By Mike Shen
One of the hardest things to do as a man in New York City is finding a one-stop shop for all of grooming needs. The city is so chock-full of salons, barbershops, and $10 butchers that we are often daunted by the task of finding a place that does a good job and is both inviting and comfortable. More commonly we find a stylist that we like who works in a venue that we hate. Sounds familiar?
Fear no more. Simply put, Studio One 2 One has the entire package. If it were a woman, I’d date her. Owners and creative directors Mallory Rutledge and Mairead Gallagher opened the studio’s doors in late September 2003 in a quaint Upper East Side townhouse between Lexington and Park on 71st St. The studio is also home to talents Paul Romano (hair colorist) and Ernie Swain (stylist). The place is so discrete on the outside that you have to be careful not to walk past the entrance. Yet the friendly vibe inside is so inviting that you almost wonder why you didn’t instinctively gravitate through the doors.
The studio successfully combines cutting-edge sophistication in glamour and style with vintage social hospitality. There’s even an outdoor flower garden with high-speed Internet access where you can sip on a cappuccino in the seeming comfort of one’s home – perfect for men who want pampered treatment without pretension. In relation to its peers, Studio One 2 One boasts that 20% of its clientele are male – almost a third Ernie’s regulars are men, and Mairead has quite a portfolio of male loyalists herself. Despite the constant traffic flow of happy clients, the place oddly enough never gets crowded. The staff literally greeted all who walked in through the doors by their names with congeniality, without sacrificing attention on their immediate clients.
I had the opportunity to bring my friend Brian in as a guinea pig for a wash, cut, and style while interviewing Mairead (rhymes with “parade”). Mairead has an endearing Irish accent that is immediately disarming. Brian later confessed that after getting past the initial fear of walking into some place new with the prospect of walking out with a haircut that rivals Donald Trump’s comb-over, the staff made it very easy to sit down and enjoy himself. Even men who don’t take care of their hair on a daily basis are often wary when it comes to choosing someone or someplace to trust with their hair. Mallory and Mairead fully understand this apprehension and counter it with ease.
“Guys are more mechanical,” Mallory starts, “They want reasons for procedures and a description of the end result. Give them that and the rest should be easy.” Three hair-washes (a wash and rinse in the beginning and a final rinse at the end) and a blow-dry/style later, Brian reflected, “I can honestly say that they did a nice job. I didn’t have to lie through my teeth or feel that I have to run home and shave my hair off.”
More specifically, Mairead walked Brian step-by-step through what she was doing with his hair. She found out what he wanted, explained how to achieve the desired look, and casually explained how he can maintain this look on a daily basis without making him feel stupid. Brian has fantastic hair with a great shine and light texture. However, like most men, his hair is starting to thin as he gets older. Skillfully, Mairead cut and styled his hair while making it look fuller and more layered. Forget Rogaine or, worse yet, spray-painting your scalp. Feel free to forfeit all control into hands of these talented artists.
“It takes time and coaxing to convince men to adopt a new style that will give them a better look,” remarks Mairead, “I see too many men with cuts that are wrongly shaped to their heads. Not every man ‘gets it.’ Sometimes you have to pitch a better look while keeping men in their comfort zone.” Some of the studio’s male clients are becoming more adventurous with coloring but don’t know how to express it. It is important to know how to guide men through this new realm of experimentation. Enter Paul Romano. While Brian was treated like royalty, I had a small chat with Paul, who was equally low-key and, for the risk of sounding simplistic, cool. A large majority of Paul’s coloring work involves blending grays. He invented a special formula for coloring that enables men who are 50% gray-headed to get rid of some of the age-hairs while maintaining a perfectly natural look. The process is quick and painless, and the hair and roots grow out perfectly. In fact, retouching is done approximately once every three months. Not too shabby. Paul can also recreate the lightening effect on hair that happens when on the beach in the summertime so that you can rock your streaks year round.
One of the greatest advantages that Studio One 2 One holds over its peers is that it holds exclusive retail distribution rights to a phenomenal men’s product line called Vitaman. When Mallory and Mairead wanted to reach out to more men by finding a male-tailored product line that does not intimidate, they immediately fell in love with Vitaman, which has a distinctively masculine feel from the packaging down to the feel and aroma of the products. The line offers straight-forward, head-to-toe care with products that focus on shave, face, body, travel, hair, hairstyling, and sports activities.
The travel pack is great for the businessman constantly on the go. More specifically, the shampoo feels light, lathers well, and has a nice manly smell. It is also gentle enough to shampoo twice in one shower setting, given that men often put too much product in their hair and washing the hair twice will help remove excess product and restore shine. The conditioner, which only needs to be used about twice a week, has a cooling and tingling effect on the scalp. Mairead enlightens, “When a man can feel the effect of the product more, it makes more sense to him; it locks it in for him.” This will subtly convince him to use these products more, in turn encouraging better hygiene and grooming habits. As an added bonus, the shampoo and conditioner both have color protection for us males who dye or highlight our hair.The bar of exfoliating soap is one of Paul’s favorites; it has a cool shape and gives your body a nice overall scrub. He also likes the moisturizer healing balm which he explains is fantastic for post workouts and sports where one could receive scrapes and other injuries. The balm really covers, protects, and disinfects scrapes and burns without making you smell like a walking open bottle of cortisone cream. My particular favorite is the body moisturizer. Particularly in the winter time, certain areas of the face and body dry and should be addressed – for me, they’re the ears, upper arms, and hands. Many men often moisturize with their girlfriend’s or wife’s lotions that aren’t even appropriate toward their skin type. Vitaman’s body and face moisturizers are tailored to the body chemistry and skin tone of the average male. You walk away smelling fresh and manly, not like strawberry fields in the wake of vanilla clouds and summer rain.
Lastly, men of all hair types can use any of four different hairstyling products that range from light- to heavy-weight – gel, styling cream, pomade, and matt mud. For men who want to sport a particular hairstyle without feeling like they’re wearing Gumby on their head, Mairead recommends using the gel, working it into the hair from wet to dry (ie. after the shower, work it in, and then gently blow-dry). Then she used either the pomade or the matt mud to style. Important tips! Don’t forget that a little product goes a long way. Place a small bit in your palms and rub them together. Rubbing activates the product and assists in its distribution through your hair. Then gently brush the product into your hair. “A lighter hand is always best,” recommends Mairead, “Too much product will weigh down your hair and give it a heavy, lazy look.”
The combination of Studio One 2 One and Vitaman makes a powerful competitor in the salon/studio war for male clients. The setting is perfect for husbands and wives / boyfriends and girlfriends to have joint appointments and make an outing out of a grooming experience. The studio was recently reserved for a bridal party, but I see no reason why grooms can’t rent the place out, too. Hey, the patio in the back is perfect for tapping a keg while the groom and groomsmen get a minor makeover. What more could one ask for? Pass me another cappuccino.
Studio One 2 One
121 East 71st St
New York, NY 10021
For appointments: 212-439-9111
Men’s Hair Cut $100.00 & Up
Single Process/Flash $80.00
Anti Curl $100.00
Shave Crème $23.00
After Shave Balm $24.00
Body Cleanser $18.00
Matt Mud $20.00
Styling Crème $20.00
Skin Repair Crème $28.00
Exfoliating Soap $22.00