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Health & Grooming: Hair Club for Men

William Kissel

At first glance, John Allan’s resembles a typical private men’s club. A dozen leather chairs line the room populated with men smoking cigars and sipping draft beer while waiting for a chance to control the pool table. A few savor their own privately stored liquor reserves, while others are fitted for custom-made suits and dress shirts by the tailor/designer who manages the in-house haberdashery. But what really distinguishes John Allan’s from other private clubs is that it isn’t one—it’s a men’s salon, with two locations in New York City.

"I wanted it to have all the amenities of a men’s club, but I didn’t want to go stuffy or too English. The idea was to make men feel comfortable," says the club’s owner and namesake, whose nine house stylists sit while they clip in front of oversize walnut mirrors to enhance the social ambience of the place. "I wanted it to feel exclusive, although not exclusionary," Allan adds. To that end, both locations offer $695 annual club memberships to up to 2,000 customers. The fee covers a year’s worth of basic services—from shampoos and haircuts to hot towel facials and manicures—and includes discounts on purchases, excluding clothing.

The idea behind John Allan’s is simple, says Allan, who spent 10 years with Jean-Louis David hair salons as a top stylist in Paris and Milan before becoming director of U.S. expansion in New York. Men are not any more comfortable than women are about having someone of the opposite sex sitting next to them while having their hair cut. And furthermore, men do not like the chemical smells that are characteristic of unisex salons. Allan’s solution—one that is being mirrored across the country by Shaving Grace in Pennsylvania, the Grooming Lounge in Washington, D.C., and Gentleman’s Quarters in Denver—was to create a men’s-only grooming parlor modeled after an old-fashioned barbershop crossed with a tony men’s club.



The emphasis on ambience can be traced to Allan’s background in the restaurant business. "I grew up learning the importance of making the customer feel comfortable," says the 46-year-old groomer, whose family operated a supper club in New Jersey. "I didn’t want a bunch of guys who don’t know each other sitting around in a waiting room. The pool table creates a kind of camaraderie." And the other services, including the free beer and cigars, encourage them to stick around.

"The clothing is the ultimate additional service," adds custom tailor Michael Savoia, Allan’s childhood friend, who formerly operated his own boutique across from the World Trade Center and went out of business in the aftermath of September 11. The new Savoia Custom Clothiers shop in John Allan’s Midtown salon produces bespoke suits starting at $2,000 and custom-made shirts for $295, as well as all of the accoutrements—neckwear, belts, cuff links, even footwear—for the well-dressed man. "I’m working on membership packages to offer discounts and special fabric choices to regular customers," says the designer, who plans to introduce a John Allan’s by Savoia collection of accessories early next year.

For his part, Allan acknowledges that the clothing idea sprung from the ashes of September 11. "Expanding into clothing gave my friend Michael access to the men who come through our salon each month," he says. More to the point, he adds, "It brings my concept of a private club environment full circle."

John Allan’s, 212.922.0361, www.johnallans.com;
Savoia Custom Clothiers, 212.682.1250

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Photo by Ted Morrison