Earlier this summer we were pleased and flattered to discover we'd been included on a list of grooming products recommended by international man of mystery and tonsorial consultant extraordinaire, Lord Jack Knife. It's one thing for a civilian or casual grooming enthusiast to enjoy our goods (who wouldn't?), but we felt it was quite another to be endorsed by a man who's made his own grooming philosophies the subject of educational tours throughout Europe and North America.
We caught up with LJK to learn more about his barbering brand and personal grooming techniques. He took the time to answer some questions* during a recent seminar tour through Mexico.
A trained barber known for his nouvelle approach to classic shave techniques, LJK told us he regards the documenting of the evolution of men's grooming as a life mission.
I started the day I felt I had much more to learn and much more to do to keep writing the history of the barber shop. I'm still on tour and as long as I feel a hunger for the knowledge of old and new concepts I'll keep doing it ... I hope not to stop until my health no longer allows me to.
Ever curious about the motivations behind men's individual grooming habits, we asked LJK what drove him toward the cultivation of his look and his rather impressive pelt of mandibular topiary. Like all passionate bearders, from Samson to Santa, LJK's fair facial fuzz has special meaning to him.
My beard is the fight against a bad period in my life. I started to grow it because some bad things happened to me; and when I recovered I felt full of faith. On the other hand, I didn't realize I was finding myself and my personal branding in the process. Actually, my beard is my complete aesthetic, representing what I want to reach as professional master barber and educator. So there is no point to shave it now.
Naturally, we wanted to know what about Brooklyn Grooming had drawn him to us in the first place.
I really count on quality info for customers. Unfortunately many brands have a presence in the market because of an instant business plan instead of a real project respecting their values. I want customers to know that BG is one of those brands who loves what barber shop means and doesn't look for simply aesthetics. The more information and transparency a brand gives, the more we can trust it.
And LJK's favorites from our line?
I can't live without the Red Hook Facial Serum and the Red Hook Beard Balm. I remember I was very excited about the Facial Serum because my issue was oily skin after application, but it is just brilliant how this product is absorbed without any shiny or oily effect. On the other hand the Beard Balm, thanks to the inclusion of beeswax, allows me to control my beard and at the same time gives it the moisturizing I need.
We're thrilled to welcome LJK to the Brooklyn Grooming Collective as Brand Ambassador, and glad to know he's as excited as we are to spread the love and knowledge of our products and philosophy.
Welcome aboard, LJK!
*Since LJK is a non-native English speaker, the above quotations have been edited for clarity. But don't worry, grooming is universal.*
Here at the Brooklyn Grooming headquarters, our goal is to anticipate and accommodate the needs and desires of you, our number one client. One way we stay ahead of the curve is by continuously brainstorming new product concepts and ideas for the brand. It's a practice I like to call relentless innovation.
Thus, it was only a matter of time before we would find ourselves branching out into the massive marketplace of Soap Commerce. Ladies and Gentlemen, that time has come.
A Match Made in Brooklyn
There really was no question as to whose soap-manufacturing expertise we would call upon when we were ready. MMT was our obvious choice because their core values emulate our very own business practices and the integrity of our company culture. To both MMT & BG, of utmost importance is an emphasis on natural authenticity. We each produce hand-made goods from small batches; we rely on the local sourcing of raw materials whenever possible; we share a devotion to ecological healthfulness and sustainability; and we understand that the greatest joys on a given day are often also the simplest.
I caught up with Tara Pelletier of MMT to dish about the joint effort, and she had this to say:
"[Brooklyn Grooming] has the same ideals that we have in terms of quality of ingredients and how things are made. We're also both pretty supportive of one another. Even with similar businesses, we share information and promote one another."
So What's the Soap Like?
The starting point of the collaboration was a conceptual discussion between Tara and BG founder Mckenzie Santiago. Tara remembers it this way:
"We were going for something that captured the freshness of MMT's signature scent profiles and the depth and complexity of the woodsy BG profiles. McKenzie is also a fan of our Black Walnut Sage soap, so we started there and dug into that scent with some warmer, earthier essential oils, like virginia cedarwood and vetiver."
The fragrance that resulted is a gentle nod to nature's harmonious chaos, with whispers of earth, wood, flower and herb. (And worry not, olfactory purists, there's also an unscented version.)
