The kinyozi evolution
More often than not, women take the spotlight as far as beauty is concerned, but more and more men are joining the ‘look good, feel good’ bandwagon, and barber shops are mushrooming or evolving their craft to capture and keep this crowd as GRACE WACHIRA highlights
Years ago, walking into a barbershop was a simple affair. A haircut and you are done.
The spot itself was not something to write home about: a few hairs, a mirror or two and a high-speed shaving machine.
Some kinyozi, depending on the prowess of the barber, would have long queues. In others, business would be brought to a standstill when power outages were experienced.
But as years have gone by, so have the status of these favourite barbershops and their clients. Men have evolved: a great chunk of them no longer oil only parts left visible after dress up.
The modern chap not only takes time and invests in his clothing, they also religiously make their apperance— hair, nail and fitness match.
They now get pedicures, manicures, facials and body scrubs. They enjoy massages along with haircuts at their favourite barbershops, where they even book appointments to make the most of this time,
Now barbershops are reworking their packages, offering a mixture of services that will grab them the desired clientele.
Eddy’s Barber and Spa, with a branch a few meters off Thika Super Highway, along Garden Estate road, is one of these newer modern spots.
As you walk or drive in, an askari will greet you and takes you through the security process before he lets you proceed to your business.
Inside the barbershop on the ground floor, you’ll have the option of tea or coffee as you sit at the lounge, painted pastel orange with occasional gold impressions bearing the premises name.
Matching curtains that blend with the furniture and stylishly curved gypsum ceilings dotted with low-hanging light fixtures complete the look.
You can watch TV or get the Wi-Fi password to pass time on your phone or tablet as you wait your turn. Here, the modern man gets all-in-one experience.
“I’ve been here for three years now and while I studied at Ashley’s to be self-employed, never in my life did I imagine I would work as a men beautician at a barbershop,” says Carol Kang’ethe.
At the enterprise, a haircut costs Sh700, and as more services are rendered, the bill grows.
“A pedicure costs Sh1,500 and a manicure, Sh1,000. Colouring hair costs Sh1,300 and so on,” she explains.
Other establishments charge even more. “I get a hair cut for Sh1,100, three times a month and I get my beard groomed for Sh1,750 once a month.
It is worth it because I want to look good and maintain a consistent look, thus my schedule with grooming,” Edwin Kuria, 26, an Akila Natural’s brand ambassador says.
Vinn Clizz, a fashionprenuer, CEO of Vinn Clizz Limited and Mtindo Africa, parts with a few coins twice a month to get just a haircut.
“I pay Sh1,000 for a haircut and, sometimes, even more for head and body massages and refreshments. I look at it as an investment; you have to look the part. Appearance is key,” he says.
The former model is in the business of making men look dapper and he just knows to well what that entails.
“Men, between ages 25-50 years, are now going for the slim fit suits. There has been tremendous shift from baggy and over-sized suits, and now a perfect haircut and well-groomed beard is not unusual. We’re done with the 90s,” he adds.
Like many men, Vinn admits to changing tact because of change in his lifestyle. “I would never have minded a common haircut back then.
My barber used to wear a normal pair of pants and a shirt. An upgrade of lifestyle dictated surroundings,” he explains.
And Vinn’s former barber is not the only one who used to live like this. A spot check around a few Kenyan malls showed barbershops that have pitched tent are nothing like the old ones.
The modern barbers are stylishly groomed as well, that just goes to show how far we have come. The dust-white overall coats are slowly fading.
Such stablishments have bespoke branded uniform, for example, at Castros Mancave, the white overall has been replaced with a black apron, bearing the brand’s logo.
They have also invested in customised interiors that indeed provide safe heavens and near man-cave comfort.
From state-of-the-art mirrors and wall paper. It is no longer the usual plain walls to modern sinks and air conditioners, the barbershops want to ensure the comfort of the client; after all, customer is king.
“It is therapeutic for anyone to receive such services. You can easily notice the change in moods and high spirits in our clients as they walk out,” Carol attested.
Not all aboard
South Field Mall houses Urban Shave Executive Barbershop, which has gone all out in making themselves a viable competitor.
Children get to play Fifa as they wait their turn and they can sit in shaving stations fitted with toy cars to as they get their haircuts.
Others go as far as offering liquor of choice while you wait or as you get groomed, with chill and calming music in the background.
At Castros Mancave, the marketing game has been upped. It has outfitted itself as an santuary for the man. With black and brown blend, the barbershop provides a free beer for each haircut.
They also run various activations for select clientele, including university students.
Additionally, they understand the impact of social media, running various accounts to market their business and to highlight their barbers. They even have a QPR code to manage their bookings.
But the journey has not be always easy. Carol says when she was starting out, her male clientele was not so receptive and did not fancy the idea of facials or manicures.
“But now, they have embraced grooming. They are more receptive when we introduce other services and now, they know what they want.
Even though they do not know the difference between pedicures and manicures, they come inquiring if we ‘do nails’,” she laughs.
Even so, not everyone is on board with this change. Fred Njoka prefers his usual barber. “I have been going to my spot for about 15 years now and I pay Sh200,” he says.
The businessman in his late 30’s likes his barber because he knows what to do. “I do not like being asked what I want done to my head or those other extra services.
I like him because he knows what I want and he is still very clean. In fact, if he would move shops, I would go with him,” he smiles.
For Lewis Ngila, Sh100 gets the job done. “I see no reason whatsoever that would compel me to change tact and cough up Sh1,000.
Not in this economy. At the end of the day, we will both go to our homes with neat heads and that is all that matters to me,” he laughs.