A Chat With Men’s Grooming Chain Founder John Allan

Above: Hair stylist and men's grooming chain founder John Allan
Above: Hair stylist and men's grooming chain founder John Allan

Maybe it’s the popularity of Mad Men that did it. Or maybe it’s the thankful decline of “Casual Friday” we have to thank for it. Either way, men are taking appearance and grooming seriously again and, in turn, letting themselves be pampered a bit. Slowly but surely, we’re saying goodbye to the fauxhawk and hello to The Great Gatsby.

Now that there are dozens of hair care and grooming products men can call their own, it’s time they found a place they can call their own, as well. Not some hole‐in‐the‐wall barbershop with a collapsing barber pole and rusty shears. If you’re still getting your ears lowered at some fifteen dollar haircut chain, it’s time you sought out a place designed just for the well‐groomed gentleman. The kind of place where men can get pampered just as well as our wives and girlfriends have been visiting
forever.

John Allan Meing started his first men’s club in 1988. Called simply “John Allan’s”, the chain now boasts seven locations all over North America, with four in New York City alone. Slick and stylish, it’s more than just a place to get a haircut (don’t ever call it a “salon”), it’s a chance to unwind, have a drink, get a manicure, and be treated like a Gordon Gecko. Oh, and it’s also a really nice place to get a haircut. When you first meet John Allan, you almost expect to meet an impeccably dressed English butler, with perfectly coifed hair and a three‐piece suit. Although the man is definitely stylish and can certainly wear a vest like the best of them, he’s far more Sinatra than Jeeves.

It’s no wonder the man has such a Rat Pack vibe about him. He grew up in New York and New Jersey, just like Ol’ Blue Eyes himself. Sure, you might catch him in a tux, but today he’s wearing a leather jacket and a newsboy cap.

AmongMen: When did the idea for John Allan’s mens’ clubs first hit you? Was it always an idea to open a chain of locations, or did you figure it would be
one and done?
John Allan: 1987. I don’t like the word “chain” and—yes—it was always toexpand, not only domestically, but globally.

AM: A person with your background could have easily opened up a chain of spas for women and probably made twice as much money. Why the decision to focus on men?
JA: Nobody else would. They needed someone to represent them. A person… not just another huge company.

AM: Say I’m a guy who walks into a JA for the first time and has no clue what to expect. Walk me through the experience as you’d envision it.
JA: Greeted by the valet, given a cutting jacket, goes over the shampoo sinks and gets scalp massage conditioning treatment. Then recline in an old fashion barber chair with a hot towel. Relax in a club leather chair while getting an expert haircut and manicure at the same time… and enjoying a beer… finishing with shoeshine In a Relaxed atmosphere taking 35‐40 minutes.

AM: Why do you suppose we’re seeing this resurgence in men’s grooming and fashion awareness?
JA: Evolution – started with the Baby Boomers, years of marketing by major designers, Ralph Lauren, Armani, Calvin Klein, etc. this all started in the late 80’s increase in circulation of men’s magazines…and of course, the beginning of John Allan’s.

AM: Do you think it will be short-lived, or is this a trend that is here to stay?
JA: Here to stay‐ no longer a trend. It’s mainstream now. The younger guys were educated through mass brands example. Axe, Lab Series, Gillette, P& G.

AM: What would you say to the skeptical John Allan’s customer? The guy who isn’t sure what he’s going to get?
JA: Relax and enjoy. We got you.

AM: What about the guy who says he’s too busy for a men’s club like John Allan’s?
JA: No one is too busy for himself when it comes to grooming. The way we are set up the full service takes 30 minutes. He’s got to be worth 30 minutes, if not, he’s not a JA customer.

AM: What would be the ideal testimonial a first-time customer takes away from his very first visit to John Allan’s?
JA: Like I hear all the time :“That’s incredible”, or “Why have I not heard about this sooner?” or “It is well worth the price”.

AM: You’ve expanded quickly, and in numerous cities. Any more plans to expand across Canada?
JA: Vancouver is next. Also Houston, Miami and Washington DC.

AM: There’s always going to be men out there who see any type of malefocused grooming/hair place for men as being too feminine. What do you say to the guys that think that way?
JA: Get in touch with your feminine side. Chicks dig that. Worked for me all my life.

AM: Let’s say you get to freeze yourself in time, during any era of your choice. What year do you choose to be stuck in forever?
JA: Right after the great depression, we built America also, our culture in music took off. We were never the same after that.

AM: If you have only one part of the JA experience to recommend to a potential member, what would it be?
JA: “The Full Service”. It’s complete and a good place to start a guy on a good grooming regime he can commit too.

AM: You carry your own line of products at JA locations. Shampoo, hair products, etc. Anything you haven’t tried yet that might find its way onto your shelves in the next year or two?
JA: Yes, but then I would have to kill you. When I am ready to release that information I will give you a heads up.

AM: The average JA customer likes to unwind in the chair, getting a haircut and a manicure, while having a drink. How do YOU like to unwind?
JA: Anytime I get to spend time with my family, four children and my wife. It’s chaos and I always found peace in chaos.

John Allan’s has seven locations in North America. For more information, check out www.johnallans.com.

Ward Anderson

Ward Anderson

Ward Anderson is a comedian, author, and one-half of the talk radio program “Ward and Al”, heard weekdays on SiriusXM satellite radio. His first novel, I’ll Be Here All Week, will be released in May 2014. Find him at wardanderson.net and on Twitter @wardanderson.

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