A pleasant aroma (or a pleasantly absent one) in a soap is nothing to scoff at, but the almost magical lather generated by this divine little disc is what will really sell you on the shave.
It's simple enough: in a shaving mug or coffee cup, with just enough (i.e. not too much) water to dampen the soap disc, whisk a shave brush until a light froth clings to its bristles. It won't be sudsy and wet like many shave soaps; instead, the lather gels by forming a paper-thin, remarkably dense layer of stubble-lubricant to encourage smooth razor passage and provide a nutritive moisture shield against the damaging effects shaving can cause to the skin.
For all our chatter about beards, mustaches and other assorted situations involving the cultivation of man fur, it was time we admitted---to you and to ourselves---that most men still shave. And many of them do so daily. It's those marble-mugged devotees of the daily grind to whom we dedicate this shaving soap.
We hope, in addition to its wholesome and hygienic utility, that it will refresh and reinvigorate your daily shave, elevating it perhaps from tired routine to simple, everyday joy.
By Emma L. Parkes
When you've spent time growing a striking gathering of facial hair, you will soon realize how important grooming is in your weekly routine. Gone are the days when you could quickly navigate snowy foam and a razor around your face and be done; you're a beard man now, a species of male that oozes pride at their rather fetching growth. Years ago, a beard could just be left to grow, but today things are different (unless you’re going for the low maintenance, shaggy sort of look) and a little bit of beard upkeep takes some effort to get it how you want it to be.
You might be new to the beard game and wondering how on earth it can be kept dapper when the hairs are becoming so unkempt and straggly. It presents a challenge; we understand. So this week we're looking at how to trim your beard with scissors; a perfectly good way to get everything looking orderly and spruce. They provide precision, and are really reliable for trimming the old mustache or any areas that might be a little hard to reach. So follow our instructions, and prepare to be wowed at the splendour of your impeccably trimmed hair...
1) Choose a pair of scissors wisely. The one's that you use to cut open the chicken bag from the store or cut up your mail, will not work; they are big and clumsy, and you could end up with a mass of tissue on your face. Barber's scissors work wonders; make sure they are sharp and clean, and without rust or anything else that might pull at your hair.
2) A comb is essential. It prevents you from cutting hair too short, and is pretty much your beard-cutting guide - a PA for the beard trim, if you will. Before you get going, comb through your beard so everything is at maximum height and facing the same direction.
3) Begin the trim. When you begin, start at your ear and have the length of hair you want to cut on the outside of the comb. Go easy at the first go while you're still new at the trimming; you don't want to risk having to shave it all off if it goes wrong. Trim the hair that is on the outside of the combs teeth. Gradually work towards your jaw line.
4) Cut evenly. Trim the right and left side of your face, cutting evenly until you have reached the desired look. Trim your mustache and your chin afterwards, combing hair straight down. When you feel like you have finished these areas, comb through the beard again to make sure you have got an even trim of hair.
5) Be careful of your neck. Your neck is a tricky one when it comes to a cut. Ideally, using the scissors, trim as close as possible to your neck without the risk of cutting. If you have an electric trimmer, you may prefer using this for the neck hair, or as another resort, lather and shave your neck with a normal razor to remove the hair, which may be easier than doing it with scissors.
The next time you need a beard trim, reach for this handy little guide; we promise you’ll thank us. Beware of chopping off too much; we don’t want to hear any disastrous beard stories. Think of the regrowth time if anything went amiss, and trim with care.
The Tale of the Epic Beard
Beards can be pretty legendary things; they can simply linger on the intermediate stage of not quite a full on beard, more of a stubbly ambivalent affair, or grow into an accumulation of some magnificent full-on facial beauty. We love them either way; a beard is a beard, all things considered. They can be short, long, frizzy or coiled. Deep burgundy or a profound russet with lingering hints of silver. Each to their own, an individual ‘beard brand’ if you will.
A year ago, amidst a hot and sticky summer, my partner decided to grow a beard. It had always been a subject of amusement that his face showed evidence of stubble even after he had just shaved, so he surrendered to the evolution of his facial hair, and the journey began. It wasn’t without its impediments and a few setbacks; I’m not going to lie. It itched and it irritated, hairs growing a few minor millimetres per day to see new light of day. And for me…it was a new experience. Suddenly my smooth man’s face was enclosed by a wall of hair, a blurry coffee haze that I had to battle through. And a kiss came with new sensations that I compared to that of a bristly broom.
