Almost three years ago I opened Privet. Conceived to be a place where men and women of all ages can go to be in a comfortable, non-clinical, non-traditional, non-pink-and-fluffy-style salon environment.
My own experience of treatments before we opened was pretty minimal. I ventured into physios for sports massage and that was it, until my wife took me to a spa on the West Sussex coast and booked me a face treatment and a massage. I thought, ‘WOW!’, what have I been missing out on for all these years? Once you get over the male ego thingy (you know what I’m talking about) that you’re too manly to have treatments done and it’s only for girls and as for moisturiser: ‘Pah, it’s for wusses’, do you discover that there is a reason the male industry has been growing at a huge rate over the last 10 years.
I was on a business trip to the beautiful medina in Fez, Morocco, looking after a friend’s Dar for 4 days. I discovered an article written in one of the newspapers I had brought from the UK about the male cosmetic market and its rate of growth compared to the female market. So I started doing a bit of research looking at what was available for men in London and to be frank, even though most salons accepted their male clients, they were generally a bit fluffy around the edges and the list of treatments was limited. Even the male-only places were a bit rigid, or the complete opposite, if you catch my drift. The idea was to create a very neutral high street space that would appeal to both sexes, as to alienate women would be business suicide.
When I first talked about starting Privet, I remember being at an end-of-term parents’ party. All the usual awkwardness that is to be expected, chatting to dads you only ever see at these events once a term. Whilst standing in a group making small talk, one of the dads asked me what I was up to and I mentioned Privet. At this point, two of the dads looked at each other, made their excuses and walked away. One of the other remaining dads leant over and said great idea, I hate going into these girly places to get my back waxed, while the other said along similar lines: ‘Yes, I hate the place my wife makes me go to get a pedicure before the summer holidays, but I enjoy the pedicure. Let me know when you open.’
It was only once I started digging a bit deeper past the outer shell of male bravado that I found out that the stats were right. So I pushed forward, found a location and that was it. I think most men are still a long way from going to the pub and saying ‘Wow, your skin looks great, what products are you using?’ or ‘where did you get your eyebrows done?’ It’s true, it doesn’t sound quite right at the moment, but give it time.