Profiles

A Few Good Men

According to NAILS Big Book 2006-2007, only 4% of nail techs in the United States are men. While this is definitely the minority, we have a number of high-profile male nail techs. NAILS executive editor Hannah Lee asked six prominent male nail techs for their views on being a guy in the industry. They offer history, advice, and opinions on how it feels to be the minority.

Doug Smith

Creative Nail Design, director of education
Years doing nails: 24
Specialty: Education

How did you get involved in the nail industry?
I am a second generation member of the beauty industry. My mother owned a chain of salons in New York, and my uncle (Bruce Butler) is a former president of the American Beauty Association. It was a natural evolution that I go to beauty school before college. Back then (too many years to mention), nails were just starting to get popular...so I decided it was a cool new venture.

What were you doing before you did nails?
I attended beauty school the summer between high school and college, so I was a student.

How long did you work in a salon?

What made it a desirable career choice for you?
I consider myself a creative person. Being a nail professional allowed me to express my love of detail and custom design enhancements for each client. I also enjoyed the interaction with my regular clientele. We were like a large, extended family. I still talk to several of my clients, and I haven’t worked in a salon since 1996 (oops, I just gave away my age).

Did you have any role models?
My mother has always served as my professional role model. She has a sharp business mind and clear vision of what she wants, backed with a constant positive attitude. She’s always been thankful for the gifts of life and focused on opportunities versus problems. That was her secret weapon.

What are the benefits of being a guy in the nail industry?
I think the larger benefits in life are simply being in the industry. It’s a group of amazingly creative people who love education and growth. Guy, girl...nails are nails. I will say it was easy to build a clientele when I started out. Being a guy, I was sort of a novelty with clients. It didn’t hurt that I made sure I attended every show and educational event I could to keep my skills and knowledge cutting edge.

What are the drawbacks?
I can’t think of one. Actually, there was one client in beauty school that refused to let me give her a pedicure because I was a man. See, it was the dark ages when I got started!

Why do you think there aren’t more men in the industry?
I’m amazed with the constant influx of men in the nail industry. Time will tell, but I’m guessing stats will start to level out equally in the next few years.

Do you have advice for other men who might be considering getting into nails?
Study hard, attend every class, show you can, and feel it in your soul. It’s important to love what you do and to be thankful for the opportunities presented.

Gregory Salo
Young Nails Inc., president
Years doing nails: 10
Specialties: acrylic, gel, colored acrylic, and electric filing

How did you get involved in the nail industry?
I pulled out of fire-technology school to start the business with my mom.

What were you doing before you did nails?
I was going to be a fireman. I was enrolled at the Rancho Santiago Junior College fire-technology program in Santa Ana, Calif.

How long did you work in a salon?
I only worked in a salon for a year because I needed to know what it felt like taking on real clients.

What made it a desirable career choice for you?
I was attracted to the idea of being my own boss. It’s something my mother always pushed me to do, and coincidentally, she gave me the opportunity to do it.

Did you have any role models?
My mom is my ultimate role model, but for a male role model, it would be Tim Rochemont from Nailbasics in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. Tim runs a very successful nail company with his wife Kathy.

What are the benefits of being a guy in the nail industry?
I think the shock factor is the best benefit. Women are always surprised to see a man do nails.

What are the drawbacks?
I get teased by my friends all the time.

Why do you think there aren’t more men in the industry?
I think that some men may be easily discouraged because they believe a man “shouldn’t” do nails.

Do you have advice for other men who might be considering getting into nails?
If you are passionate about doing nails, then do them, regardless of what anyone thinks.

John Hauk
Belle A Rever Salon, owner; OPI Products, technical advisor
Years doing nails: 15
Specialties: acrylic and gel

How did you get involved in the nail industry?
At the time, my mom was getting bad nails and bad service even though she was paying good money. I thought I could provide better service and do great nails (and charge more money!).

What were you doing before you did nails?
I was working in construction and retail.

