A real nail-biter? Better not

Posted on 19 Feb 2009 at 10:24am
By Howard Lewis Russell

Metrosexuality made it trendy, but gay men still love their mani-pedis



MANI HAPPY RETURNS: Patricia Valle specializes in nail care (hand and foot) for Dallas men — gay and straight. Photo by ARNOLD WAYNE JONES

Like doughnut shops in Los Angeles or electronics stores in New York, there is something almost comfortingly inexplicable about the ubiquity of nail salons in Dallas. Why are there so very many personal maintenance emporiums in our city wholly devoted to human gelatin-filing — running the socio-economic gamut from grimly modest to garishly magnificent — sprouting up seemingly overnight, fully formed from nothing, on every single corner and strip mall further than the eye can see? Do Dallasites simply enjoy having perfectly manicured fingers and toes more than the rest of the nation? Is there not a single, secretly closeted nail-biter whatsoever living in central Texas: male, female or even drag queen?

Gnawing truth be known — whether fey heterosexual, butch homosexual, or just plain, unabashedly metrosexual — the better sex is not alone in keeping Dallas’ licensed cuticle-cutters in mushrooming business exclusively: Males in Dallas are (secretly or not) getting their nails professionally done, and in droves. As the acerbic Round Table wit Dorothy Parker infamously quipped, "Show me a woman vainer than any man and I’ll show you a swinging dick under her girdle."

In our current century’s relative infancy — when women’s girdles, men’s puka bead necklaces (mustache required), mood rings and magnetic copper healing bracelets have long been relegated to the great, moldering dustbin of vanities past — retail sales in the U.S. men’s grooming market topped more than $10 billion in 2008, up an incredible 25 percent in the past three years alone.

Even so, salons catering specifically to men tend to avoid these more esoteric, "exotic" trends of pampering in favor of a definitively meat-and-potatoes approach.

Male clientele — gay, straight or otherwise — all share the same "big three" universal salon concerns in common: 1) no men ever like going to salons; 2) no men ever like sitting next to women in salons (they do not want to look across an aisle and see a buddy’s wife or [gasp!] a mother); and 3) no men like the smell of salons.

At Dallas’ Face Salon/Spa/Retreat For Men, great strides have been made to establish a clear distance between its all-male clientele experience versus any previously conceived expectations inherent to more traditional "beauty" salons/spas . . . starting with the libations. The first question asked when one walks through the door of Face is, "May I offer you something to drink: soda, beer, wine?" Music to a man’s ears!

Tiffany Goodwin, Face’s gregarious manager, is astutely attuned to her clientele’s Y-chromosome needs and wants: In addition to complimentary wine and beer on tap, BYOB is encouraged as well, with a Member’s Reserve cabinet placed front and center of the salon for those who wish to keep their own personal beverage favorites handy on return maintenance visits. "And, of course, Saturday is mimosa day," Goodwin smiles sweepingly. "The only smells you’ll inhale here are champagne."

And in fact, Face smells remarkably of nothing but air: plain, odorless, chemical-free, deliciously ventilated; the salon is an atmospheric parallel of male heaven all the way around: from its reclining leather, zero-gravity manicure/pedicure chairs, to twin side-by-side, flat-screen televisions mounted above the beer-on-draft taps (one permanently tuned-in to ESPN, another to CNN), to a wall array of men’s grooming products-for-purchase, featuring four top-selling men’s brands: Anthony, Joe Grooming, Creo and Billy Jealousy.

At Face, a man can get his shoes shined, read a magazine, watch TV with his feet up, sip a foamy beer and have his fingernails buffed all the same time. When asked what percentage of Face’s clientele is female, Goodwin exults ebulliently, "Women are allowed on Wednesdays — emphasis on allowed."

The pricing of a spa manicure and spa pedicure at Face is equally celestial in comparison to many of Dallas’s female-oriented equivalent salons, with a "hand detail" running only $25, a foot detail $35, and a combo package at $55.

Nail therapist extraordinaire Patricia Valle follows a set procedure for turning any male’s abused hands and feet into gleaming gems of sophisticated elegance: feet/hands are first soaked in an eucalyptus bath to deodorize and soften skin, followed by clip-and-file cuticle work, then dead skin is abraded off and sloughed away, combining pressure point reflexology with a cucumber calming cream massage, and finally nails are prepped with a finish of one’s choice: either a buff shine or a polish shine.

"All implements are sanitized, disinfected and sterilized," explains Valle, "and the polish we use, if you prefer that option, is Man/e-cure: a clear, scent-free brand designed exclusively for men."

My digits have never gleamed so good. And just remember, boys, what mama always said: Don’t bite your nails . . . you may scratch something.

Face For Men, 3000 Blackburn Ave., Suite 190. 214-520-1103. Faceformen.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 20, 2009.

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