It was early morning, and the sharp winter breeze sent a chill through us, before we found solace in the warmth of our car, rubbing our tired and weary eyes, as we set off on our journey. Drinking coffee, we listened to music and reminisced about days gone by and spoke of days to come. Jan, my colleague and friend sat nervously in the passenger seat, jolting with a look of horror, anytime I dared to venture over 60mph. I found this altogether more understandable after he related a tale of the time he found himself colliding with an excessively large truck. Together we had seen a lot. We had embarked on many adventures and expeditions. But as far as we could recall, we had never once found ourselves enjoying the luxury of a Male Grooming Emporium. Today, that would all change.
So where prey tell were we headed I hear you cry? Paris? London? Milan? You would be much mistaken. With the sky turning distinctively greyer with each passing minute and the rain cascading down, there before us looming large was The Tay Bridge. Which unmistakably meant that we were heading into the depths of Dundee.
PRIDE IN THE PEOPLE
It had been several years since I had visited the historic city. It’s fair to say, it has since undergone a regeneration. In 2015, GQ labelled it the “Coolest little City” in Britain, and in 2018, The Wall Street Journal ranked it number 5 on its “Worldwide Hot Destinations” list. The Waterfront has seen new life breathed into it with the fantastic V&A Dundee – the first branch of the V&A to operate outside of London – which sits next to Robert Scott’s famous RRS Discovery. in 2014, it was also named Britain’s first UNESCO City of Design for its diverse contributions to fields including medical research, comics and video games. It is very much a city in the midst of an exciting transformation. You can feel it as you walk the streets. There is a certain pride in the people in these parts. They walk with their head held high. Not only is it a place dripping with history but it’s also now beginning to look forward. It’s diverse, it’s different, and it’s not Edinburgh or Glasgow. It’s Dundee.
Jan and I explored its streets, and sampled breakfast in one of its many cafes before we found ourselves standing directly outside of The Mantuary. It was there that we saw its impressive dark green exterior, beckoning us to come in. The minute we step inside the building, which was once a Victorian butcher shop, we feel an overwhelming feeling of relaxation serenading over us. This is indeed a male sanctuary. We are welcomed by a stunning interior, where no stone has been left unturned. It’s clear to see just how much work has gone into creating something new and exciting In Dundee. If you didn’t know any better, you would be convinced that you had walked into a grooming salon situated in one of the world’s finest cities.
A SANCTUARY FOR GENTLEMEN
The Manturay, are purveyors of male grooming and they have created an incredibly impressive emporium with a slick, stylish and sophisticated 1920s/30’s theme with clever nods to Peaky Blinders. There is an impressive collection of art from UK artists, JJ Adams and Richard Blunt adorning the walls, the glorious smell of artisan coffee, as well as a delightful cabinet of fine wines, whiskies and gin. They have also created their own brand of products such, as CBD face serum and CBD hand cream.
The Mantuary is the brainchild of forward-thinking investment firm, CAM Ventures. They were inspired to bring something different to Dundee, having been introduced to the joys of manicures and pedicures in male-focused salons in the USA. it was something that felt natural, there was no awkwardness or embarrassment., and so they began to wonder why nothing like this was available in Scotland. A place where a gentleman could sit back and relax and enjoy a number of different treatments. Once upon a time, the idea of male grooming may have been seen as slightly taboo. Slowly but surely though, that idea is beginning to fade. It is an industry which is booming and The Mantuary is there to cater for the different needs and wants of gentlemen everywhere.
On our arrival at The Mantuary, we are greeted by the wonderful, Savannah Lockerbie, General Manager of this fine establishment. A woman whose passion for this project is contagious. She has a warmth and spirit to her, which is engaging and makes you feel instantly at home. She takes us around the enticing space, pours a whisky for Jan, and serves up a coffee for myself, whilst we sit in the comfort of the sofas.
