True to their inherent nature, trends have a tendency to be fickle little things.
One might be reminded of this fact while finishing a just so-so cronut while wondering where his or her last 60 minutes and four dollars went. Ah yes, that croissant-donut mashup that had New Yorkers calling in sick to work and lining up around the block – somehow after it left the island of Manhattan and the above-the-fold portion of the computer screen, it turned out to be just another overpriced pastry. Didn’t we just bounce back from that whole designer cupcake thing, with the elevated blood sugar levels and second mortgages to prove it?
Of course, the only genre to rival food when it comes to fleeting, overpriced trends is fashion, where looks and styles come and go in less time than it takes to fold a proper pocket square. By the time one steps out in that fancy bowler-and-matching-ascot combo that the article trumpeted as a “must-have for the season,” chances are the general population has either moved on or missed the trend altogether, and now everyone is gaping not with looks of envy and lust, but rather pity and dismay. Thankfully, humiliation and regret never go out of style.
A Lot of Hot Air
So what, then, is one to make of the blowout bar? Let’s start with the basics. Go under the bathroom sink and dig around for that $14.99 blow dryer from Walgreen’s that you’ve had since college. It gets the job done, right? Perhaps. But it requires a little effort on your part. And it doesn’t pamper you. And it doesn’t offer you a nice hors d’oeuvres and a mimosa. Of course, it doesn’t charge you $30 to $40 per dry, either. But we’ll get to that.
The blowout bar is essentially your bathroom hair dryer, writ large and luxurious. It’s a salon experience, but a very specific one; no cut, no color – just a wash, dry and style, but with all the trappings of a full-blown (ahem) day at the spa. The selling point beyond the bells and whistles is a better overall look – a blow dry that one couldn’t possibly replicate in front of one’s own mirror.
Like the cronut, the blowout bar gathered its momentum among the moneyed and trend-chasing classes of New York before leaping to the West Coast and, eventually, spreading slowly into the Midwest. A number of blowout-only places have since sprouted up in Chicago – mostly in the look-at-me enclave of Lincoln Park – among them Drybar, an outlet of one of the Manhattan originators of the movement.
In the Northwest Indiana and Southwest Michigan region, the pickings are a bit slimmer for those looking to drop this kind of dough for a fraction of a full salon treatment, with only a couple of entrepreneurs like BANG in Grand Rapids and Salon Rouge in the South Bend area having taken the dedicated leap thus far. After all, one might liken a blowout bar to going to a dry cleaner that only does pants – albeit phenomenally – but charges what you might pay elsewhere to get all of your cleaning done. That can be a tough sell.
But the blow dry bar at Salon Rouge offers much more than a glorified hair dry and is more than an overblown trend, according to manager Ann Molenda. She’s encountered the skepticism before, and seemed well-prepared to deflect it.
“Maybe someone is having a bad hair day, or they don’t need a cut but they still want that salon experience or it’s a special occasion and they want that extra kick of glamour,” Molenda says in explaining why someone might want to forgo a mid-priced meal in favor of a grooming treatment they could seemingly do for free at home. “They try it at home and realize they either can’t do it as well as a stylist or they would just rather have someone do it for them while they take a break and relax.”
Fair enough, but what of the “trendiness” of the whole scene? Is the blowout just a cash cow that is best milked dry now, before time and common sense catch up and it inevitably stops producing altogether? Molenda thinks not.
“In this industry things are always evolving, but this has been a slower build here in the Midwest than on the coasts, so I think it still has some time,” she explains. “It’s mostly the younger women we’re seeing who are embracing the service – they realize this is not their grandma’s old rinse-and-set. So that’s a good sign for the future.”