What made it a desirable career choice for you?
I got into nails for the freedom and the power to work independently as a booth renter and then as a salon owner. The money is not too bad either.

Did you have any role models?
Yes, my mentor was Tim Farquar. He was working in the salon where I first started. He was great, and he helped me and shared many tricks of the trade. When I would get upset with no-show clients, he always found a way to help me stay positive. Without him my road would have been rocky. Thanks, Tim!

What are the benefits of being a guy in the nail industry?
I don’t think there are any great benefits.

What are the drawbacks?
One of the biggest drawbacks is being left out of certain circles because I am a man. It happens all the time!

Why do you think there aren’t more men in the industry?
I think they are scared of the unknown and that it’s not “manly” enough.

Do you have advice for other men who might be considering getting into nails?
Go for it because I need a lot of help doing nails on all these beautiful ladies around the world. I only have two hands!

Michael Cavo
Cavo Beauty Concepts, owner; Jessica Cosmetics International, education manager
Years doing nails: 31
Specialty: natural nail cultivation

How did you get involved in the nail industry?
I was in college majoring in commercial art. I really did not fit into the whole college scene of the ’70s. Still needing to express my artistic side, I took the advice of some friends that were in the beauty industry and enrolled in cosmetology school.

What were you doing before you did nails?
I was a professional tennis player, playing on the lower ranks of the Men’s International Tennis Circuit, now known as the ATP. When I realized I needed to eat and pay bills, I dusted off my cosmetology license and went to work in a salon.

Are you currently working in a salon?
Working three to four days a week, I rent space in a salon to service the same clients I have had for the last 25-30 years. I also recently started a consulting business, Cavo Beauty Concepts. I offer salon services, consulting, education, and development of salon environments.

What made it a desirable career choice for you?
It has been a choice that has allowed me to enjoy other things in life due to the flexible work hours, people interaction and contact, and the daily excitement the salon environment can bring. This is a choice never regretted. (OK, maybe a few times but not many.)

Did you have any role models?
There were not any men that I was aware of when I started. I have always been referred to as one of the first men in the industry. I do know that I was the first male to compete, judge, and direct nail competitions in Florida.

As far as role models, there have been many. There still are today, especially the younger generation. They inspire me with the knowledge of technology as well as their artistic thinking and abilities. However, I would have to say that the following four individuals are the ones who really have made an impact on my life and career.

Luella and Porter Bailey, my cosmetology school instructors, not only taught me my craft, but also professionalism, integrity, and credibility. I owe 99.9% of my professional success to them.

Darlene Raychock inspired me with her love for the industry and her knowledge of nail care. To this day she is one of the most gifted nail artists I have ever met. She was 20 years ahead of her time, especially in the competition arena. Her encouragement is why I became deeply involved in professional organizations within our industry.

Jessica Vartoughian inspired me with her achievements and advancements in the natural nail care part of our industry, as well as with her work ethic. She has also given me a vehicle to showcase my talents on a national and international level.

What are the benefits of being a guy in the nail industry?
I have never felt that there are any extra benefits to being a male in our industry. I find women are sometimes more receptive to advice on beauty-related matters, when it comes from a male rather than a female.

What are the drawbacks?
Nowadays, unlike when I started, I do not feel there are any drawbacks due to the exposure that individuals like Tom Holcomb, Tom Bachik, Danny Haile, Trang Ngyuen, and John Hauk — just to name a few — have given the male side of the nail industry. They have achieved what I equate as the equivalency of rock-star status within our industry and beyond. Thirty years ago I would never have dreamed this could have happened. The beauty industry was not as accepting of male nail technicians back then. I also feel the number of Asian males entering the industry has added more exposure.

The only drawbacks I experienced were early on in my career. Clients were not comfortable having their nail services performed by a man because they didn’t think my work was going to be as good as a woman’s.

