It was, perhaps, inevitable: New York men are discovering permanent laser facial-hair removal, the longtime secret recourse of women with little mustache problems.
“Shaving is a chore ,” declared Geoffrey Freeman, a 40-year-old paralegal who has had his facial hair “zapped” four times, at $500 per session, by Park Avenue dermatologist Dr. Alan Kling and is considering additional treatments (total depilation can take up to six, depending on the patient’s skin color).
“You think about the option of having a beard–that’s a nice thing,” Mr. Freeman said. “But I think I’d rather have pain-free skin then dealing with having to shave every day.”
Often these self-denuding men–call them “post-Kiehl’s”–sidestep into the process. A majority, including Mr. Freeman, initially consulted their doctors for painful, unsightly ingrown hairs or “razor bumps” ( Pseudofolliculitis barbae ). The coarse, high-pigment hairs that cause razor bumps are quick to absorb laser light, which creates heat and destroys the follicle. The problem hairs fall out within three to 14 days, and the surrounding growth is less vigorous. According to Dr. Kling, many patients then return–”somewhat tenuously,” he said, chuckling–for purely cosmetic reasons.
Others are encouraged point-blank by girlfriends or wives. “I like the clean-shaven thing,” said Jacqueline Leach, 34, who sweet-talked her 45-year-old husband McDonald (they are both computer-support analysts) into eliminating his whiskers. “My husband was always grungy,” she said. “He had a lot all under the chin, all under the neck; it was kind of gross. The first time I had it done, I was like, ‘Hey, baby–I don’t have to pluck!’ and he was like, ‘Really? I want to try!’ And now the kissing is better– not all the stubble crashing on my face.”
Asked if the couple had any concerns about eliminating the future option of a beard, Ms. Leach said, “I don’t think there is a man out there who wants a beard in the future! Everybody just wants to get rid of it!”
While the sun may not be setting on 5 o’clock shadow quite yet, it makes sense that a clean-cut, militaristic look would gain favor at a time when nobody wants to look like, say, Bay Area jihadi John Walker Lindh, and plenty are trying to look “shipshape” and conservative for job interviews.
“Beard stubble is a young person’s thing,” said Dr. Kling, a youthful 48 with blue eyes and a Caesar haircut. “As you get older, it becomes a more elegant look to look clean-shaven …. Brad Pitt can maybe still for a year or two more get away with it, but at a certain age it’s like, ‘Get a life.'”
He suggested that from a biological point of view, hair might be considered a vestigial organ. “The question is, are we in a higher state of evolution?” he said. “If you look at the elders in the Bible, they had beards, but as you look through time, a more evolved intellectual thing–besides Freud–tends to be hairless.”
Why hasn’t he had it done himself? “I’ve just been so busy that I haven’t thought about it,” he said.
If properly handled by accredited physicians, there are no known side effects to laser treatments, other than a little redness. “You don’t have to change any business meetings!” said Dr. Kling. However, there is no going halfway. Hairs in the early stage of a growth cycle have hardly any pigment and don’t absorb laser light as readily as mature ones. Because the 7,000 to 15,000 whiskers on a man’s face are all at different stages of growth, a partial course of laser treatment can result in an unfortunate stippled effect.
A recent visit to Dr. Kling’s office found a 33-year-old man who wished to be known only as “Jason,” a former member of the Army Reserve, lying prone and smeared with aloe vera cooling gel, opaque goggles on his face, Timberland boots hanging over the edge of the examination table. After marking a “goatee boundary” on Jason’s face with a red felt-tip pen, Dr. Kling picked up a nozzle attached to a mini-refrigerator-sized machine. The machine emitted short beeps, and the patient emitted a few moans as a slight burning smell filled the air.
“Vaporization,” said Dr. Kling.
Ten minutes and 265 pulses later, Jason left with ice packs clapped to both cheeks and instructions to apply frozen peas to the area later that evening.
Another patient, Ken Randolph, 30, who owns a laundromat, shrugged off the pain caused by the zapping process, which he likened to “getting a tattoo.” Before his four treatments, he said over the phone, “I was spending an awful lot of time with hair removal daily. My wife thought I was very neurotic about it. In my medicine cabinet, I had the traditional razor, the electric razor, the clippers, the tweezers, the needles.”
