Cigar Aficionado

Generations Barber Parlor

It's not every day you can smoke a cigar, get a full-body aqua massage and enjoy the closest shave of your life -- all in the same place.

Those are just some of the pleasures to be had at Generations Barber Parlor in Old Greenwich, Connecticut, a third-generation shop that does a lot more than cut your hair. Catering to the man who seeks a little pampering in these harried times, Generations offers a full range of grooming services, from hair coloring and highlights to shaves and manicures, as well as shoe shines, tanning and three types of massages. But its best feature may very well be the cigar lounge, where leather armchairs and other amenities provide the perfect setting to light up.

Generations is not your father's stuffy, old barbershop, but rather a modern salon that owner Eric Alfano opened four years ago to give men a comfortable oasis to unwind from the stresses of modern life. The place is a far cry from the more traditional barbershop that Alfano's grandfather David, and, later, his father Frank and uncle Pete operated, first in Port Chester, New York, then in Old Greenwich.

The first thing I noticed when I sat back for a haircut ($18 and up) is that each of the six stations comes equipped with its own miniature TV. You can catch up on the latest business news or watch a ballgame while Alfano or one of his assistants trims your locks.

After the haircut, I was escorted to the shaving room. If you've never had a professional shave, you're in for a real treat. Like most men, I spend about five minutes each morning hunched over my sink with a twin-blade razor, invariably drawing a droplet of blood or two in the race to get to the office. At Generations, though, you'll still be getting prepped after five minutes, and the shave itself can last anywhere from half an hour to an hour.

To prepare my face for the shave, a young woman named Juliana applied hot lather soap followed by a hot towel, then repeated the process. Once my face was moist, she rubbed in American Crew shave oil and massaged my jaw, cheeks and around my mouth, which helped lift the hairs away from the skin.

Then it was time for the shave. I elected to go with the Presidential option ($36). First, more hot lather, more hot towels and more shave oil. As Alfano took out a disposable straight razor and began to shave -- one minute area at a time -- he explained that the oil allows the razor to float atop the skin; it doesn't touch it. But the key to a really close, comfortable shave, he said, is a unique steam machine that kept my beard soft throughout the shave. An aftershave treatment concluded the 40-minute session.

I could not believe how smooth my face felt afterward; it was nearly as soft as a baby's skin. There was no five o'clock stubble that afternoon, and even twenty-four hours later, my face almost felt as if it were freshly shaven.

(Here's a tip from Alfano for closer shaves at home: hang an anti-fog suction-cup mirror, which you can get at bed and bath stores, in the shower. The mirrors typically magnify your face three- to fivefold, and the steam from the water will soften your beard.)

Following the shave, I opted for a session in Generations' aqua massager ($1 per minute). This nifty mechanism lets you lie down on your stomach, fully clothed (don't worry, you don't get wet), while 36 jets of heated water, concealed above a thin canopy that is lowered over you, move briskly from your neck to your feet. You control the pressure at the push of a button, and you can stop the jets if you want to direct the massage to any particular areas.

After (or before, for that matter) a refreshing massage or invigorating shave, enjoy a smoke in the cigar parlor. There's only one catch: membership is required; but with annual dues just $120, it's well worth the investment. Alfano has furnished the 500-square-foot, wood-floored room with six plush, brown leather armchairs, a minibar that serves up such spirits as Macallan 12 and Wild Turkey, two TVs, a magnetic dartboard and a selection of Cigar Aficionado and other men's magazines. The lounge also sports a barber chair; you can get your hair cut and puff on a cigar at the same time. Four cabinet humidors offer a variety of cigars, such as Arturo Fuentes, Cohibas, Hoyo de Monterreys and C.A.O.s (you don't have to be a member to buy a stick), and a variety of desktop humidors that line the shelves overhead are also available for purchase.

Alfano will rent out the cigar lounge for private parties. He recalled one woman who, for her husband's birthday, treated him and seven of his friends to a special party: food was brought in, cigars were smoked, and every guy received a shave, scalp massage and a manicure.

Besides cigars, Generations offers a variety of shaving oils, creams, gels and razors for sale. You can pick up a Mach 3 Gillette razor, for example, with an 18-karat-gold- or silver-plated handle. The shop also sells Colibri lighters and a selection of cutters, ashtrays and travel humidors.

With space now at a premium at the Old Greenwich shop, Alfano says he hopes to open other Generations parlors. Possible locations include Stamford, Connecticut, and Rye, New York.

3 Boulder Avenue
Old Greenwich, CT
Tel: (203) 637-8266

Hours: Monday: 10:30 8 p.m.; Tuesday through Friday: 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Saturday: 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Sunday: 12 to 6 p.m.