And yet, three weeks down the line, we both adored it. I finally understand the beard obsession that had seized half a dozen girls in our college dorms a few years ago, as they became enamoured by the mature student with the mysterious dusky beard. It had fazed me at the time, and I allowed them to salivate over their cereal bowls pre-lecture. But now it all made sense to me. This beard was epic by all proportions, a heroic accolade to its predecessors.
Just like a man gives devotion towards the care of a new pricey pair of trainers or the latest Xbox game, the beard suddenly became mollycoddled; pampered like us ladies spoil ourselves with a facemask or new branded face cream, he treated the beard with the attention it deserved. He obtained a comb like this beauty which kept everything looking smart and sharp all day. It became a little scratchy and dry too, and brittle around the edges, and that's where Beard Oil became his new best friend; giving it a little moisture, and a bit of daily love. After a morning shower, he took to using Beard Balm, softening it between his fingers and ensuring that the little fly away hairs were kept stylish. I was impressed and a little bemused that the bathroom was used for longer than his usual few minutes.
One year later, and he's got his beauty routine perfected down to a tee.
And the beard? Yes, it’s still here. It got cut earlier in the year, but soon grew back. I missed it, and so did he. It is an Epic Beard, after all.
Every week or so I take a disposable razor and line up my beard, trimming the hairs that have gotten too long and shaving the ones that have crept up my face and down my neck.
I expect if you're reading this, you probably do some version or other of a similar routine. Perhaps yours is much more stringent, perhaps more lax. Maybe you shave daily. Maybe never.
Or perhaps you're here because you're looking to get a grooming regimen going.
My question to you today though, Brooklyn Groomers, is why do we do it?
What is it in me that makes me take the time to apply cosmetics when I scarcely take the time to make my bed or even call my family? Why do you do it? What, if anything, are you seeking to accomplish? To prove?
I imagine our answers would be as varied as our grooming routines themselves.
And that's why I find Men's Grooming such an interesting topic for exploration.
Part of the Brooklyn Grooming mantra, and one idea that founder Mckenzie Santiago returns to time after time, is that our products and brand are not intended to boost your vanity or pride, or to augment your no-doubt already-thriving ego. Instead, one of Mckenzie's goals has been to provide a line of products that you can use to take care of your body in a healthy, nutritive way to make you feel good about how you present yourself to the world.
But what you do with your products, be they Brooklyn Grooming's or not, and what role they play in your life, is strictly up to you.
Before I take a hiatus from the Brooklyn Grooming Blog, I want to leave you with a final bit of grooming advice.
Though we do not seek to promote vanity, your sense of self and where you belong in this world are of utmost importance. Some believe that personality itself is simply the performance of our own personal identities.
I believe that the jokes we make, the sides we argue and the points we seek to prove through spirited conversation are our efforts to carve out a niche---to leave a mark---to shout from that proverbial rooftop, "this is who I am!"
The face we show the world, the care we take in its presentation, is an extension of that primal urge to matter.
What does it say to the stranger on the street when he casually notices that my beard is a shimmery, soft tuft of fur to be envied? What do people believe about me when I enter a room having obviously taken a few moments to make sure my hair is my version of "presentable"?
That I give a shit about how I'm perceived? That I'm focused on my hygiene? That I am someone who takes preparation seriously? I hope so.
More importantly than how you're perceived by others is how you perceive yourself.
If you're wearing a beard as a mask or if you're trying somehow to achieve a level of beauty in order to fill a void within yourself, perhaps you're approaching the idea of men's grooming all wrong.
So I say love the canvas you are. Decorate it to show the world outside the beauty that you recognize within. (One thing I love about Brooklyn Grooming is that all our products are natural and organic: I believe their use is a way to promote the appreciation of true, natural beauty.)
Love yourself, not because of the way you look but because of who you are.
Beauty does not lead to happiness. It's happiness that is the foundation of beauty.
Before they've even had the chance to apply our products to their hair or skin (or any place else) most of our new customers are initially impressed by the obvious care that has gone into the shipping and delivery of our products from our little studio in Brooklyn to you.
