The privileges of pampering and grooming the human body have long been reserved for the fairer sex. But a foursome of local entrepreneurs has opened the door to a pampering lifestyle for men with The Hoboken Man, a barbershop where men can spoil themselves with manicures, pedicures, waxing, and facials in addition to the traditional haircut and straight-razor shave.
Entering the uptown salon is like stepping into a male sanctuary. Flat screen TVs tuned to ESPN are strategically situated throughout the space, the walls are decorated with framed iconic covers of Playboy magazine and the staff serves the clients complimentary beer. One of the few reminders of the old-fashioned barbershop look are the vintage-style barbershop chairs.
But, are beer-swilling men who appreciate sports and pictures of naked women the same men who are likely to indulge in something as dainty as a pedicure or an express facial? The owners of The Hoboken Man think so.
Having noticed a shift in cultural trends over the last 15 to 20 years in which men, popularly dubbed "metrosexuals," have been taking a greater interest in personal grooming (and are willing to pay for high-end services), Hoboken residents Dan Hood, Emily Gonce and their business partners, Erik and Jenn Connaughton, and Steven Holm, recognized a market deficiency in the Mile Square: there weren't any salons that cater specifically to that metrosexual set.
They imagined a salon where well-to-do Hoboken men would receive, in addition to the services of the old-school American barbershop, a mani-pedi or a facial in an atmosphere that wouldn't make them feel self-conscious about ordering up treatments traditionally targeted at women.
Hood, 37, a transplant from the Philadelphia suburbs who works in Manhattan as an accountant and real estate executive, said a salon he'd frequented in Philadelphia some years ago inspired the concept for The Hoboken Man. That salon, Style of Man, opened during the 1990s in the Manayunk section of the city, a riverfront neighborhood similar in demographics to Hoboken. Many Hoboken men between the ages of 25 and 30 commute to Manhattan every day and have to look presentable for their jobs, said Hood about why the venture would be successful in Hoboken.
While the partners conceived the idea for the salon in 2007, Gonce said that by the time the wheels were in motion and they were soliciting bids from construction companies, the U.S. economy had tumbled into a recession. Although perilous for many business owners, it turned out to be fortuitous for The Hoboken Man owners.
"The combination of the economic downturn and the contractors' desperate need for work enabled us to negotiate and receive deeply discounted construction bids," said Gonce, 31, who works as a lobbyist for a large insurance company in New York City. Apart from the construction, Hood and Gonce credited Heather Sarrecchia, the salon's manager, for coordinating the decorating of the place.
While The Hoboken Man certainly isn't your father's barbershop, it is partly Gonce's late father's—at least, some of the signature décor is.
After Gonce's father passed away, she and her siblings stumbled upon some old footlockers that had been locked away in an attic for years. When they opened up the boxes they found a collection of "Playboys that went back to the fifties and sixties," Gonce said. "As we were getting ready to open the barbershop, we thought it would be pretty cool to put them on the walls as part of a pop culture design."
So far, the salon's atmosphere and array of services have earned several loyal clients. Robert Beevers, 34, tried out the shop when it opened and was hooked immediately. Beevers, who hails from London and moved to Hoboken four years ago, said places like The Hoboken Man are commonplace in England and something he has missed since moving here.
"Being a man and wanting to look after yourself means going into very feminine places," said Beevers. "There are some places in New York, but this is more convenient. Hoboken needs it."
Beevers gets haircuts, facials, shaves, and eyebrow shaping and said he enjoys the scenery—including the "quite nice-looking" female staff.
"My skin's never felt better," Beevers added, "and I've never felt better about myself."
Jay Marcotte, 36, said he gets a quality haircut for a significantly lower cost than some other Hoboken salons he previously frequented.
"Paying $65 for a men's haircut in Hoboken, was, I thought, ridiculous," said Marcotte. A "ridiculous" haircut price, though highly subjective, is something Gonce said she and her co-owners wanted to avoid.
"We looked at every single salon in Hoboken and we priced every man's haircut and took roughly the average," Gonce said of the barbershop's price points, which start at $39 for a haircut.
"We're not trying to out-price ourselves for this market," she said, "I don't think it's reasonable for a man to pay $100 or more for a haircut."
Not even a year in, the barbershop recently received its first accolade from an industry trade magazine. In its June issue, Salon Today named The Hoboken Man among its 2010 Salons of the Year. Moreover, Gonce said, several notable Hobokenites have dropped in including Mayor Dawn Zimmer's husband, Stan Grossbard, and
Hood, who remains a die-hard Eagles fan, is hopeful that Giants quarterback Eli Manning (an Eagles archrival and Hudson Tea Building resident) will one day give the barbershop a try. Both Hood and Gonce said they are optimistic that the continued development uptown will bring more potential clients.
If the success of Manayunk's Style of Man, the inspiration for The Hoboken Man, is any indication, the future is looking bright for Hood, Gonce and their partners. Style of Man recently opened its third Philadelphia location, a level of success Hood and Gonce indicated they'd be thrilled to replicate.