Why do you think there aren’t more men in the industry?
That is a good question. I feel that as a whole the industry is not as appealing to young men today. This could be due in part to the technological advancements the world has made. Unfortunately most young men who enter the beauty industry usually opt to become hairdressers or makeup artists. We need to use our industry leaders to encourage and nuture young males who may have an interest in the nail industry.

Do you have advice for other men who might be considering getting into nails?
I would give the same advice to anybody entering our industry, whether they are male or female. Love what you do, have a passion for what you do, perfect what you do, and take pride in what you do for your name will eventually become your brand and trademark.

Also, continue the quest for knowledge by attending local educational classes, as well as national trade shows. After more than 30 years in this industry, I still continue to learn from my peers.

Tom Holcomb
Entity Beauty, artistic director
Years doing nails: 22
Specialty: French

How did you get involved in the nail industry?
I went to cosmetology school straight out of high school. I was only interested in doing hair until I met Julie Baltierra. She got me interested in doing nails.

What were you doing before you did nails?
I was in high school.

How long did you work in a salon?
I was doing nails in a salon on and off until 2002.

Did you have any role models?
There were really no men in the industry, so my role models were Julie Baltierra, Lynn Grubbs, Dao (from Kupa) and her sister, and Vicki Peters. They taught me the tricks and accepted me. I was kind of looked at like a freak because there weren’t many men in the industry.

What are the benefits of being a guy in the nail industry?
Guys can be more honest. I think women trust men more to tell them how they look. We can make women feel good without being condescending. I also think men can charge more. Women seem to be willing to pay more for services from a man.

What are the drawbacks?
At the beginning, I couldn’t get any women to sit in my chair. They seemed to think it was weird for a guy to be doing nails. It was difficult getting clients to take me seriously as a male nail tech. Once they saw me with clients, it became easier to get more clients.

Why do you think there aren’t more men in the industry?
Honestly, I think a lot of men are scared of stereotypes.

Do you have advice for other men who might be considering getting into nails?
I say, go for it! Don’t worry about what anyone else says. If it’s your destiny, go for it.

Kelvin St. Pham
St. K Studio, owner
Years doing nails: 15
Specialty: sculptured French with a high-shine gel finish

How did you get involved in the nail industry?
My mother-in-law suggested that I go to nail school.

What were you doing before you did nails?
I was a technical engineer. Then I got laid off and worked as a part-time waiter.

Are you currently working in a salon?
I’m still currently working at my studio; it’s going to be 15 years.

What made it a desirable career choice for you?
My son was on the way, and I needed to learn a new trade. My in-laws really supported my training and career as a nail tech.

Did you have any role models?
There are so many people that I’ve had the pleasure to meet and learn from that I feel blessed. All the people that I learned from, trained with, and educated at my time with IBD, Creative, and OPI. My mother-in-law, Shara, for teaching me to take my time and concentrate on quality (she was the only person at Mantrap Nails that had standing appointments). Trang Nguyen has his own successful professional nail line; he can put down some awesome nails! He’s a world champion, and to top it all off, he’s Vietnamese like me.

What are the benefits of being a guy in the nail industry?
This is a trick question, right? First of all, I get to hold women’s hands all day and get paid. Then I go to trade shows and am surrounded by women. And the classes I teach are almost like teaching at an all-women’s school. I love it! I have eight sisters. Being a guy nail tech surrounded mostly by women has really helped me to learn about my sisters — why women are the way they are.

What are the drawbacks?
I’ll get back to you on this one…I’ve only got five minutes for lunch before the next client.

Keywords:

Leave a Comment

Name:
Email:
Comment:
Submit

Comments (0)

Encyclopedia

The two-foot-square area between a nail tech’s mouth and work area; the area wherein dust, vapors, and particles can be inhaled if a nail techni...
Learn More

Subscribe to NAILS & SAVE!

Get a free preview issue and a Free Gift
Subscribe Today!

Please sign in or register to .    Close
Loading...
 
Subscribe Today
Subscribe Today