As a Goldman Sachs bond trader back in the early nineties, I was known for my long hair and beard, remnants of a counterculture past. After a particularly grueling workday, I ran into a friend on Broad Street in downtown Manhattan. He was on his way to get a haircut and invited me to have a drink at the barbershop, which struck me as pretty odd. But John Allan’s turned out to be a clubby spot, staffed primarily by women, offering shaves, shines, manicures, and even a stogie in one of the cigar rooms or a Scotch from your private stash. Despite my loyalty to the Upper East Side barber I’d been going to since the third grade, I sat in one of the classic barber chairs, sipped a single malt, and got an awesome scalp massage. Afterward, my long hair and beard perfectly groomed in a highly stylized version of my usual cut, I left feeling pretty swell.
Twenty years after opening that first salon, which was lost to September 11, the iconoclastic and energetic Allan is expanding his empire, with four Manhattan locations, a new Chicago outpost that opened last December, and another in the works on the West Coast. His eponymous hair and grooming products are carried at upscale pharmacies and department stores, their simple design in keeping with the classic masculine aesthetic that pervades all Allan’s undertakings. (I have noticed the products in the locker rooms of several high-end private golf clubs, a natural fit since Allan views his clients as members of a special society.) He personally attends to every detail, ensuring that everything matches his vision, from the fonts and layout of displays to the design of the robes and the lighting.
“We’re all about maintenance,” says Allan, “part of the good life expressed through the smaller indulgences that validate a man’s hard work.” Getting your 5,000-mile tune-up at Allan’s harks back to simpler times. My grandfather, a grizzled ex-boxer and bookie, would have been comfortable in his care; he wore double-breasted suits and a fedora, never cheated anyone or complained about anything, and always kept his appearance neat. That said, a hot lather shave, haircut, and nail trim may never go out of style, but the emporiums offering them have become rare. And so, although Allan’s salons have been updated, they keep that tradition alive and have evolved into calm oases from these hectic days. Style, elegance, comfort, and service are timeless. Visit johnallans.com for locations.