Have Fun, Feel Great

What's It Like Visiting a Manly Salon?

Entering the world of (manly) mani-pedis, (manly) facials, (manly) brow waxes—even (manly) shoulder massages at Tune Up — The Manly Salon.

By Morgan Kinney December 31, 2018 Published in the January 2019 issue of Houstonia Magazine

Image: Todd Spoth

The male body is a perfect machine forged from stainless steel and assembled using Snap-on tools. It is lubricated by several quarts of synthetic motor oil and barrel-aged Kentucky bourbon. It thrives in a fraternal environment bathed in thrash metal and early 2000s alt-rock, preferably with closed-captioned sports on a nearby television (the bigger the better). And the male body needs a mechanic who understands these unique, intricate workings when that Check Engine light flickers on. Hence my recent visit to Tune Up — The Manly Salon.

The chain boasts 19 body shops across Houston, with more on the way. Inside their various strip-mall locations, scissors and clippers reside in tool cabinets. A full bar offers complimentary rations of Crown Royal and Jack Daniel’s and four kinds of Karbach. Traffic-inspired wall décor makes brash declarations such as “WARNING: My Sense of Humor Might Hurt Your Feelings!”

I, possessing a male body, entered this kingdom of corrugated steel to sample the relatively comprehensive service menu that goes beyond the usual trim and shave to include (manly) mani-pedis, (manly) facials, (manly) brow waxes—even (manly) shoulder massages.

Patrons sign in at a kiosk and select whichever combination of services they desire before parking it at the bar. This is where I queued with a frothy mug of Love Street alongside husbands who talked loudly to their wives on cell phones before replacing their devices on belt holsters. NBC Sports was broadcasting a Tuesday-night Tractor Pull, and the man on the adjacent stool exchanged knowing grunts with me until my stylist—let’s call her Sandra—summoned me to her station for my facial and manicure.

The job is mostly haircuts, Sandra told me, as she jacked back the barber chair and draped my torso in a microfiber blanket—but plenty of fellas do add on the extra treatments. We proceeded with the three-step cleansing-exfoliation-moisturizing affair punctuated by a series of heated towels to the face. Buzzing clippers from the adjacent chairs added soothing ambience as Sandra massaged my arms and hands while each face mask set. About 30 minutes later, I was transferred to the manicure station, where Sandra hacked at my cuticles below a wall of yet more televisions blaring network sitcoms. She buffed and filed my talons until they reached an entirely sensible, manly profile.

The whole experience lasted about an hour, a duration seemingly timed to expire with whatever buzz I had acquired at the initial bar visit. The results, if not extraordinary, were serviceable, and I felt refreshed and tended to—a win.

3 Other Places for a Dude to Treat Himself

The Argyle League

Consider this Montrose favorite your stop for elevated basics, where a roster of impeccably dressed stylists offers an unparalleled “precision haircut” geared toward a “gentleman.” Free Bourbon flows … freely, too.

The Gentry

Exfoliation, essential oils, keratin treatments, gray-away, brow waxes, style consultations, shoeshines, and more: This Memorial shop boasts an “executive” experience offering a Tin Man–style, head-to-toe buff-up (for a price).

Big Kat's Barbershop

Who says pampering can’t be simple? You might have to forfeit the froufrou massages and nail treatments at this Midtown haunt, but you’ll still get the old-school classics, like a hot-towel shave and a striped barber pole on the storefront.

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