Asked if he had any concerns about losing his masculinity along with his beard, Mr. Randolph said, “It seemed like I was more feminine, in the bathroom for an hour every morning!”
But Michele Szynal, a spokeswoman for the Gillette company, the leading brand of shaving paraphernalia, put a brave face on the future of her industry. “Men spend about $55 a year to shave,” she said. “They spend nothing. Nothing . Most men–the majority of men, 99.9 percent of men–won’t be going to a laser clinic to shave. Laser hair removal is to remove unwanted hair. The hair on men’s faces isn’t considered unwanted; it’s considered natural.”
Where The Hawk Flies
The modified mohawk–-known by a multitude of names, including style-hawk, Prada-hawk, faux-hawk, half-hawk, fashion-hawk, messy-hawk and (in Chelsea) the homo-hawk–has been around for about a year, but now it’s finally edging its way out of Mott Street boutiques and the fashion departments of $7.50 magazines and creeping uptown.
The modified mohawk looks like an outgrown mohawk, or a stepsister to the mullet: short on the sides (but not shaved down all the way), with a landing strip down the center that can be poofed up or slicked down. While partly another 80’s reclamation–the wearer looks as if he or she should be playing a Borg synthesizer in a white sport coat–the cut is also prized for its androgynous versatility. Whereas a punk-rock-era mohawk was a definitive statement– I hate disco, I hate my parents, I hate the 10th grade –a style-hawk fits neatly into the 21st-century tradition of socially and corporately acceptable bad-ass-isms, like Harley-Davidsons or leather pants. It is, quite simply, the mohawk that He or She can wear to Brownies–or dinner at Babbo.
“The faux-hawk is much more modified, much more commercial and more wearable than a true mohawk,” said Crystal Gerard, a stylist at Bumble and Bumble on 56th Street between Lexington and Third. “You can hide it at the office and then bring it out for a wilder look on the weekends.”
Said Martin Ortiz, a stylist at Salon Venus at Patricia Field, “It is for the corporate person that needs nice hair during the day, but wants that edge at night.”
Celebrities, predictably, are catching on to the style. Ewan McGregor and John Cameron Mitchell (star of Hedwig and the Angry Inch ) sported them at the Golden Globes this year, and Tannaz, the bouncy model- cum -VH1-personality, wears one too. “I didn’t think I could do a mullet, because that is too hick,” said Tannaz. “I got a lot of modeling jobs because of it.”
But the modified mohawk’s true advocates will always be wearers who must navigate two worlds. When Tip Flannery, a 25-year-old personal assistant to an Upper East Side arts patron, got his style-hawk this January, his seventysomething boss didn’t bat an eye. “I’d been thinking about getting it for about nine months before I did it,” he said, “but I guess it just felt safer to do it now.”
Screw Pilates, Too
A few months ago, Barnaby Harris, a 36-year-old Broadway stage manager working on The Vagina Monologues , asked one of his buddies if he’d like to get together the following afternoon.
“I can’t,” said the buddy. “I’m practicing yoga.”
Mr. Harris groaned. “He’s this unbelievably overweight Jew,” he said the other day. “I just thought, ‘Oh, fuck yoga.'”
A slogan was born. Mr. Harris had “Fuck Yoga” printed in baby-blue ink on five white Hanes T-shirts and gave them to friends.
Word spread. Gwyneth Paltrow ordered one. So did Marisa Tomei, Vagina Monologues creator Eve Ens-ler, director Joe Mantello and the actress Kristen Johnston. Mr. Harris, whose wife is an avid yoga practitioner, is ordering a new batch of shirts to meet the demand.
“I wear mine to the Union Square market on the weekends, and eight out of 10 people say, ‘Where did you get that? I have to have one,'” said Mr. Harris. “The other two say, ‘That’s awful.’
“But those are the people who really need the shirts,” Mr. Harris continued. “Because it’s always, ‘ Oooh, yoga , it’s so sacred.’ Well, can we not all be part of this bullshit yoga-Sting-Madonna thing? You don’t need a mat to do yoga, by the way. Fuck Sting. That would be another good T-shirt.”