Blo/Out Latest Salon to Join Blowout Boom
BY VISHAKA ROBINSON
No other beauty treatment has the speed-to-impact ratio of a perfect blow-dry. Clients step in frazzled and bedraggled but leave just 40 minutes later transformed. "It takes your look from an A to an A-plus," explains local TV personality Erin Elmore, who gets her naturally "wild, frizzy" hair tamed at Jason Matthew Salon (1735 Chestnut St., 215-665-8030). "I had Japanese straightening for five years but started to want more body, so I have switched to keratin treatments and weekly blowouts."
And it's not just Elmore who indulges. Salons across town are seeing an uptick in bookings. "We're now doing around 100 blow-dry-only clients a week," says Jacqueline Stemper, of Pileggi on the Square, known for long-lasting, brush-set blowouts.
It is the same story over at Andre Richard Salon (1218 Locust St., 215-735-1590). Here demand has been so high the owners decided to siphon off a section of the salon in February to create a mini blow-dry bar complete with a marble-topped counter and a new menu of $25 styles.
So when local entrepreneur Avi Shenkar announced he was planning to open Blo/Out, one of several no-cuts, no-color salons in Philadelphia (a concept which has proven to be diabolically popular in New York and LA), including Heads and Tails Beauty Boutique which opened in January 2012, Shenkar commissioned interior designer Anna Rozenberg to revamp a run-down diner on County Line Road into a glamour-infused 2,200-square-foot space. "We wanted to get away from the traditional salon feel," says Rozenberg, who filled the clean, white interiors with vintage chandeliers, flashes of pink, and antiques from nearby New Hope.
The centerpiece is a vast 20-foot bar overhung with mirrors, in front of which 10 stylists will treat clients to one of nine styles at just $35 a pop. "I think our most popular style is going to be the Blair," predicts Philly-born stylist Shannon Toner, who estimates she has done more than 1,000 blowouts during her five years in the business. "It is a very big, bouncy look which incorporates a curling wand, à la Kim Kardashian. I would say that is the key style in town at the moment—that and very sleek, pin-straight hair."
Of course, part of our devotion to the hair dryer can be traced back to recent hi-tech product developments that allow our hair to take the heat (literally) of regular blowouts. "The ability to deliver conditioning and heat protectants has fundamentally changed how we style and wear our hair," says trichologist Elizabeth Cunnane Phillips. "We have, over the past three decades, gone from ‘setting and spraying' the hair into a helmet-like shield—which lasted a week—to sleek, shiny, tactile hair that we can wash daily."
Along with a raft of low-watt, ionized dryers and prep sprays designed to work at 200-plus degrees, there's also a new generation of super conditioners at our disposal. It's no coincidence that Moroccanoil is the salon brand of both LA success story Drybar and Philly newcomer Blo/Out. "You need to balance the toll you take on your hair with these powerful hydrating products," says Drybar's founder Alli Webb, whose hero product is Moroccanoil Hydrating Cream.
What's surprising is that blowout bars have prospered at a time when our economic fortunes have floundered. In fact, Toronto-based Blo—the salon that kick-started the trend—opened its first location five years ago, at the exact time that the sub-prime mortgage crisis started to unravel. But the company blossomed (at least five openings are planned for 2012) and inspired a host of newcomers: LA-based Drybar will nearly double its number of salons (from 13 salons to 23) by the end of the year, and Philadelphia's own Blo/Out is planning two more openings this year, one in Old City and another in Rittenhouse.
Perhaps during times of job insecurity the currency of simply looking good becomes an even more valuable asset? "A recent study shows that the better looking are more likely to be employed," notes economist Daniel Hamermesh, adding that research has found that workers earn "10 to 15 percent more if they are among the best-looking one-third of workers compared to the worst-looking one-seventh." If a polished appearance is the difference between landing a key deal (or keeping your job), surely a weekly blowout is money well spent. "I think having perfectly groomed hair has a huge impact on the way people perceive you," agrees Rachel Rothbard Heller, an Old City–based realtor who gets her naturally curly locks styled into elegant waves several times a month. "But it's not just about that. It's the whole experience; getting pampered in the salon, taking time out from your day—it all makes you feel better about yourself."
And perhaps that's the real reason behind the boom. Yes, we have been seduced by the plush, glossy feel of blow-dried locks; in the wake of Brazilian blowouts and Japanese straightening treatments, smooth hair has become a benchmark of modern beauty. But we are also enchanted by the ritual of being massaged and coiffed on a weekly basis. It's an excuse to escape the hubbub of life, even for just an hour each week, to be treated like a celebrity.
PHOTOGRAPHY BY BEN WELDON