Men reacted to the concept of Blowbar with confusion, concern even.
You're doing what? Why? Huh? Whatever.
Women got it right away. I was going to a hair salon in South Tampa, I said, but they don't do cuts or color or treatments or even bang trims.
Ooh. Mmhmm. How much?
• • •
I'm in Blowbar Express Styling Salon, surrounded by hair dryers. It's like a scene from Eloise. Chandeliers. Fairy tale mirrors. Black. White. And lots of pink.
"It had to be the perfect pink," says owner Leslie Giglio Betts, waving pink fingernails. "It couldn't be hot, couldn't be pale. I wanted this salon to be so completely different."
After a shampoo, stylist Rebecca Wylie sprays my wet hair with texturizing spray. Volumizing spray. Silkening spray. She readies the blow dryer, which is, of course, pink.
Are any men still reading? Hi!
No, we can't just do this at home.
It's an expressly female thing, this business of blowouts. A glimpse of perfection in which you leave a salon with a bouncing, silken mane of wonder Jennifer Aniston only writes poetry about. In days, your hair will be back in the ugly claw clip. But for a short time, you are the sex.
Science is involved. Proteins, dead skin cells (ew) and chemical bonds give hair its shape, which we're trained by magazines to detest. Women with curly hair want it straight. Women with straight hair want it curly.
The good news: Water breaks down the bonds, making hair malleable. It's why you look like Big Bird after sleeping on a wet head. But it means you can change!
Now add a professional like Wylie. She wraps sections around a bristly cylinder brush and pulls them in improbable directions. She attaches a nozzle to concentrate heat, and with Herculean deltoid strength, confronts the head for a healthy half-hour. She alternates hot and cool air so pores shrink and strands get super shiny.
"Ohhh," I squeak, hair emerging from the brush. "It's getting fluffy."
"See?" says Wylie. "You're already happier."
• • •
Blowout salons are big in Europe, New York and Los Angeles. When Sex and the City 2 came out, celebrity stylist Ted Gibson hosted blowout parties. Reality star Bethenny Frankel told Stylist.com, "I'm a big fan of getting an inexpensive blowout and making it last." And Harper's Bazaar called blowouts a big trend this season.
Now comes Blowbar for the glistening women of South Tampa, ever on the cusp of metropolitan style. It's $35 for a shampoo and blowout. The owners called dozens of salons before setting the price. Blowbar claims it's the first blowout salon in Florida, but some are opening in Miami soon.
Like all good beauty nerds, Betts spent her youth destroying Barbie hair. She grew up to be a pharmacist and opened two other businesses with her husband, Marc. She has three daughters and no spare time. She needs convenience and needs it now.
When she wanted her hair styled before a trip and couldn't crack her salon's schedule, she knew Blowbar would work. She opened it in December on South Dale Mabry Highway. She envisions it growing into North Tampa, maybe in malls and airports.
It won't replace your salon. It can't. Betts designed Blowbar for occasions and impulse. Hot date? Blowout. Job interview? Blowout. Arch-nemesis sighting? Blowout.
Betts has had some 50 blowouts since this all started. It's part of the job interview, revealing who neglects patches of hair, drops clips on the ground, gets water in the ears or burns the scalp. She needs hairdressers to be chatty, to care about finished products, to have a sense of humor about the name.
Come on, like you weren't making dirty jokes the whole time?
Manager Jen Eggleston: "We debated — is it too much?
Betts: "If you can't laugh at it, I don't know what to tell you."
On the menu for styles — the Blow Me, Big Blow, Sexy Blow, Straight Blow. And the space for bachelorette, wedding and birthday parties?
The Blow Room.
• • •
"It needs more volume on this side. It needs to be bigger."
Betts stands over me and Wylie, pointing a pink nail into the right half of my head. She does this with almost everyone. She can't help it.
Wylie dutifully grabs the blow dryer and pumps up the side. She finishes with yet one more spray.
I have on my head the Big Blow. Indeed, it is big and blond and in charge. I pay the $35, tip $10, and wonder whether I'll pay this price again. It was relaxing, like an intense scalp massage. I look fabulous, but will it last?
I step outside to a windy afternoon, but my blowout doesn't break for days.
Then it's water, Big Bird, claw clip.