I came late to the grooming party (“metrosexual” is a well-worn cliché), and I’ve always been told I have ungroomed nails, and never spent much on my haircuts. But last December, I visited Stamford’s Noelle Spa For Beauty & Wellness for my first manicure, then went downtown for a haircut and shave at Montana For Men. And now, I can’t see why I didn’t before. Note: I’d skipped my normal seasonal chop, hadn’t clipped my nails for about two weeks, and let my nearly beard develop into a five-day shadow. I felt pretty gross.
But walking through Noelle’s billowy curtain into the soothing environment, I was in for a treat. Donna Scannapieco, Noelle’s Operations Manager, brought me to Ines, whose more than 25 years of experience would be applied to a spa manicure (exfoliation, a mask and manicure) for my cruddy hands.
Interestingly, men come more frequently in summer for nail treatments in Ines’s experience, I learned. She treats about four guys a month, but more than 100 women. “Typically, they say it’s ‘Because my wife or girlfriend said I need it.’ But men need to come more regularly.” Once downstairs, after a guided tour of the fantastic facilities by Donna, Ines got down, gently, to business.
First off, she said: Don’t clip nails too close, but round them to follow the slope of the nailbeds. “Your shape is round, and when you cut your fingernails too close, and file, you can cut yourself.”
Ines superbly shaped them, and applied solar oil to the nailbeds to revive my very dry cuticles. Ines didn’t want to cut my cuticles because they would grow back thicker, which might “lead to you picking it, which leads to hangnails.” This was my first manicure, so I was at loss and didn’t really know how to sit still, but Donna helped me relax, with a glass of iced water and lemon, which was refreshing.
My hands were then exfoliated with citrus sea salt mixed with massage oil “to take care of the dry skin.” Amazingly, when washed, my hands felt moist—oiled, not oily. It was as if oils weren’t applied, but rather, my skin had (somehow) released them. And soon, my hands were in manicure mittens, warmed by towels, my cuticles glistening. Instead of polish, I finally chose the buff, followed by a soothing avocado treatment. Eventually, with the one-use implements finished, Ines disposed of them, and took the other tools off to be sterilized.
“Wow, your hands look beautiful!” Donna said, returning. She was right.
At Montana For Men, my experience was also first-rate: my shoes were shined, my hair exceedingly well-cut, and my beard expertly trimmed. Montana is a place for men, with a battery of services you, as a man, probably don’t think you need, but really do. So once inside, I felt masculine; not necessarily macho, but thoroughly male—which is a good thing, IMHO.
Dawn, who’s cut hair for 20-plus years (7 of them at Montana), expertly washed, dried, clipped, scissored and razored my fine, thinning locks, and later set me down comfortably supine for my first-ever straight-razor shave. Honestly, looking back, after steam towels, a great haircut, beard-trim, conversation and refreshment (you can even enjoy a beer), words do not do justice. And Dawn’s observations and experience were helpful, beyond her skills.
“You’re wearing your part low,” she noted first, “which makes your hair look like a comb-over.” This aged me (ugh!), so she suggested I get some lift, and at the end, applied product to draw the part back. I don’t use hair product because I find it irritating, but as she applied the gel, it wasn’t greasy or annoying, but ideally suited to my hair’s texture.
Here’s another thing: Dawn seemed to have attentively cut each individual strand of hair, and I was never concerned. Also, I’ve never gone away from a cut without needing a shower in order to clean off stray hairs. But after having my jacket taken, my tie loosened, and getting well-smocked, I left without a single hair out of place: on my head, or on my neck. Nor were there any errant shavings on my face. How this happened is a complete mystery to me—but honestly, I don’t care. In expert hands, that’s the point: you don’t worry.
So, for the greater part of my life, I’ve been mistreated, it seems, in the barber’s chair. And the experience, for men, is not unique: most of us just don’t know it.
“None of us got into this industry to cut men’s hair,” Dawn observed. “When I first got into it, I couldn’t get a job in a barber’s…I’ve had many people who’ve come in whose hair I’ve had to fix, and I find that, unless you’ve had a good haircut, you don’t know what a bad one is.” Exactly. At Montana, my cut was perfect.
See for yourself:
In short, I was a different person, after my first day of beauty. Can’t wait for my second.
Noelle Spa For Beauty & Wellness, 1100 High Ridge Road, Stamford; 203 322-3445
Montana For Men, 1 Bank Street, Stamford; 203 964-1234