How you appear in public matters quite a bit. Equally influential are a shave and a good haircut.
Truth be told, clothes are always the supporting cast and our face the real star of the show. Though this may sound a tad dramatic, the impact of good grooming is never more apparent than when you surrender to a professional. I recently had such an opportunity and it has changed my opinion on the value of paying attention to one’s grooming.
Shortly before President Obama’s inauguration, I was contacted by one of the owners of the Grooming Lounge, a high-end men’s salon here in Washington, D.C., which has a loyal and well-heeled clientele. He is a fan of Off The Cuff DC, and asked if I would like to stop by for a shave and haircut? Since I knew I would be heading off to an inaugural ball, and with a promise to give my readers an honest assessment of the experience, I accepted.
Let me tell you up front that it was a great experience. Yes, it is expensive, but I’ll happily go back on my own dime when my hair grows out and I need a trim – which is just about now. The seven hot towels were nice too. Opens up the pores, you know.
I think it is safe to say that I never fully appreciated how effectively the spa experience can be presented for men. I’ve been to spas before, but they are almost universally geared toward women, even the men’s locker rooms tend to feel like a bit of an afterthought. Not this time. It is here, in the very DNA of the Grooming Lounge’s design that you get a sense of how this place is for and about men.
When I walked through the L Street doors, I was immediately struck by the feeling of being in a men’s club. Instead of earth tones there was dark wood and leather. In the place of light “spa” music, CNN quietly chattered away on the flat screen.
The main service room
The overall design is sleek but manly. For example, the rack of antlers on the wall was nicely offset by the midcentury modern take of the décor. Clean lines everywhere, but rendered in natural, comforting materials punctuated by chrome and slate.
The founders have done an excellent job branding the company – something often forgotten. From mints to business cards, product packaging to the aprons draped across your shoulders, the “GL” and crown logo is everywhere but not annoyingly so. Instead, I was left with the subconscious impression of a well designed and effectively organized company.
Since the company has opened additional locations at the Tyson’s Galleria in Virginia, and Terminus in Atlanta, Georgia, this is a good thing. After bad service, nothing can damage a growing company more than shoddy brand management.
Speaking of service, mine was excellent. My grooming expert, Amy, was just that – an expert. It was not until halfway through my appointment that I realized she had not been told who I was, so all my random business and process questions must have seemed a little strange. It was a nice discovery, because Amy was genuinely warm and professional, explaining everything that was going on and striking a good balance between casual and formal.
For your bespoke shave
First came the shave, with alternating hot towels and a regimen of oils and crèmes that prepped my face for the blade work. I was hoping for a classic strait edge, but instead a Gillette Mach III was produced. No complaints though, it was a superb shave.
I was told that the owners had researched strait edge shaves for several years as part of the business development process. But they were ultimately disappointed with the quality, settling instead on the Mach III.
The haircut was, truly one of the best I’ve had. Amy managed to give me new up-to-date look without making me look like I was trying to do that. It’s a great haircut that I plan on keeping. I also liked the shoulder and neck massage afterward.
Once I was cleaned up and de-stressed, the store’s manager, Carmen, gave me a tour of the entire facility. It’s not large, but the Grooming Lounge efficiently fits in the four-chair main room, comfortable waiting area, compact treatment room for massages, manicure and pedicures area and a very nice rest room/changing room.
Up front, they also sell the various products used during service, from pre-shave oil to a really fantastic aftershave crème, along with gift sets and the like. I was given a soft pitch, but nothing at all aggressive. Get what you need or nothing at all, but I can vouch for the no foam shave crème. That stuff is great.
Previously unchallenged for men’s high-end grooming loyalty, a new entrant to the DC market will be moving in down the street. The Art of Shaving, a direct competitor which I previously profiled, is building its second, larger location within striking distance of the Grooming Lounge. With a similar menu of services and an equally upscale presentation, I’ll be curious to see how things shake out.
In the end though, it all comes down to the services provided and whether or not my expectations were met. The answer is yes on all accounts. Some of this may have sounded a touch gratuitous. Fawning even, but I have been very objective. This was a great experience, start to finish. If only everything were so.
You can get more information about the Grooming lounge, its locations, services and products at www.groominglounge.com.