Buffed Up

LA's Hammer & Nails Puts the 'Man' in 'Manicure'

A Men’s Nail Salon?

Hammer & Nails is the hot new spot for manicures and pedicures, only this space is geared toward men and the women who love them. It’s located in Los Angeles — no surprise — on trendy Melrose Avenue next to high-end retailers like Paul Smith, Alexander McQueen, and Marc Jacobs.  It’s the clever new concept of Michael Elliot, a screenwriter-turned-business owner, who stumbled on the idea after a woman he was dating took him to a nail salon as a “treat.”

Men's nail spa salon shop

Hammer & Nails owner, Michael Elliot

“I was really disappointed,” he says. “There was something about being the only guy in this place that made it uncomfortable. Then this other guy was seated next to me, and we ended up talking, and I realized I wasn’t alone. We both liked getting the service, but we hated the environment. I started talking to my friends and some echoed those feelings, but others had never had a manicure or a pedicure in their entire lives because they could never see themselves going to a typical nail salon. So from a business perspective, the bigger opportunity wasn’t in the guys who would automatically come here. It was for men who have never gone, and the women who are in relationships with guys who need a pedicure or manicure, but can’t get them to go to a ‘typical’ salon. So there began this idea of creating a place that was the antithesis of a typical nail salon.”

The Look & Feel of Success

Elliot put that plan into action by designing a distinctly masculine space — a cross between your wealthy dad’s study and your playboy uncle’s workshop. Above the reception desk is the  rusted front end of a 1953 Chevy pickup, while old school work lights with Edison bulbs hang from the ceiling. The concrete floor is stained black and walls are a dark grey, the perfect canvas to display a row of hammers shadowboxed behind glass on one side, and a faded, red-lettered “auto” sign on the other.

Deep, dark leather chairs welcome guests as though they were thrones for visiting royalty, only in this kingdom you also get a private flat screen TV, remote, and headphones so you can enjoy whatever program you want without interruption.

Other little touches abound, like the vintage-looking punching bag and gloves on the back wall, or the liquor tray discreetly positioned to the side. It all feels very adult but not stuffy or pretentious. Indeed, it’s reminiscent of those high school or college days when you’d imagine what it might be like to be a success. Only at Hammer & Nails it’s not a fantasy; for that 30-60 minute treatment, it’s reality.

The Differences Matter

Hammer-and-Nail-42_Tonics_400So is that it? Is the setting the only thing that makes this men’s nail salon, or “shop” as Elliot likes to call it, different from a traditional one?

Not by a long shot. Hammer & Nails succeeds on so many levels it’s staggering. Upon entering, you’re offered a beverage and personally escorted to your chair. From there, you just sit back and relax, either watching TV or hanging out. The tools are all removed from sealed sterile packaging which, if you’ve ever gone to a regular chop shop in a strip mall, isn’t always the norm. There’s none of the annoying up-selling that one experiences at regular nail salons, either. (“Salt scrub — it’s good for your scaly skin! Just $2.” or “Neck massage? Only $5 more.”) And while Hammer & Nails is busy, it doesn’t feel chaotic or overwhelming. It’s as though someone dimmed the lights and volume, and now everyone is just a bit more chill.

Yes, at $25 for the basic manicure and $40 for the pedicure it is certainly more expensive than going to the corner salon. But in this case you definitely get what you pay for. During my entire treatment with stylist Naima Malone, I never once felt the flick of her scissor’s edge or the scraping of her file. Too often you know you’re being worked on, but because Hammer & Nails charges more for their services they can also hire more highly skilled workers. That’s important, because when you add all those elements up it definitely makes for a much more satisfying overall experience.