and irritation.

7. PCA Skin Men Total Wash Face & Body Cleanser: Formulated with lactic acid and tea tree leaf oil, this foaming cleanser removes impurities while calming skin and reducing irritation caused by shaving.

8. RA for Men Shave Oil Antiox Serum: Combining aloe vera and grapeseed oil, this shaving oil adds a protective layer to the skin and softens stubble to prep for a close shave.

9. Sanitas Skincare Restorative After Shave Serum: This alcohol-free serum calms skin and helps prevent ingrown hairs while vitamin C reduces redness.

10. Sothys Paris Homme Softening Shaving Foam: This soothing foam repairs and calms razor burn while aloe vera moisturizes and volcanic rock helps eliminate toxins.

11. Tao of Man Superior Foaming Shave Gel:  Featuring a blend of hyaluronic acid and peppermint, this paraben- and phthalate-free shaving gel also removes excess dirt and oil.

12. Woody’s Quality Grooming Shave Relief Balm: This balm calms, soothes, and moisturizes skin after shaving with algae extract and aloe leaf juice.