Under The Dryer

Totally Male, Totally Worth It

Saturday, June 03, 2017

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The clientele of Sandra Samuels' Totally Male Club Spa speak of the institution as if it were a spiritual experience. Samuels and her squad of all-female staff have created the ultimate oasis for the modern-day man, elevating the concept of a barbershop to an all-encompassing pampering experience. “We're like a family here,” says Jermaine Beckford, who has been going to her for almost 14 years, every single week. He describes the services as keeping him looking “up” and commends the establishment's willingness to accommodate by opening early to facilitate his working hours. “I feel taken care of here,” he adds. The club spa includes not only haircuts but massages, facials, manicure and pedicures. Samuels doesn't think of it as a spa. “I call it an essential service,” she notes.The genius behind Samuels' concept is creating a safe space for men to be pampered in a society where male grooming can be dubbed as effeminate. “I'm seeing us move away from that stereotype as we become more focused on a healthy lifestyle and evolve as people,” says customer Daniel Jumpp. The beauty industry usually capitalises on women's interests and Samuels maintains that ultimately her service is for the women in the men's lives. Many of her customers agree, such as client Giovanni Malcolm who admits, “I do it for the ladies.” Samuels likes to remind her customers that “the sexual organ is from head to toe”.

In addition to the skilled hair cuts, it's the environment of camaraderie that keeps the customers coming back. Samuels says, “We have a safe space here. We're not the wives and not the mothers; it's a non-judgemental situation. We are like your bredrin who happens to be a girl. The clients get a female perspective. If they have an issue in their lives they can bounce it off us. We're like therapists. Whereas they can't really talk to their male friends about these kinds of issues, they can talk to us.”

Sandra Samuels is an inspirational businesswoman. In 1994, after being made redundant from Air Jamaica, she took exactly two weeks to take Totally Male from concept to reality. When she was starting she didn't know anything about the beauty industry and was focused on male clothing. The original idea behind the barber salon was to lure men into a retail space, but things took a turn when she found her passion in the salon itself. There have been hardships along the way, including bank loans, address changes and a diagnosis with breast cancer in 1999 for which she had a mastectomy and chemotherapy treatments. There is no doubt that Samuels is a role model for other female business owners and her advice for those starting out is that “you just have to do what you love”.

Samuel's all-female staff is the key to her success. When she is hiring she asks one question to know if they're a fit: “Are you a happy person?” She believes one can't fake the answer to that question; it comes out immediately. It's not just her staff that is happy, though — it's all of her clients, too. The majority of customers hold club cards and bring their sons in to initiate them into the legacy that is Totally Male.

In terms of hairstyling trends, Sandra spots the beard as the accessory of the season. “It can be difficult for some professions such as the police force which doesn't allow it, but if it's an option, a well-polished beard is a classy and classic move.” Skincare products she recommends includes Neutrogena Razor Defense to help with razor burn. Hair stlying products she lists as essentials are Eco styler gel, ORS Tea Tree Oil and Ossion hair wax for holding styles.

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