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In general my wife doesn’t get terribly excited about my writing assignments. As someone whose work tends to focus on food, drinks, and travel, jobs usually fall into one of two categories, neither of which benefits her much. Either I sit on an airplane for an inordinate amount of time, drugging myself into a jet-lag-killing stupor until I wake in some far-flung part of the planet, or I taste enough wine and other breath-poisoning consumables to blacken my teeth and make my mouth smell like a sink full of dirty dishes.

So when this assignment landed on my desk—to go out, get a bunch of manicures and pedicures, and write about them—my wife could barely contain her excitement. Not only was this a rare story for which I would be doing something to make myself look and smell better, but it would be a chance, she seemed to think, to shake me out of my usual writer’s slovenliness. (I make my living most days in shorts and a T-shirt, and my fingernails resemble a science experiment: chewed cuticles and hangnails, and toenails hardly worthy of inhabiting nice shoes.)

Which is why, halfway through my manicure at the expansive, lovely Oggi Salon & Spa (1700 Locust St., 267-735-0707), I found myself slipping into a realm of relaxation that I hadn’t felt in years. Yelena Bosin, the fantastic nail technician who’s been grooming guys into men for nearly 30 years, had filed and shaped my claws into actual, presentable nails. She had snipped away the cuticles on either side of the nail, but left the base intact. (Apparently, the skin of my nail beds is particularly thin and the base should never be clipped, lest it starts peeling away.) She massaged my hands in such a way that the early-onset carpal tunnel syndrome I am convinced I suffer from melted away like a cheap birthday candle. And then she polished me: a coat of Essie Man-E-Cure matte finish that has not only protected my newly presentable nails but frankly feels damn good to wear—like a snug, well-tailored suit for my hands.

The next day, clearly still suffering for my work, I visited the Jay Michael Salon and Spa (1600 Arch St., 215-514-8000). There, Cati Gheorghe, one of the top pedicurists in the city with a roster of clients that reads like a who’s who of Philadelphians, affected a transformation on my feet so complete, so seemingly magical, that even now, 24 hours later, they still don’t really look like my own.

Gheorghe trained as a podiatrist in Romania before coming to the US decades ago, and her knowledge of the human foot is so deep that “anyone with foot problems [often] goes to Cati over a podiatrist,” says Sarah Keating, owner and partner of Jay Michael.

This, it turns out, is the major benefit of manicures and pedicures that most men fail to realize: Nail work is not just about aesthetics. Rather, it leads to healthier hands and feet, and more confidence in public and business situations.

All over the region it seems that men are taking advantage of this—though not always alone. Janice Stein, a technician at Ame Salon and Spa (111 Waynewood Ave., Wayne, 610-995-2631), told me that, although the majority of the manicures and pedicures the salon does are for an older demographic, younger men are also taking advantage of them—more often than not alongside their girlfriends, as part of a couples’ experience. And Jessica Hammel, president of American Male (37 S. 16th St., 215-496-0229), also told me that the salon’s nail clients skew older than its hair customers, and that, interestingly, she see a younger clientele in the Philadelphia location than at the Berwyn outpost.

From personal experience, however, I can confirm that investing an hour or so in a manicure and pedicure is a more than justifiable expense—no matter how old you are—and one that more of my fellow males would do well to take advantage of. They make you look better and feel better, and, if my experience is in any way applicable to the Philly-area guy population at large, they just may help your relationship. It’s cheaper than therapy, and you don’t have to go every week. Now that is a bargain.

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