This isn’t just an environment for grooming, there is also a huge social element to the space. This is somewhere. where you can come to work, have a drink or a coffee and enjoy the company of others, or simply just escape from the world outside. As Savannah explains, ‘we offer a range of services from barbering to manicures and pedicures, facials and waxing. There are also holistic therapies available, and we are also in the process of creating a cigar room. We’d also like to have an area outside the premises for customers to be able to have a drink and watch the world go by. We want men to feel complexly relaxed here and create an environment where they can feel at home.’ The team at The Mantuary has also undergone mental health training, meaning they are equipped to steer customers in the right direction if they are having difficulties. This is a business, which has pretty much though out of everything.
THERE IS NO TREPIDATION ONLY EXCITEMENT
As Jan and I finish our beverages, we contemplate our treatments. I’d describe us as two gentlemen that understand the importance of looking after one’s self. But as it happens neither of us, has enjoyed the luxury of a morning session of male grooming. Despite this venture into the unknown, it feels right. it feels like we belong here. In fact, it feels like we’ve been missing out on something quite special for some time. There is no trepidation. only excitement.
Savannah regales us with stories of her career and tells of her days as an embalmer. She talks, she listens and is the perfect host for this establishment, which is playing its part in the resurgence of Dundee. She puts Jan at perfect ease, as he takes his place on one of the impressive and luxurious leather reclined chairs to have an essential facial. A treatment where your skin will be thoroughly cleansed, exfoliated, moisturised and leave you glowing. I have opted for a beard trim, to tidy my ever-growing whiskers, in the hope it will sculpt my visage into something more impressively masculine.
The sounds of the Doors drift effortlessly through the salon. I relax, and my eyes close. This is something I could get used to. The only disappointment is when it comes to an end and when you realise that you should have been doing this years ago. I look into the mirror. For the first time in a long time, I have a beard that I have been craving. It’s sharp, it’s groomed, it’s tidy, it sharpens my features, makes my face does indeed look more sculpted. I peer across the room towards Jan, who rises from his facial. Our eyes meet. His face is in ecstasy. I can feel it tingling from my vantage point. He looks like the cat’s pyjamas. He stands, utterly glowing. He approaches me, ‘That was utterly incredible.’ We both agree that we feel like Don Draper and that this is very much the life for us.
DISCOVERING THE SECRET INGREDIENT TO CONFIDENCE
One element of grooming, that I can quite clearly say I have never given any thought to is a manicure. I had never really seen the relevance of it. It wasn’t until my girlfriend suggested I should review that thought process, that I began to give credence to the idea. If you think of the rigours your hands go through on a daily basis, it really makes sense that you should make more of a point of giving them the care they deserve. It was with this in mind that I unleashed my sad-looking hands towards Savannah, who promised she would bring them back to life.
Meanwhile, Jan was receiving expert advice from another member of the Mantuary team on how he should style his hair. He sat attentively as he took on the suggestions and watched as his new look began to take form. Savannah told me of her hopes for the salon and how it’s important for men to have an environment such as this to unwind in. I have always believed in the importance of supporting local independent businesses and that feeling has grown ten -fold since our visit to the Mantuary. It has absolutely everything going for it. It’s a truly unique offering to Dundee. It’s been a brave step from the owners to bring it to the city. The easiest and most obvious location for this establishment would have been Edinburgh or Glasgow. But they have gone against the grain and any caution to the wind has been blown away. It’s admirable and courageous and should be applauded.
‘I think it was fate that I came here’ Savannah explains. ‘ As soon as I saw the role, I knew it was for me. I have felt at home since day one. We’re all a family here. There is so much potential in what we do and what more we could do in the future.’ Savannah has a gift for making her customers feel at ease, stories of her background and career are captivating, and you can tell this is a special team to be part of. ‘How does that feel for you?’ she asks, as I look at my nails. They feel like they’ve never felt before. They also happen to be gleaming in a way I never thought possible. Jan struts across the room, wearing the look of a man who found the secret ingredient to confidence. His hair is immaculate and we both look deeply into the mirror, staring at the reborn men looking back at us.
With thanks to the incredible Savannah Lockerbie and her team at the Mantuary for looking after us.