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Martial Vivot: Barber to the famous

Martial Vivot’s Salon Pour Hommes is the place to go in New York for men’s hair styling. Since it launched in July 2008, the boutique ‘men only’ salon has gained a client list which includes Hugh Jackman, Jake Gyllenhaal and Mark Ronson.
A French native, Martial Vivot left school at 15 to begin a five-year apprenticeship to fulfil his dream of becoming a top barber – and has never looked back. His career has taken him across the globe; today he is the most sought-after men’s stylist in the world. We interviewed him to find out more.

Q: Salon Pour Hommes offers a total grooming experience for men: haircuts, coloring, facial trims, brow tweezing and manicures – as a boutique service. What do you think is the driving force behind the renewed interest in male grooming?
A: I think it’s been going on for a couple of years now, but in the ‘60s and ‘70s men's hair styling was very big. Barbershops offer some services – but men mostly go to them for a quick beard trim. When salons started to become more unisex, the male grooming industry lost its identity: many men didn’t feel comfortable in unisex places.

In fact, we haven’t created anything new: we’ve just bought male grooming back from the past. Male grooming is not just about getting styled – it’s about the service aspect too. In our salon, we’ve created semi-private stations. You only see the people working with you; your stylist, your pedicurist and so on. No one is invading your privacy or seeing you with the hair products on… no man wants to be seen with that in his hair.

Q: Looking their best is very important for a lot of men - what’s the most outrageous thing a client has done to secure your hair styling services?
A: Two weeks ago someone was 15 minutes late – I didn’t have enough time for their barber appointment. They offered to pay double. I told them, “Come on, pay triple.” (He laughs). Seriously though, some clients will spend a fortune to fly me out at the last minute. They cannot face the word “no”. I have one regular client I see every month: it’s a two-day job, round-trip. Sometimes I get there and he only has 15 minutes to spare.

Q: What are the latest facial hair styling trends in NYC?
A: There are lots of hair styling looks and trends. People in New York are so good at perfecting their own style. The big ‘50s pompadour hairstyle, with a lot of height and pushed back, nicely tapered and groomed on the sides, is really coming back. It’s a real classic hairstyle but can be styled very avant-garde. We’re finally growing hair again – I love it –  facial hair’s getting longer.

I think we’re finally done with the old spiky look. Mohawks and things, they’re getting tacky…though of course some people can still look great in those hairstyles. With facial hair, anything goes. The less it’s groomed, the better it looks…especially with a beard. You should exaggerate the beard. The hair on your head should be more groomed, and should be worn pushed back.

Q: What are the top 5 looks?
A: The old hairstyle trends are coming back. Men are much more in touch with the different hairstyles they can sport, and how preppy they can be. It’s the feeling of, “I’m gonna groom my hair very well, it’s gonna be really shiny and it’s gonna smell very good.” So a hairstyle product is very important, and men are much more knowledgeable than they used to be.

It used to be that guys would use one shampoo and one gel from the supermarket. Now they really want styling advice. Things like blow-drying, flat irons, curling irons. Now guys love to create different hairstyles from one haircut. We all have a professional life – then we like to go crazy at night. We all want to control our image and have different looks for those moments.

Q: Which mustache or beard is your favorite to create?
A: The movie The Artist has put an older era back in people’s minds again.The Artist Mustache has got to be one of my top favorites: it’s very dressy, very cool. You can kill it quickly or grow it quickly.

Q: So are you a clean-shaven gent or a big beard guy?
A: Funnily enough, I don’t shave much. I trim for a 5 o’clock shadow. It makes me look skinny, and it’s all about the skinny look for me.