The sign in front of this Bothell salon has a dude with pink foam curlers in his hair.
What’s up with that?
It’s not what you think. Inside you won’t find a bunch of “Curler Joes” like the guy on the sign.
The foam is in the beer, not the curlers.
“We’re a male-centric salon,” said Ron Barbera, owner of 18/8 Fine Men’s Salon at the Village at Beardslee Crossing.
Guys can get a brewski and the beauty works from scalp to toenails.
In addition to styling what’s on top, there’s lots of tweezing, pedicuring, exfoliating, lathering, waxing and stoning going on.
Stoning as in hot massage stones.
Waxing as in ear, nose and eyebrows.
“No full back. Yet,” Barbera said.
He opened this franchise of the 18/8 chain last summer. There are about 40 18/8 salons nationwide, including one in Redmond. The name?
“It’s the chromium-nickel percentage that is added to mild steel to turn it into a form of stainless steel,” Barbera said.
Salons like 18/8 fill a gap for men. They can get pampered and polished at a salon specifically designed for them.
“It’s about relaxing and getting away from it all. Men are just now starting to figure it out,” Barbera said.
He admits it’s not for all men.
“If you want a 15-minute haircut, we’re not the place. It’s not the standard get-out-the-clippers. When a guy comes in, we give him a robe.”
He also gets a free beer, if the grooming package meets the time test of the state’s guideline of services that include more than a simple haircut. Not that’s there’s such thing as a simple haircut here, anyway.
A cut with scalp massage and a hot lather shave (a package deal for $73) qualifies for a beer. Tap beer, at that. By the Keurig maker is a keg with Knuckle Boom ESB from Beardslee Public House next door.
Washington law allows qualified day spas to give a 6-ounce pour of wine or a 12-ounce beer to customers who are at least 21.
“We don’t do wine because nobody has asked for it,” Barbera said.
It’s not a line of chairs where everybody sees you during the not-so-pretty process.
The salon’s 11 cubicle stations with sinks give privacy for “when you have sticks stuck up your nose doing nose waxing,” Barbera said.
He spent 25 years in the corporate world, where he was last an IBM consultant in relationship management.
“I fixed messes and took care of people,” he said. “So this was a natural progression. We’re about quality customer care and taking care of guys who are all stressed out.”
Barbera used to be one of those guys walking around with a cursed cowlick.
“I was always looking for the cheap and easy,” he said.
At 18/8, a classic cut starts at $39. A few dollars more gets an executive cut with a 5-minute neck and shoulder massage. A straight-edge shave with hot lather is $37. Thirty dollars buys a scalp treatment or a manicure. Fifty bucks gets a new hair color.
“The first thing we do is an initial consultation,” Barbera said. “We want to know what you want; 80 percent of the guys have no idea. They say, ‘Cut my hair.’ ”
The stylists follow a specific way of handcrafting, he said.
“The idea is to have you not look like a Q-tip. We like to have form and definition to emphasize and accentuate the right hair form. Each skull is different and should have a different haircut.”
It’s not only gents in suits.
“We get guys with concrete hanging off their pants,” Barbera said.
This is not a men’s only club, on either side of the chair. Five of the six stylists are females and the salon is open to all ages and both genders.
“We have a couple of women clients,” he said. “We don’t have curling irons and the stuff you need to do long hair.”
An executive cut and eyebrow wax is the mainstay for Austin Curtis, 25, of Lynnwood, a compliance officer at a drug rehab facility.
“I did go to a traditional beauty salon and felt like a fish out of water,” he said. “I come every two weeks, religiously. People notice a difference. I had a couple guys at work ask me where I got my hair cut.”
It takes some explaining.
“They don’t understand it until they try it,” he said. “It’s hard to stop once you’ve started. It’s hard to go back.”
— Andrea Brown (@reporterbrown) January 5, 2016