May 12, 2016 1:25 p.m. ET
EACH DAY, countless customers visit one of Nadine Abramcyk’s Tenoverten nail salons in New York City and Austin to get their pedicure fix. But one important person in her life has yet to sit in a chair: her husband, Matt. “He feels a pedicure is something reserved for women to do,” Ms. Abramcyk said.
The abstemious Mr. Abramcyk, the restaurateur behind trendy Tribeca eatery Tiny’s and the Bar Upstairs as well as Smith & Mills, is hardly the only man opposed to dipping his toes into the pedicure pool. Ask anyone about the idea, and the response is an amused, “Ha-ha, do men actually get pedicures?” Visions of Tara Reid painting her green toenails by the pool in “The Big Lebowski” or the “Sex and the City” girls gabbing while their feet soak reinforce the sentiment that the treatment is intended for women only, and any guy indulging is a namby-pamby.
“There is that stigma: You don’t go and get a pedicure by yourself,” said Bradley Price, 35, the president of Autodromo, a Brooklyn-based watch brand. With a self-mocking chuckle, Mr. Price confessed to having a pedicure a few years back, though he’s quick to point out it was a wink-wink, nudge-nudge in-joke during a bachelor party rather than his own serious attempt at cuticle care. And while he hasn’t returned to a salon since then (without the safety of numbers, Mr. Price isn’t comfortable with the idea), he admitted he enjoyed the experience. “A lot of us were pleasantly surprised.”
And why wouldn’t they be? Cast aside the connotations, and a pedicure is a relaxing hour or so of clipping, cleaning and kneading. Any man who has ever twisted his spine like a pretzel to clip off an overgrown toenail can see the benefits of having someone else tend to those gnarly hooves on a regular basis. “If you have a lot of calluses or you’re hard on your feet, a pedicure is part of the routine maintenance of taking care of yourself,” said Steve Smirnes, the owner of Spa on Penn, a Kansas City, Mo., day spa. Some of his customers are professional athletes, a subset that has long understood the importance of proper foot care. Michael Jordan, Shaquille O’Neal and David Beckham have all proudly admittted to getting pedicures; LeBron James has even endorsed pedicures on Instagram: “Have to take care of your dogs Men! It’s part of our lifeblood! Essentials keys to life.”
Fear of the unknown often stops men from indulging: What actually happens, and how much will it cost? For the uninitiated, a pedicure, which will cost about $20 to $40, plus a 20% tip, starts with a dip in a warm foot bath; an aesthetician then clips your toenails to a uniform length, files away those pesky calluses and caps the whole thing off with a foot and leg massage. And no, they won’t ask you to pick out your OPI color: Pedicurists know that men are coming in for pruning, not a coat of paint. “Most opt for a natural look but can also choose a high-buff shine or clear polish,” said Adeline Sarino, national director of nails services for Elizabeth Arden Red Door Spas, which does a Gentleman’s Pedicure at its 28 U.S. locations.
Many salons are making the process more attractive to men by doing away with froufrou interiors. The decor of Tenoverten, for example, features a slate-gray color palette and modernist chairs that are more than Charles Eames Malibu Barbie.
The Spa and Salon Bellagio in Las Vegas has taken this male-centric mentality a step further with he-man approved pedicure packages of exfoliant scrubs, hot-stone toe massages and steaming towel wraps served up with glasses of beer behind privacy curtains. “When there’s a sports event like the Super Bowl, UFC, wrestling matches or a poker tournament, men will have buckets of cold ones coming around,” said Bridgetta Hidalgo, the spa’s lead manicurist, who has seen guys get hooked on the pampering. “They say, ‘Once I get back home I’m gonna keep doing this.’ ” If your first pedicure comes with a pint of beer, you’ll probably be saying that too.
Six ways to ensure your pedi is on point
1. Go where the bros go.
Whether you’re gathering pre-visit intel online or popping by the corner nail joint, scan for menu items expressly targeting guys. “Anything that jumps out and says it’s for men—trims, barbering—is a plus,”said Elizabeth Arden Red Door Spas’ Adeline Sarino. You’ll be able to gauge how welcome you’ll feel if you book and also get an exact description of the service itself. Red Door’s Gentleman’s Pedicure includes a lower leg massage with a heated dollop of Arden’s lightly scented Eight Hour Cream. You wouldn’t want that to come as a surprise.
2. Pony up for extra privacy.
Seclusion comes at a price: The tonier the establishment, the greater the chances it offers semi-private pedi rooms. Most day spas have separate areas for hosting bachelorette parties, mother/daughter days or couples treatments, etc., so don’t be shy about asking to be parked in one. At a strip-mall salon, request seating at the tail end of the pedi-chair row.
3. Know the difference between sterilization and sanitization.
Make sure your salon of choice deploys the following procedures to guard against fungal infections: Every implement that touches your feet should either be brand spanking new and pulled from a sealed plastic pouch or sterilized in an autoclave within your sight line, said Ms. Sarino. Sanitization, which means spraying the heck out of pedi tubs and surrounding surfaces with disinfectant after every use, is also important in avoiding fungal infections.
4. Pack distractions.
Not one for awkward chitchat with a nail tech or flipping through a dog-eared Cosmo? New York City spa owner Jin Soon Choi recommends bringing a book or music to enjoy during the treatment. Even better: your significant other. “We encourage men to come with their partners and enjoy being together in a relaxing setting,” she said.
5. Book a midday pedicure.
f you want to avoid the crowds, book a midday appointment during the week, said Ms. Choi. Or have an esthetician from Manicube do an in-office Pedi in a Pinch, which involves cleaning and clipping. I $18; manicube.com
6. To maintain results, do your home work.
Stay ahead of rough skin with a daily slathering of cream with shea butter. “Keep a jar on your nightstand for that purpose,” said Chris Salgardo, U.S. president of Kiehl’s Since 1851 and author of “Manmade: The Essential Skincare & Grooming Reference for Every Man.”