John Allan Interview
Several months ago, I was invited by John Allan, to visit one of his New York stores and experience one of their signature treatments. Up until that point, I had never heard of them but after a quick look at their website, I decided to give it a try.
Basically John Allan’s is a high end barbershop with all kinds of grooming services, that offers a club like atmosphere and also a membership, allowing you to get a trim every week while drinking a Manhatten and watching a game or playing pool. Overall, it is not quite an old school gentleman’s club but much rather a very pleasant grooming service center that offers more than just a haircut. Considering, he is an expert in his field that specializes on men’s grooming exclusively, we thought it might be valuable to you to have John write a column about various grooming procedures. Tomorrow, we will publish his first article on how to shave but today, we wanted you to enjoy an interview so you get to know him a bit first.
GG: Why did you decide to become a coiffeur and who influenced you?
JA: I MET A GIRL WHO WAS A STYLIST, WENT TO A HAIR SHOW, THOUGHT IT WAS SOMETHING I COULD DO. I HAD NO OTHER PATH AT THE TIME. MY FATHER, RALPH LAUREN, JEAN LOUIS DAVID, VIDAL SASSOON, AND PAUL MITCHELL ALL INFLUENCED ME.
GG: What do you think was the advantage of being trained in France? What was different than in the US?
JA: IT WAS THE WAY THE FRENCH PRESENTED THEIR GOODS AND SERVICES. THEIR APPROACH TO LIFE IS NOT UPTIGHT. THEY HAVE A CERTAIN FLOW TO THE WAY THEY LIVE. THEIR STYLE SEEMS TO BE INNATE. IT COMES NATURALLY. IT IS THE EASE AT WHICH THEY ADAPT TO THEIR STYLE, WHICH IS SEEMINGLY EFFORTLESS.
GG: When did you first think about starting your own business and where did you see an opening niche for yourself?
JA: 1985 IS WHEN I STARTED TO LOOK AT MY FUTURE. I ALSO KNEW THAT WHATEVER I DID, I WANTED TO MAKE A CHANGE. I DIDN’T WANT TO JUST BE ONE OF MANY. WITH ALL OF MY PEERS SUCH AS BUMBLE & BUMBLE, JOHN SAHAG, FREDERIC FEKKAI, THE WOMENS BUSINESS WAS TAKEN CARE OF. I LOOKED AT MEN’S – THERE WAS NOTHING. BARBERSHOPS WERE BECOMING OBSOLETE. SUPER CUTS WAS POSITIONING ITSELF WITH GUYS. PRODUCTS HAD NO SPECIALTY. THERE WAS DEFINITELY A MOVE TO BE MADE IN THE MEN’S AREA – JOHN ALLAN’S WAS BORN.
GG: What do you look for in a hair cut? How do you evaluate whether someone has a “good” or “bad” hair cut?
JA: I LOOK FOR THE HAIRCUT TO FIT AND TO BRING OUT CHARACTER AND PERSONALITY IN A CLIENT. CERTAIN HAIRCUTS HAVE TO BE PERFECT. EX: FADES, FLAT TOPS, ETC. WHEN IM WORKING WITH LONG HAIR OR MORE CONTEMPORARY CUTS THAT NEED TO FIT THE FACE, WHICH IS IMPERFECT, I LOOK TO CREATE PERFECTION IN THE IMPERFECTION.
GG: What hair products did you use before you created your own brand and what are the advantages of your products?
JA: KIEHLS. ADVANTAGE TO MY PRODUCTS IS THIS – MY LINE IS PRODUCED SPECIFICALLY FROM A HAIR STYLIST POINT OF VIEW FOR GUYS – LIGHTWEIGHT GELS, MATTE FINISH POMADES, ALL IN ONE SHAMPOOS – ALL WITH GUYS IN MIND. ALSO, WE HAVE THE BEST LAB IN THE WORLD: 20,000 GUYS TO TEST ON.
GG: Where are your products made? Are they organic?
JA: USA. ORGANIC PROPERTIES.
GG: Do you provide straight razor shaves in stores again? And do you train people in doing that?
JA: YES WE DO. BUT I DID NOT BUILD MY BUSINESS MODEL AROUND SHAVES BECAUSE IT IS NOT AN ART, IT’S A SKILL. NO WE DO NOT TRAIN OUR SHAVERS. AGAIN, BECAUSE IT’S A SKILL THAT NEEDS A THOUSAND SHAVES TO BE CONSIDERED PROFESSIONAL.
GG: What form of shave to you personally prefer and why?
JA: THE JA SHAVE. HOT HOT WATER, SHARP BLADE, SLICKWATER PRE SHAVE SOLUTION, SHAVE CREAM, TIME, AND A GOOD GLASS OF SCOTCH. I SHAVE AT NIGHT WHEN IT’S QUIET, I TAKE MY TIME, I LOOK FORWARD TO IT.
GG: Gillette is probably the most well known shaving brand in the US, yet I have never been satisfied with their performance. Instead a good old fashioned double edge razor with feather blades produces much better, smoother results. Why do you only offer a modified Gillette razor but no straight razors or Double Edge razors in your shop?
JA: MOST GUYS USE GILLETTE RAZORS AND ARE CONFIDENT IN THAT BLADE. SO WHEN I GO INTO THE FIELD OF RAZORS, I HAVE TO TAKE INTO ACCOUNT WHAT THE CLIENT WANTS. I HAVENT HEARD FROM MY CLIENTELE THAT THEY SHAVE WITH A STRAIGHT RAZOR. PERHAPS A SPECIALTY ITEM TO LAUNCH AT BARNEYS TO ENHANCE THE BRAND MAY GIVE ME THE OPPORTUNITY TO CREATE A RAZOR ESPECIALLY FOR YOU.
GG: What do you think of electric razors?
JA: LOVE THEM FOR CLEAN UPS.
GG: What is your plan for the future of John Allan?
JA: EXPAND TO EUROPE AND THEN AROUND THE GLOBE.
GG: If you could just provide3 grooming tips for men, what would they be?
RESPECT, COMMITMENT, AND BALANCE.
RESPECT: TAKE CARE OF YOUR SELF IN GROOMING. BC WHEN YOU LOOK GOOD, YOU FEEL GOOD – AND THAT BREEDS CONFIDENCE.
COMMITMENT: YOU HAVE TO COMMIT FOR ANYTHING TO WORK. SO COMMIT TO REGIMEN OF SERVICE AND PRODUCT THAT WORKS FOR YOU.
BALANCE: SOMETHING WE ALL STRIVE FOR. RESPECT AND COMMITMENT SHOULD BRING YOU BALANCE.
GG: Thank you John.