In the late 1920s, the Great Depression was rendering most Americans professionally and financially paralyzed. But in a small California kitchen, Merle Nethercutt Norman was putting a plan in motion to formulate her own skincare products and share them with family and friends. She truly believed in her formulas, knowing that by getting them on as many faces as possible, she would develop a following of customers. She was right—within a few years she and her nephew were opening their first studio in Santa Monica, and they eventually unveiled a series of independently operated stores that enabled women to take ownership during a time of gender-based limitations such as men-only restrooms.
Today, in approximately 2,000 stores across three countries, the three basic principles of Merle's original vision still apply. Each studio is independently owned and fosters an in-depth knowledge of the company's own line of makeup and skincare products. Just as Merle shared her creations with close friends and sallow mannequins more than 80 years ago, today's aestheticians embody the business's "try before you buy" philosophy. A menu of complimentary studio services—from foundation checks to express facials—allows patrons to sample the lauded brand before committing to the purchase of products or full spa treatments.
The Barber Crew's rich leather couches and dark stained wood welcome men looking for a smartly decorated salon and a dapper cut. The warm and masculine environment fosters comfort and camaraderie, as customers sip on a complimentary beer or nonalcoholic beverage and shoot the breeze with their stylists or fellow males whose hair doesn't cut itself. Guests recline back, keeping one eye over the TV at each station as hot towels open pores and stylists shape scalps to one's preference. The hair experts trim or remove all the sundry hairs that creep up on a man, from waxing brows to trimming beards and mustaches. Their sessions can include a dash of testosterone-friendly products from American Crew or Paul Mitchell, and stylists offer paraffin hand treatments to restore digits to equilibrium before thumb wrestling a grizzly bear tilts the scales back toward unadulterated masculinity.
Edie Toison has more than 30 years of experience in the beauty industry, which she pours into custom cuts and sleek blowouts at her eponymous salon. Edie lends the space a homey feel, too, bringing in occasional home-baked goodies—like peanut butter pound cake—for her clients.
Inspired by the legacy of their grandfathers—stylish gents by the names of Lewis "Emerson" Smith and Gabor "Joseph" Takats—Shelly Hutchins and Stacy Donnelly wanted to create a place where men could relax and enjoy some masculine pastimes. Their salon, Emerson Joseph, offers exactly that. In addition to male-focused hair and spa services, the space boasts a pool table and flat-screen TVs announcing the latest in sports. During appointments, the stylists treat faces to hot-towel wraps, trim cuticles and hangnails, and serve complimentary beverages. They even polish off haircuts with a quick shoeshine, a true gentleman's service that's almost as classic as the spit-shine facial.
Selwyn Barber & Style is an old-fashioned barbershop that has been shearing head herds for more than 30 years. Friendly stylists Sean and Laura consult with customers before carefully transforming overgrown follicle forests into landscaped cranium gardens. For an additional $5 each, get a beard trim or shampoo at the hands of Selwyn’s able-bodied barbers. Walk-ins are welcome, though appointments are recommended for time-crunched customers cutting it close.