By Jared Fiel
If Joe Fournier learned one thing in his 21 years in the U.S. Army, it was the importance of taking care of his feet.
Fournier has served in Germany, Iraq, Kuwait and many other places all over the globe. So, he has earned more than a little pampering.
Every two or three weeks, he goes into The Saloon at Cristiana Salon Spa in Johnstown for a haircut. It’s just a buzz cut, the same one he has had since the Army, but they shampoo what’s left of his hair, give him a scalp massage and trim his beard.
“I figure I deserve this after busting my ass all these years,” he says. “All my life I’ve put other people first, and I just want to treat myself.”
Fournier first discovered The Saloon (they call it that to encourage men to peek inside) when he stepped in to surprise his daughter, Kelly Otterson, with a gift certificate for a pedicure and a manicure. “It was really elegant in there,” he says. “They were super helpful and they said they also cut men’s hair… and they gave me a military discount.”
His daughter later bought him a pedicure (we told you he knew how to baby his feet) and they did it together for some father-daughter bonding, “And it was great to do that with her.”
Fournier is one of a growing number of Northern Colorado guys who take grooming seriously, either by hitting a salon or spa or learning how to do it themselves at home.
“A good scalp massage and hot towel will do wonders for de-stressing and relaxation,” says Cristina Manwell, owner of The Saloon. “Men crave a little downtime and want to feel like they aren’t just a number in a barber chair.”
Of course, when you are dealing with Colorado guys, that means dealing with beards. Manwell remembers a disaster of a beard issue when the former salon manager booked a beard dye for a man who was supposed to be doing a Santa photo shoot.
“First, our former salon manager had not booked enough time for the tedious work involved with such a process and also had not accounted for the coarse, stubborn beard hair,” Manwell says. “She was only able to lighten the hair around a shade and, being that it was naturally red to begin with, it turned a lovely shade of orange. Needless to say, it was not a positive customer experience, and rather embarrassing for all parties involved.”
The truth is that beards aren’t easy to deal with, even for the professionals.
Just ask Greg Rittner, president of the Rocky Mountain Beard and Moustache Club, which, before the pandemic, hosted regular competitions in the area. Members now share tips and tricks for maintaining some pretty impressive facial hair.
“Talking to our members, the one thing they all said is that you have to learn to take care of it yourself before you can let someone else help you,” he says. “And then you have to find someone you really trust.”
Rittner started his whisker fascination about 10 years ago. He used to grow a beard during the ski season but always wanted to do a handlebar mustache. It took him about two years to grow a competition-worthy ‘stach but he was able to do it about the time he started work in real estate 10 years ago. Today, he competes in the natural mustache competition, which means his facial hair receives no help from any product.
“A friend told me that I either have to get rid of it or it is going to be my brand,” he says. “So, here it is. My brand. I figured this is one thing I could be good at. I’m never going to win trophies skiing. I’m pretty mediocre at that. But doing this is something I can do well.”
What started with mustache wax reviews and then a boar bristle brush and an obsession with the show “Whisker Wars” has led to a club that has chapters in Fort Collins, Loveland and Denver. Modeled after the Austin, Texas, club featured in “Whisker Wars,” the Rocky Mountain club is hoping (like the Austin club) to return to hosting competitions this year.
One guy who has placed in the only two competitions he has ever entered is G. Mark Lewis, a photographer in Loveland. Once he was taking pictures at a local roller derby match when there was a beard competition at intermission. Lewis took first place. A little while later, he heard about a competition down the street from him. He took second. “The guy who won looked just like Magnum PI. He has the full mustache and the Hawaiian shirt and I swear he looked just like Tom Selleck,” Lewis says.
But Lewis doesn’t maintain his unique facial hair for competition. He says he first grew his beard during his senior year in high school. “I’ve only shaved my face twice since then,” he says. “And then I realized why I grew it in the first place.”
In the late 1970s, Lewis grew out his beard so long that he could have been mistaken for a member of ZZ Top. “It was the length of a Coors Tall Boy can, plus about three inches. That’s how we measured it back then,” he says.
Over the years, he changed the look of the beard quite a bit, but when he really started to make a name for himself in photography, his wife, Laura, told him he couldn’t change it anymore. “She said that it was my branding,” he says. “And it’s true. I can be on the other side of a crowded room and people know it’s me.”
Getting and maintaining his look took a lot of time, practice and a lot of trial and error. “Laura bought me a beard brush and that really helped,” he says. “When you grow it out, it grows out of your face at different angles, and you really have to sculpt it.”
Before the pandemic, Lewis said he would occasionally go to a local salon to get a conditioning treatment for his beard. “When they were done with it, it felt like a kitten’s belly,” he says. “But nobody takes scissors to it but me.”
Despite the hair on his face, Lewis decided about 15 years ago to shave his head. “I could shave the whole thing in five minutes,” he says. “But I realized that since I wasn’t going in for a haircut, I kind of missed that frigging pampering. So, I go to the salon for a hot towel treatment and a head massage and it just feels luxurious.”
But not everyone goes for the salon treatment: Pete Limbaugh works at New Belgium Brewery as an Experiential Marketing Specialist, which means he cuts, nails, welds and otherwise fabricates all kinds of contraptions, art and displays at the brewery. He also cuts his beard.
Limbaugh started growing out his beard about 10 years ago. He uses a simple shampoo and conditioner and trims it all himself. He has a guide for telling him when he needs to trim it.
“I always keep it trimmed just to the length of my welding mask,” he says. “If it gets too long, it will catch on fire. And it smells terrible.”