t’s no news that beards are back. Since 2011, the rise of the “lumbersexual” look, a rugged, hyper-masculine aesthetic, has been steadily on the rise, according to beauty product market research. The U.S. has led the way, with a 21 percent growth in male grooming product launches in the last three years, according to industry sources.
“What’s happening is a resurgence of putting ‘man’ back in ‘gentleman,’” says Jarrett Blackmon, owner of Damn Handsome Grooming Co., a Kalamazoo-based male grooming product line. Blackmon creates the products in his studio at the Park Trades Center. “It’s about being well-groomed but also being able to make a good cocktail or chop wood,” he says.
We’re not talking shaggy, overgrown Jeremiah Johnson beards, here. Proper grooming defines the modern-day lumberjack look, says a Datamonitor 2014 global survey. That look has led to the rise in such beard and shaving products as beard serum, beard oil, nutritional beard complexes and beard conditioners. And don’t forget old-time shaving soaps and brushes.
“You don’t have to be slick or sleazy about having a beard or mustache or grooming,” says Blackmon, who thinks the renaissance in male grooming is the natural sweet spot between men’s grooming in the ’90s — which he describes as “the whole lull with one-size-fits-all clothing and square shirts” — to the “metrosexual.” Now, says Blackmon, men can be comfortable about being well groomed and buying the products that come with good grooming.
Damn Handsome Grooming Co.’s shaving and grooming products, which include old-school shaving cream, hair serum, beard oil, beard balm and hair and whisker wax, have a twist: They are handmade from natural, vegan ingredients, including beer. Damn Handsome incorporates the “untapped bottom of the barrel” ingredients from brewing into their products.
“People love that it’s made with beer and that we’re using ingredients that would normally go to waste, so it’s sustainable too,” Blackmon says. “And it really works. The yeast, hops, oats and barley have a ton of vitamins, antioxidants and proteins that clean, moisturize and nourish skin and hair.”
Damn Handsome partners with breweries in Michigan and elsewhere for the ingredients needed to make its grooming products, Blackmon says. He and three part-time associates make the products together (and his wife, Bridget Blackmon, works part-time running the finances of the business). The products are sold wholesale to businesses across the U.S., online to individual purchasers, in brick-and-mortar stores in the Kalamazoo area and at the Kalamazoo Farmers’ Market, where Blackmon began selling the products in a test run two and a half years ago.
“It was a great place to start because we were able to get direct feedback and talk with customers about the questions they had,” he says. “Even if we couldn’t explain an answer completely, we could say, ‘Come back next week,’ and learn how to communicate everything. We know why our product is good for sensitive skin or in-grown hairs, but we got practice explaining it, which was great.”
The feedback, both from the market customers and online, is “overwhelming,” says Blackmon, noting that customers seem to like the line’s original scents like American Ale and Happy Mint.
“You don’t need a whole arsenal of stuff,” Blackmon says of grooming supplies. “You only need a few things that work really well.”