Thursday, November 01, 2007

John Allan's

Here is a story I wrote a while back for a magazine. It never ran, so I thought I would share it with you people. It is about John Allan's, a salon here in the city.
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When you walk in to the door of any John Allan’s Club, you are immediately greeted, seated, and fitted with a black “smoking jacket” type garment with John Allan’s logo on the breast. Looking around the room you see a dozen or so overstuffed brown leather tuck-and-roll chairs filled with well-dressed gentlemen socializing, sipping beer, listening to the cool jazz constantly streaming from the sound system, or waiting for their turn at the classic-style red velvet pool table in the corner. A few men are seated at the bar, sipping from their private liquor reserves (which are stored on the premises with your name on them for your personal use only); and others are tucked away in the cigar room smoking and watching sports or news on television. You could be at any high class gentlemen’s club in the city. The only difference is that John Allan’s is not a private club; it is one of New York City’s most famous men’s salons.

In the good-ole days, a men’s salon was called a “barber shop”. You wait your turn in a Barbisol-soaked environment to have the barber give you a shave and a haircut and fill you in on the town’s business. That’s a little too Mayberry for New York City, but John Allan’s does fulfill that primal male need for comfort, socialization, class and grooming with four locations in Manhattan.

Most men interested in “grooming” would have to swallow their pride and go to a salon which specializes in women’s needs: hair color, acrylic nails, bikini waxing, and celebrity gossip magazines. John Allan’s is an oasis of testosterone for the male who needs a little extra care. The most popular package, the “Full Service” is a reasonable $65 and includes a scalp massage with shampoo, a heated towel for the face, a manicure, a haircut, a shoe-shine, and all the draft beer you care to drink. Adorning the magazine racks are copies of Forbes, BusinessWeek, Vanity Fair, The New Yorker, and Golf Magazine. The clientele are a mixture of young professionals and older gentlemen.

My stylist, Danny, is from Alaska and we spent the entire session debating who had suffered more culture shock upon his arrival to New York City. A Southern boy, I saw his frozen tundra and raised him a Boll Weevil Monument. During our rather heated and animated discussion, I eventually noticed something extraordinary: Danny was cutting my hair with a straight razor. I immediately commented on the fact, and he assured me that my ears were not in danger. I resisted the urge to tell the lovely woman performing my manicure not to push my cuticles so hard. I winced, bore the pain, and tried not to move at all. Danny eventually loosened me up again (read: brought me another beer), and we were off again discussing our childhood—the fear of losing an ear had left me.

After finishing the haircut I was treated to a shoe shine that rivaled Granddaddy’s. I was then free to socialize, drink, play pool, smoke a cigar, or merely hang out and read magazines. After buying a few products, I went to the register to pay and was able to tip individually my stylists in small envelopes. My coat and bag were returned to me and I exited John Allan’s back into the hustle and bustle of Park Avenue feeling a more nostalgic than I had an hour earlier. I had just experienced something I thought only existed in stories my grandfather told me and old black and white movies. I was given an opportunity to visit an era I thought long gone: one where men had a place to go to just be men.

1 comment:

The Lanes said...

What a fun piece! It's even more fun if you pronounce "salon" with the emphasis on the first syllable. SA-lon. :)