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A salon of his own: More than just manscaping

Swapna Venugopal Ramaswamy
A salon of his own: More than just manscaping

When it comes to salon services, there’s a definite pecking order.

Most cater to women, many cater to pampered pets, and barely any cater exclusively to men.

That’s a gap in the marketplace Carmela Kinnally sought to fill when she opened the Fine Men’s Salon of Westchester in Mamaroneck, New York, three years ago.

Ray Hadjstylianos, a pastor at Living Word Christian Church in White Plains, New York, is a convert.

Carmela Kinnally, owner of The Fine Men's Salon of Westchester talks about her Mamaroneck business April 18, 2019.

On a recent Thursday, Hadjstylianos, having just received a haircut and a manicure, examined grooming products on a shelf as he talked about his distaste for unisex salons.

“Going to a woman’s salon is very intimidating for men, especially when you want (to) get your nose, ears or eyebrows waxed. Here you can get your back waxed, chest waxed, whatever you want,” said Hadjstylianos. “You have a place here that is for men only and that really makes a difference."

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From 1992 to 2012, barbershops in the United States saw a 23 percent decrease, according to the U.S. Census. The number recovered slightly in 2013, however.

Pastor Ray Hadjstylianos

In her 2016 book "Styling Masculinity," sociologist Kristen Barber says at the same time barbershops were closing, men's salons were cropping up across the country.

"White, upper-class men are seeking out pampered grooming experiences as a sign of their superior taste and a step toward getting ahead in the workplace," said Barber. "So they don't just enjoy the pampering, they believe that there's a marketplace value for the services." 

At the Fine Men's Salon, there’s a choice of complimentary beer on tap, wine, tea or coffee. The walls are covered with pictures of dozens of famous men getting haircuts including Frank Sinatra, Paul McCartney, Robert De Niro and Mick Jagger. A small room with a bed features a photo of Steve Carell’s botched body-waxing scene in "The 40-Year-Old Virgin.”

“Why not give men a little more TLC? Maybe they are having a stressful day at work. A lot of these gentlemen have newborns at home,” said Kinnally. “I feel men are sometimes put on the back burner as far as grooming and feeling good about themselves.”

Danielle Braun works on a customer at The Fine Men's Salon of Westchester in Mamaroneck April 18, 2019.

The average price for a haircut is $54 and includes a shampoo before the haircut and a rinse after to get rid of any stray pieces of shorn hair. A bay rum-infused hot towel on the face accompanies the rinse. Warm lighting adds to the atmosphere.

Growing up in Pearl River, Kinnally said she always knew she wanted to work in a fashion or luxury related industry. After graduating from St. Thomas Aquinas College with a degree in business, she spent a few years in customer service at cosmetic companies before opening a bridal boutique called the “Bridal Chalet” in Bardonia with her sister.

“Then we both got pregnant at the same time,” she said.

Products on a shelf at The Fine Men's Salon of Westchester in Mamaroneck April 18, 2019.

After staying home for almost 15 years to raise her kids, in 2015, she started working for Clarins USA, a luxury skincare brand, as a customer service coordinator.

Then her husband, Steve, encouraged her to strike out on her own.

“My husband said you should be your boss again,” she said. “He said I have hands of gold, and that I always make something out of nothing.”

As she brainstormed ideas for a business with her husband, Kinnally said they settled on the idea of a men's salon.

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Steve Kinnally, who is a bond broker on Wall Street, said he'd experienced a few good cuts at salons near his workplace and wanted to bring the experience to the suburbs.

"At the local barbershops, you are in and out in seven to eight minutes," said Steve Kinnally. "It's very basic. They don't focus on the small details. Here, it's a whole experience. They get a robe to change into so their hair is not stuck on their shirt, they get a hot towel on their face, they get their hair washed before and after a cut."

Barber, an associate professor at Southern Illinois University, views barbershops as a "class phenomenon and racialized phenomenon."

While barbershops in white, upper-middle-class neighborhoods continue to fall by the wayside, Barber said in neighborhoods with large black and Latino populations, they continue to thrive as a social hub.

"Men who go to the salons don't see barbershops as places for discerning men of taste," she said. "It's a way of reinforcing class hierarchy between themselves and blue-collar men."

After scouting a few different locations and towns, Kinnally said she settled on Mamaroneck Avenue for its foot traffic and vibrant feel.

"I loved the energy of the place and the community feel and the diversity," she said. "I feel like it's Main Street USA with a little bit of the melting pot here."

The Fine Men's Salon of Westchester in Mamaroneck April 18, 2019.

Located across from the popular 50-year-old Sal’s Pizza, many of her clients have found her through their love for Sal's.

"I thank them every day for my business," she said.

Brandon Steiner, founder of Steiner Sports Marketing and Memorabilia and a sought-after motivational speaker on business and leadership, is a fan of the business.

“I take my haircuts seriously because I do a lot of speaking and a lot of media. I need to get my hair done right and often,” said Steiner, who lives in nearby Scarsdale, New York. “So I want to go to a place where I can relax a little bit and grab something to drink.”

Steiner, who sits on the board of White Plains Hospital, said before he’d discovered Fine Men’s Salon, he’d often go to high-end unisex salons in Manhattan.

“When you go to a unisex salon, the focus is on women’s color and cut because it’s a lot more complex and that’s where most of the money is,” said Steiner. “What I like about this place is that all their focus is on men’s hair. It’s my favorite place to go.”

This article originally appeared on Rockland/Westchester Journal News: A salon of his own: More than just manscaping