The weather is warming up, sandals and flip-flops are reappearing, and that means one thing: It’s pedicure season. But for those who think pedicures are only for women, think again. A growing number of men—especially older ones—are joining women at the spa, helping to make nail care one of the fastest growing sectors of the beauty industry.
Across the country, salons are luring men by offering more manly sounding services like “executive pedicure” and “sports pedicure”—even men’s night specials with barbecue and beer. “I thought only women did this stuff, so I was very skeptical,” says Daniel Crowley, a 73-year-old lawyer in Washington. But he was also desperate—it was getting harder to reach his toes and he had a nasty ingrown nail—so he followed his wife’s advice and went to her nail salon. “The pedicurist turned out to be as good as a podiatrist,” he declares. “My feet felt great, and she got rid of the pain from that nail I’d had for a long time.”
On his second visit, Crowley says, “the guy in the next chair was getting ready to run in a triathalon. He told me a pedicure gives him an edge.”
Doctors who care for older adults say the condition of a person’s feet is a good indicator of overall health. Older people often have trouble reaching—or even seeing—their toes. Trimming toenails and removing calluses and rough patches can make walking easier, and the massage that goes with the pedicure stimulates blood flow in legs and feet.
James Shea, 71, a retired heavy equipment mechanic in Geneva, Ala., was persuaded to get a pedicure by his daughter, who took one look at his feet and made an appointment at a nearby salon. His reaction: “I’ve never been that pampered before in my whole life.” His favorite part, he admits, was getting his feet massaged with lotion.
Shea, who served as a sergeant in the Marine Corps for six years, didn’t hesitate when asked if he’d go back. “Oh, definitely.”
Nail care specialist Alexis Carter of Nusta Spa in Washington, says 20 percent of the spa’s clientele are men and many are over 50.
Women often coax husbands or boyfriends to have their first pedicure, “but once they get their feet in the warm water, they’re hooked,” says Carter.
In Boston, Emerge Spa Salon president Joyce Hampers says she’s seeing a definite increase in what she calls “more mature” men coming in for spa services like pedicures—especially after she added half a floor devoted solely to her male clientele. “Some of them felt a little uncomfortable being in the same waiting room with women” while in bathrobes, she says. Since adding the Men’s Club in 2006, she says men now make up 35 percent of the salon’s customers.
And at the Karen Allen Salon and Spa in Riverside, Calif., renaming the women’s pedicure the “executive pedicure” proved so popular with men, the salon is offering a men-only night in June, featuring barbecue and beer along with services like pedicures, manicures and facials.
“It’s become much more socially acceptable” for men to get pedicures, says Manhattan podiatrist Jacqueline Sutera, M.D. “As people age, it becomes harder for them to see to trim their toenails or to bend down,” so a pedicure or a visit to a podiatrist can help, she adds. She encourages her older patients to see her for a “pre-pedicure” visit to ensure they don’t have any health problems before heading to the spa.
Of course more guys may be getting pedicures because women are getting tired of looking at men’s ugly feet.
“Just the other day, I had an older man tell me that his wife refused to go on vacation with him unless he did something about his toenail fungus,” Sutera recalls.
Former Tennessee congressman Harold Ford Jr., says he gets regular pedicures for a similar reason. He told the New York Times that he has “severe athlete’s feet. I get a foot scrub out of respect for my wife because getting into bed with what I have when I take my socks off isn’t respectful to anybody."