Adventures in Manscaping

I was the middle schooler who grew peach-fuzz sideburns so big, teachers called me Elvis. And although I’m now generally presentable, my grooming is still laissez-faire: I rarely moisturize, I go months between cheap haircuts, and I don’t own a comb. But Boston men are evolving beyond me, or so say the trio of new dude-tailored salons—High Street and Barbershop Lounge on Newbury Street, and 379 Club in Allston—that opened in the past year, each insisting men are ready for full-on buffing and pampering. Curious to see if such shops would boost or wilt my testosterone, I head out for a round of TLC.

[sidebar]The first thing I notice is the attitude. All three places are aggressively “manly,” with lots of leather, wood interiors or dark walls, and TVs. Barbershop Lounge and 379 Club have beverage bars. Some rename basic services with man-world jargon: At 379, a manicure and pedicure goes by the auto-inspired “hand and foot detail.” High Street offers a manicure called the Handshake (which is just begging for a Freudian slip).

I suspect it’s all an attempt to compensate for the fact that these kinds of services were once the domain of women, and I get that—but this is overkill. I know I’m a man; I don’t need to be reminded. Some details are appealing, however. High Street has TVs at each haircut station, with audio rigged so that only the individual customer can hear it. Barbershop Lounge and 379 Club have pool tables, which are fun, although I can’t imagine wanting to hang out at my salon.

As for how the actual services compare: High Street does little beyond hair and nails, and its $52 cut (including hot towel and scalp rub) isn’t any better than those I’ve gotten for a quarter of the price. At 379 Club, I’m ushered into a small treatment room for a 30-minute massage. There are none of the normal spa frills (e.g., New Age music), but the therapist does work out some tension in my shoulder, and I hunch more comfortably over my computer the rest of the day. The clear winner, though, is Barbershop Lounge, which feels the most polished, and even offers shoeshines on the way out. I submit to a waxing, a test of perseverance: My brows go easily, with just a little sting, but the neck job is straight out of a CIA handbook. My waxer compliments me on how well I take it, and, in between silent cursing, I accept.

Admiring myself in the mirror afterward, I realize I’ve been walking around with a unibrow for years. I’ll need another waxing soon, I decide. This is how they hook you.

Barbershop Lounge, 245 Newbury St., Boston, 617-450-0021, barbershoplounge.com; High Street Men’s Grooming Centre, 296 Newbury St., Boston, 617-247-0077, highstreetboston.com; 379 Club, 379 Cambridge St., Allston, 617-202-4330, 379club.com.

 

Go on to the next page to find out how Vidal Sassoon’s VIP stylists jumped ship to their very own Newbury Street operation…