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Lads' Day Out

Chris Tubbs

Photo: Chris Tubbs

England has long enjoyed a reputation for sartorial superiority — consider the Savile Row suit, the Burberry trench, the Church's brogue. Grooming, however, has traditionally ended at the edge of a Turnbull & Asser cuff. But modern London lads are realizing that clothes alone do not make the man: they're finding the wonders of the urban spa. To capitalize on this new attitude, a handful of male-only grooming centers and spa programs have recently started up, a number of which can be found in the city's hotels. Here, a look at five top spots in London where the refined Englishman can be made to look even finer.

Spa at Mandarin Oriental
True to its Asian connections (the Mandarin Oriental hotel group is based in Hong Kong), London's most exotic new spa lets you travel to some fantasy Far East country without leaving central London. Everything here has a sleek Zen look—from the tatami-matted reception area to the relaxation room with its Japanese garden and color-therapy lighting. Even the treatment rooms look out on their own little gravel gardens.

Guests are encouraged to sign up for a minimum of two hours. The session begins with a cup of herbal tea and a sensual footbath. After discussing the client's wants and needs, the therapist suggests the appropriate "rituals." This usually involves a skin-softening salt scrub, followed by an Ayurvedic aromatherapeutic massage, with oils chosen to lift or calm the psyche. For ultimate muscle-melting after your "rituals," indulge in the two soaking areas: the Vitality Pool, where you lie on a granite bed (or stand on the "volcano") while being massaged by rotating hydrotherapy jets; and the Crystal Steam Room, where a healing amethyst stone is said to induce peace. As if you'd need any more. 66 Knightsbridge; 44-207/838-9888; 2 1/2 hour therapy session including all treatments $270, one-hour massage (available to hotel guests only) from $70.

The Refinery
This new urban retreat, housed in the former Greek consulate, bills itself, quite accurately, as "London's first one-stop grooming and spa experience exclusively for men." Besides a huge menu of massages, facials, scrubs, and rubs, the Refinery offers some advanced spa treatments whose gadgets range from a dry flotation tank, which feels like weightlessness training for the space shuttle, to a Vichy shower bed (a device that can only be described as a human sandwich grill). No high-tech machinery is needed, however, for the wildly popular Synchronous Massage, performed simultaneously by two therapists in perfectly choreographed movements. And the Hair of the Dog, which includes a detox body wrap, clarifying facial, and invigorating aromatherapy massage, can help undo even the ugliest hangover.

Guys on the go take advantage of the Refinery's 15-minute Pit Stop massages, facials, manicures and pedicures, or even reflexology. Of course, you can also simply get your hair trimmed, conditioned, and colored in the skylit Cutting Room, designed by Simon Simpson (who helped do London's Met Bar and Nobu). Most celebrity clients undergo all of the above in a salon room hidden in the basement, entrusting their secret grooming needs to hairdresser-client confidentiality. 60 Brook St.; 44-207/409-2001; shave from $42, haircut from $60, massages from $50 (for 30 minutes).

Adam's London
At first, this wood-paneled salon feels like your basic upscale barbershop. But as soon as you're ensconced in one of the white leather coiffing chairs—equipped with flat-screen color monitors that let you watch the BBC or check your e-mail or portfolio—you quickly realize it's a cut above any snip-and-clip shop you've ever patronized. The trim is top-notch, done by stylists recruited from some of the best salons in town; the pre-cut shampoo, with an invigorating scalp massage, is alone worth a visit. But the pièce de résistance is the hot Cream Shave: a blissful 30 minutes of massaging, lathering, and moisturizing, topped off with a final face wrap of steaming towels.

If the mini-massage during your clipping session isn't enough, book time with Shinya, the resident Japanese masseur. His expert shiatsu or Indian head massages can last 10 minutes or as long as your schedule permits. The salon also has a shower room for those who want to freshen up between that grueling day at work and a big night on the town. 12 St. George St.; 44-207/499-9779; shave from $36, haircut from $57, massages from $1.50 per minute.


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