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Upscale barbershops offer more than basic shave and a haircut

It's hard for men to pay the big bucks for a shave and a haircut, mainly because it seems like one of the few things we can do ourselves. Many of us grew up with our mothers or sisters setting bowls on our heads and going to town with blunt school scissors. Not brain surgery, and clearly not worth $50 every five weeks when that money could be better spent on barbecue, Platinum cable TV or a new gym bag.

Eventually we graduated to Supercuts -- or anywhere with a barber pole, clippers and $10 cut. As we got older, girlfriends started making small suggestions: "Maybe you should see someone who could do something with your hair." So we'd grab a GQ or Esquire, find a movie star we wouldn't mind resembling (Lee Majors, Robert Redford, David Cassidy), and head to the hippest cutter within a few-block radius, hoping it would be painless and under $20.

Today, it's no big deal for men to visit the same upscale hair salons as our girlfriends, wives and mothers. Do what you must, charge me what you may, but please don't put foil in my hair, attach rollers of any kind, or stick me under one of those giant pods known as a hairdryer with the possibility of someone I know walking in.

Luckily, there are now upscale barber shops catering specifically to men to take away the pain and humiliation of getting caught with your curlers in. In these men-focused beauty quarters, we can confidentially discuss receding hair lines, nose and body hair (and removal options) and the ever-creeping monobrow.

I recently visited two local male salons and got the lowdown on grooming in style:

Modern Barber

Modern Barber is entirely the creation of Kary Kramer, a sassy stylist with men and their best interests on her mind. Dreaming of her male-centric shop for over a decade, Kramer finally opened Modern Barber last December.

Kramer talks a lot -- about fashion, her ex-boyfriends, her new Vespa. You name it; she's got something to say and energy to burn. And if you've got 90 minutes to spare, Modern Barber is worth every one of them. Not only does Kramer cut tresses with the best of them, she has a sense of style that's cutting edge.

My most recent visit made me realize that the entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well. Kramer's space is filled with gorgeous art, mod tunes, and a casual-enough ambiance that men can relax; women can hang, too; and beauty, fashion and gossip can mix.

The full Modern Barber experience is still evolving. Kramer doesn't have the exact lobby layout that she wants, she hasn't fleshed out the Modern Barber retail division (boxers, razors, hair products, cigars and full bar), and she hasn't placed the speakers in exactly the right place -- yet.

But if you visit Modern Barber you will learn about Kramer's fascinating life. You will laugh and be relaxed during your stay. And most important, you will emerge looking much better than when you came in.


Men don't belong in a beauty salon -- they belong in a barbershop. Capelli's executes this simple concept in a beautiful, masculine setting.

Owner Simon Loban understands the male vibe, and has set up her Gentleman's Barbershop to make the male animal comfortable enough to lounge and the process quick enough that he can get groomed and back to business in less than an hour. Catering mainly to men in the downtown Seattle area, Capelli's has nailed its atmosphere like a Michael Jordan jumper from the old school: all dark wood, book-lined walls, plasma screens and comfortable leather chairs to relax in before entering the line-up. With only four well-appointed stations, the place has the feel of your best friend's den.

My experience at Capelli's was perfect: Loban asked what I wanted from the cut -- I told her I just didn't want to look like Dorothy Hamill, and my wife wanted me to seem, and I quote, "less like a homeless person" -- and got down to business. In 30 minutes I was a new man, with a smooth neck (thanks to a straight-edge razor, almost pain-free) and a short, brazen cut that maintained my curl. If I'd had the time and cash, I might have even taken Loban up on the "Camo Color," a $35 camouflage that allegedly will take out the gray in 10 minutes' time.

After my make-over, I decided to hang a bit in Capelli's lobby lounge, watching ESPN on the flat-screen TV while taking a gander at Maxim. If I'm not careful, I may spring for one of Capelli's Executive Memberships ($375 for 16 signature services per year). My wife would love it -- less homeless, more coiffed.

Michael A. Stusser is a columnist for mental_floss magazine and dozens of other publications. His book, The Dead Guy Interviews, will be published by Penguin in 2007.

Where to go:
  • Modern Barber
    1633 Westlake Avenue N. Suite A., Seattle
    $45 for haircut and shampoo.
  • Capelli's Gentlemen's Barbershop
    925 Fourth Ave., Suite 404 (in the IDX Tower), Seattle
    206-587-0900, www.capellis.com
    $35 for signature haircut (includes scalp massage, haircut, style and hot towel neck shave). Capelli's kids' cuts available in the Brighter Horizons Daycare Center two days a month. $18.
  • Weldon Barber
    6220 E. Sammamish Parkway S.E., Issaquah
    425-369-9910, www.weldonbarber.com
    $38 for signature cut (includes shampoo, hot face towel, light scalp massage and shoulder rub, and neck shave).
  • Gene Juarez Men's Salon
    550 106th Ave. N.E., #105 (Bellevue Galleria), Bellevue
    425-450-2999, www.genejuarez.com
    Cuts $30-50, color $55-85.
  • Oslo's
    1519 Queen Anne Ave. N., Seattle
    206-282-OSLO, www.oslosamensstore.com
    Shop for swank men's clothes (James Perse for guys?!) while waiting for your cut. Barber services available only Friday and Saturday. Haircut $35, father/son special $50.

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