The Hooters of haircutting

Knockouts salon offers men sports, women ... and paraffin hand treatments.

By Catherine Price

Published December 4, 2007 2:55PM (EST)

What do boxing rings, scantily clad women and paraffin hand treatments have in common? They're all on offer at Knockouts, a Texas-based salon chain geared toward men. Yup. Dubbed the "Hooters of haircutting," it features women in short shorts (or dresses) and tennis shoes who cut hair in salons designed to look like boxing rings. Stylists' stations have flat-screen televisions so that men can watch sports while getting their manicures, and in some states, salons even offer free beer.

But this is no Supercuts. Knockouts offers a variety of haircuts that include more luxurious touches than my women's salon -- the "Heavyweight," for example, includes a consultation, "relaxing shampoo," haircut, "re-shampoo with head massage and conditioning" and style; the "Upper-cut" involves an "all-over clipper cut," shampoo and head massage. And it doesn't stop there: You can get highlights, cover up your gray, treat yourself to a manicure or pedicure, sign up for a Swedish, deep-tissue, trigger point or hot stone massage, or try out reflexology or a paraffin hand treatment. (And waxing. Let's not forget about the waxing.)

Now, I don't have a problem with guys getting manicures and massages. And why shouldn't they enjoy their salon experience? But does it strike anyone as a bit weird that to justify signing up for something as supposedly feminine as a manicure, some guys feel the need to go to a place where they can check out their stylist's ass? It seems a little defensive -- "Yeah, sure, I got my chest waxed -- but you should have seen my manicurist's tits!" (Or, to put it another way, "Just because I treated myself to a minifacial does not mean I'm gay.") And it's a little creepy to see the Web site's photos, which feature girls in short shorts leaning over topless men, giving them massages. Some Knockouts haircuts cost an extra $1 per minute -- but photographs like these make me wonder how much extra it might cost for a happy ending.

(For the record, Knockouts' CEO, Tom Friday, would probably take offense at that comment -- he's quoted as saying that Knockouts has "done an excellent job of not crossing the line.")

Presumably Knockouts also welcomes women and children, but I find it a little hard to believe that many women would forgo the other 150 or so salons they could choose from to frequent a place where tips are partially determined by how much flesh you show. Also, while some people might defend Knockouts by saying that it's just a masculine take on the myriad women's beauty salons out there (and after all, why should women have all the hot stone treatments?), I disagree. Knockouts is not a masculinization of a women's trend; it is sexualization, and the two are not the same. (Nor can Knockouts be called a male version of a typical female salon, unless women's salons were to involve topless hunks -- which, trust me, they don't.)

Regardless of my objections, I'm sure that Knockouts will enjoy the same clientele as Hooters -- and since sex does indeed sell, I bet it'll stick around until someone decides to, I don't know, open a salon with pole dancers. In the meantime I'll amuse myself by the company's ability to rebrand a "relaxing head massage" as something that should involve boxing gloves.

Catherine Price

Catherine Price is an award-winning journalist and author of Vitamania: How Vitamins Revolutionized the Way We Think About Food. Her written and multimedia work has appeared in publications including The Best American Science Writing, The New York Times, Popular Science, O: The Oprah Magazine, the Los Angeles Times, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Washington Post Magazine, Salon, Slate, Men’s Journal, Mother Jones, PARADE, Health Magazine, and Outside. Price lives in Philadelphia.

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