A new haven for gentlemen

 
Timothy Barber
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DESPITE the growing popularity of beauty products aimed at men, the prevailing wisdom in the grooming industry is that the majority of bloke-orientated creams, cleansers, colognes and aftershaves are bought for men by women. Some retailers put that figure as high as 70 per cent. While we’re more used to slathering ourselves in lotions and spraying on a bit of decent scent than we used to be, it seems we’d still rather have someone else pick it off the shelves for us.

Well, head into any Boots and you can see why. If you can find the male grooming stuff between aisles of make-up, hair-care items and women’s sanitary products, the selection is generally pitifully small – a few shaving gels, a small choice of stuff to stick in your hair (dear God, hair “putty”, anyone?) and some hardly-exciting deodorants. No wonder it’s the kind of place you make a lighting dash for once your deodorant, shaving cream and toothpaste have all run out, and not before.

But given the right environment, men can browse and spend on grooming stuff like it’s going out of fashion. It actually appeals to the geeky collector in us – according to Annalise Quest, head of beauty at Harrods, men who buy their own scent actually buy more and wider varieties than women, who tend to stick to their one or two favourites.

GROOMING TREASURE TROVE
Thus the launch of the new Gentleman’s Lounge in the Harrods basement. It’s a plush-as-you-like treasure trove of luxury grooming products in the area formerly occupied by the Green Man pub.

As well as lavish displays of colognes, aftershaves, creams, lotions, old-fashioned razors and brushes, and even grooming gadgets, it has a lounge area and bar where fine booze and wi-fi are the order of the day (the team behind Whisky Mist will be running the show there from early next year). In other words, it’s the perfect place to come and relax while your other half hits the rest of the shop.

That’s actually an idea that goes back to the room’s history, according to Quest. “It was originally called the Gentleman’s Lounge in the 1930s, when it was an area where fashionable gentlemen would meet their friends to talk about politics and smoke cigars,” she says.

Now cigars are out and wellbeing is in, but wellbeing of a clubby, elegantly masculine, beautifully-packaged persuasion. Polished wood veneers, gleaming display cabinets and the original Art Deco trappings of the building all contribute to an atmosphere of old-fashioned, gentlemanly excellence. The Lounge also incorporates the Refinery, the ultra-swish grooming salon providing wet shaves, haircuts, massages and other body treatments, which also sells a fine range of rare, classy grooming products.

“Many of our clients get their first appointment via a woman, who books them in as a present,” says Refinery manager Deborah Gayle. “Once they’ve experienced it they get over that fear factor, and realise they can feel at ease getting pampered a bit, and they keep coming back.”

In Knightsbridge, at least, it looks as though more men will be making their grooming debuts under their own steam.

The Gentleman’s Lounge, Harrods, SW1X 0LZ. www.harrods.co

GROOMING PRODUCTS FOR GENTS | WHERE ELSE TO GO

TAYLOR OF OLD BOND STREET The grand old man of luxury grooming in London (it was founded by Jeremiah Taylor in 1854), Taylor’s brushes, bone-handled razors, shaving creams, fragrances and hair products are the essence of vintage St James’s style. 74 Jermyn Street, SWIY 6NP, www.tayloroldbondst.co.uk

CARTER & BOND An apothecary of old-fashioned, obscure, magnificently-packaged grooming brands – with names like Brave Soldier, Baxter of California and Jacomo – in a shop which also houses a delightful array of retro boys’ toys, watches and vintage prints, across the road from still-fashionable west London gastropub, the Westbourne. There’s a terrific wet-shave/haircut service on Wednesdays and Sundays. 83 Westbourne Park Rd, W2 5QH. www.carterandbond.com

MURDOCK LONDON A slightly more street-smart, 60s-influenced version of London cool, Murdock’s three venues – in Mayfair, Shoreditch and West End department store Liberty – provide shaving and hairdressing services, as well as a range of high-grade products by the likes of Acqua di Genova and Pino Silvestre. 340 Old Street, EC1V 9DS www.murdocklondon.com