Good masculinity can be hard to find.
Which, in part, is what led entrepreneur Jed Rothenberg to create the Man Tour – a guided look at four hand-picked and carefully researched sites that take in some of the time honoured facets of Argentine male existence.
For some, the words “Man Tour” might suggest crude masculine glory. Factor in the element of travel and, in a city like Buenos Aires, this could quickly generate toxic levels of machismo and platonic sentimentality.
Intended for small groups, this particular tour is tailored for travellers seeking a day of activities that will replenish their cheer and offer opportunities to interact with locals in a friendly environment.
While the exact whereabouts of the tour must be kept under wraps, the afternoon begins with a lesson in the customs of preparing and serving mate, Argentina’s traditional tea. After Rothenberg sets the tone with some architectural and political history, this first-stop serves as a great icebreaker for what essentially becomes an afternoon of conversation and camaraderie.
The next stop on the tour is a generations old, family-owned hat shop. Here, tour members get a demonstration of the antique machinery used to fashion hats from rabbit fur, before being offered a measuring service for their own custom-made gaucho or classic top hat.
From here, the tour heads off in the vintage cars of the A-line subte towards the neighbourhood of Caballito for one of the highlights of the day. A local barbershop that doubles as a bar serves tour members Cinzano (vermouth) and soda together with chips, and, one by one, each man receives a classic, straight razor shave. It’s recommended not to shave the day before as this is the closest shave you’ll get, and quite an enjoyable moment of relaxation.
Finally, feeling smooth and refreshed, the group moves on to a cigar bar where a private session has been arranged in the bar’s VIP lounge. Tour members are offered a choice cigars, wines, and liquors to mix and match, all of them top quality and tasty. With a window view of the evening, the tour concludes with casual conversation over cheese, crackers, coffee, and chocolates.
Make no mistake, the luxury here implies a matching price tag. The cost for a single person is US$190, discounted to US$145 per head for groups of two or more. For a male-female couple—and yes, though designed for men, the Man Tour can be a pleasant afternoon for women as well—the cost is US$260. The prices do however, include all refreshments, transportation throughout the tour, the shaving service, and the items consumed at the cigar bar.
While the cost may out-price some of the younger men passing through the city, the Man Tour is ideally suited for business travellers and father-son pairs together on vacation in Buenos Aires.
Some of the best aspects involve sharing in activities that lift spirits and bring people closer together in more intimate, relaxed environments and, ultimately, the tour succeeds in conveying a reminder that being a man is not all about flexing muscle. The history and scenes of the tour recall a time when the strength of men was measured as much by attention to the fine details of grooming and sociability as being a raucous winner.
For those willing to treat themselves to a memorable afternoon, the Man Tour is an excellent way to rediscover the gentleman inside, or show a son the subtler sides of manhood.