August 6, 2014 at 1:00 am

Men cutting it close to look sharp, boost Metro Detroit grooming services

Colleen Smith gives Ali Ayoub of Royal Oak a trim at The Art of Shaving in Troy. Men's grooming habits have become big business. (David Coates / The Detroit News)

Metro Detroit men are fickle when it comes to follicles, and their necklines have become dividing lines.

Many men have embraced the beard and mustache trend, using No-Shave November, “Duck Dynasty,” playoff beards and WWE pro wrestler Daniel Bryan’s “Respect the Beard” campaign as inspiration.

But a growing number of men now use their razors to groom their chest, back, armpits and, yes, privates. The dichotomy has upended the traditional razor industry while providing a boon for Metro Detroit entrepreneurs who are picking up on the trend.

No company is more sensitive to the changes than Gillette, which controls 66 percent of the global razor market, estimated by Euromonitor to be worth $12.8 billion in annual sales.

Proctor & Gamble, which paid $57 billion to buy Gillette in 2005 and owns The Art of Shaving stores — three are in Michigan — reports razor sales are flat across America.

The company has pinned its hopes on “manscaping,” the removal of body hair anywhere other than the scalp, which is a growing share of the grooming market.

A Gillette study revealed that 73 percent of U.S. men have shaved or trimmed some body part, including their chest, back and stomach, and 58 percent think a better razor would enhance their body-shaving experience.

On Valentine’s Day, Proctor & Gamble introduced Gillette Body, a razor geared for the “male terrain,” with its sensitive peaks and valleys and hard-to-reach spots.

“You see it in sports from surfing to triathlon, cycling and skateboarding, and we’ve even seen it in movies. ‘The 40-Year-Old Virgin,’ for example, has a funny scene about back and chest hair removal,” said Proctor & Gamble spokesman Kurt Iverson.

The manscaping trend alone has helped Nadwa Yono, owner of Nadwa Hair Spa in West Bloomfield, increase her business 25 percent with more males seeking waxing services.

“Men like the convenience of having their hair removed once a month rather than shaving every day,” Yono said. “It’s also acceptable for men — not just metrosexuals (defined as an urban male who pays attention to his personal appearance and cultivates an upscale lifestyle) — to walk into a spa now and they aren’t going to get teased by their buddies.”

The latest International SPA Association Foundation research found men make up 47 percent of the spa-going population.

While some of it is for male grooming, the majority of spa visits are for massages and the like, says International SPA Association President Lynne McNees.

“As a global society, we are experiencing more stress than ever before and seeking creative ways to manage our stress levels. Visiting a spa gives you a much needed permission to pause.”

Tiffany Piggee’-Taylor, owner of ME Beauty Detroit in Rochester, credits male grooming habits as the reason her business took off in 2005.

“Nobody was waxing men and all of the ladies already had their estheticians, so I decided I would make a business out of waxing men,” Piggee’-Taylor said.

They now represent about 20 percent of her business.

One of her customers is Marty Kuhn, 61, of Waterford, who visits monthly for a Brazilian wax, which removes hair from, um, south of the equator.

“After I had a stroke, it was one of the things on my bucket list and I discovered I liked being well-groomed,” he said.

There are a lot of men like Kuhn, said Dorian Sullivan, founder of Wax Girls, which says it’s Michigan’s only mobile waxing salon that visits clients’ homes to complete the hair removal service. But rarely do they want to discuss it, she said.

“They feel embarrassed. They don’t want people to know they are getting waxed,” Sullivan said.

Their embarrassment has ignited her mobile business, though. Sixty percent of her clientele is male.

“Media is very influential,” Sullivan said. “Men see celebrities that are well-groomed and they want to look exactly like them,” she said.

For men who want a closely shaven face, many are returning to an old-fashioned luxury: a straight-edge shave.

Mike Rossi, owner of Steve & Duke’s Barbershop in Utica, said his customers come for the straight-edge shave to indulge themselves without having to set foot in a spa.

“The full barber shave is one of the few things a guy can do — if he is not metrosexual — to pamper himself,” Rossi said. “The bulk of men don’t go get manicures and pedicures, but the hot towel and the hot lather that comes with a full shave is one of the few things a man will do for himself.”

Todd Brisky, managing director of The Art of Shaving, agrees. The national chain, with locations at Twelve Oaks Mall in Novi, Somerset Collection in Troy and Woodland Mall in Grand Rapids, is dedicated to men’s shaving.

Its Somerset location has a master barber who not only gives haircuts, but offers a 45-minute straight-blade shave in a calming atmosphere that resembles a masculine spa.

“When our founder Eric Malka did the math, he figured he was going to shave 20,000 times over his lifetime,” Brisky said. “He decided that’s something to do too many times to not be a pleasurable experience.”

Rene Wisely is a Metro Detroit freelance writer.