As seen in the image above (courtesy of @vitalypecherski) of a recently shipped vegan Commando Pomade, Mckenzie takes the most extraordinary pains to ensure that the great care with which she has created our products is translated also into how you receive them.
One look at the little hot plates where Mckenzie actually cooks up our line of organic goods can be a dazzling shock and reminder---since it is so hard to imagine in our culture of Wal-Mart and drug store cosmetics---that something could actually be handmade. We've all seen the images of those conveyor belts traveling under machines that do everything from add ingredients to an enormous batch of product to squirt the final concoction into packages before sealing and drooping them into a huge bin of finished goods.
That isn't what happens here at Brooklyn Grooming. We wanted to remind you that we value quality and authenticity in our products, from the secret location where Mckenzie sources the organic essential oils and vegetable butters that go on to become our products to the precision we must employ to apply every single plastic seal and stickers designed by our graphics guru Alfie.
It's a homespun operation with a focus on artistry and detail because we understand that those things are sorely lacking in our mega-chain discount store culture. The death of the mom & pop shop hasn't meant the death of quality, handmade products.
We believe that there should be more to purchasing cosmetics than a simple cash transaction at a department store or national pharmacy chain. We believe in a personal connection between crafters and customers (especially since you're going to put this stuff on your face!) that is often overlooked in the bustle of modern society.
So we just wanted to remind you, even though we cannot shake your hand and say thank you, that the sentiment holds true: we want you to enjoy the benefits of our goods, and---just as importantly---receive them knowing they are made with heart and care, from our hands to yours.
Greetings. First off, I'm in love with Fort Greene Shave Oil. I was wondering though if I could use Pilgrim's Classic Hair Tonic by itself. Can it give clean hair an oiled look? I'm looking for a little bit of hold and a shine.
You're obviously a man of taste, as Fort Greene is my current favorite fragrance as well. I'm using the FG Facial Serum everyday, and it's truly improving my complexion by somehow evening out the color of my face. I suppose I'm losing the pink and red splotches I've had so long that I'd stopped even noticing them.
Anyway, let's talk about Pilgrim's Classic Hair Tonic. Designed as a primer to go between your hair and your styling products, its original purpose was to allow pomades, waxes and gels to cling more easily to your hair, thereby facilitating longer-lasting hairstyles that would not require mid-day maintenance.
But since our products are made simply, using only organic essential oils and elbow grease, it would never be out of the question to try them out for other purposes. Since lately I don't use pomade or hair-styling products myself, I've done just that with Pilgrim's.
My hair happens to run the gamut between oily and dry. Usually, it's dry because I've shampooed recently, the weather is particularly dry or I'm probably not maintaining the proper levels of hydration in my body. If its oily, then I've either overdone it on the pomade, or it's time for a shampoo.
My point here is that the key to proper hair care comes from being aware of your hair. Understanding the way your hair behaves and reacts to both the way you care for it and the elements is the only way you'll be able to give the hair what it needs.
Think of your hair as your pet: it can't talk to you, so you have to know it well enough to recognize what it's asking for.
When my hair is dry or unruly, I rinse it in the shower and then when it's half-dry, I rub 5 drops of Pilgrim's Classic Hair Tonic into my palms and comb it through my hair using my fingers. If it is particularly dry and feeling like its on the verge of damage, then I'll use an actual comb to ensure the tonic has been incorporated uniformly throughout my head.
The result is shine, body and a slight hold with natural movement that I prefer for my everyday look.
I've got a relatively thick head of wavy hair that tends toward dryness. So I have determined that 5 drops works for me. Make sure you use the product sparingly until you figure out exactly how much your hair needs based on your desired results.
Remember, a little goes a long way. Don't overdo it. You'll just waste perfectly good product.
Keep an eye out for other uses as well. For instance, I'm using the Tonic every time I go for a swim at my gym. It is incredible the way it completely repels the chlorine and protects my hair from the damage it would otherwise suffer. It's to the point now that if I forget my Pilgrim's at home, I don't go swimming.
Let us know how it turns out!
Do YOU have something to #AskSloan? Email him at SLOAN@BROOKLYNGROOMING.COM or tweet him at @GawkyHeartthrob.
And don't forget to tweet us at @BKGrooming !