Beards, Logo Controversies and Mustache Tips: We Interview the Father of The Bearded Brethren
We recently sat down with Andrew "AJ" Boswell to chat about his beard care company, The Bearded Brethren. Having worked with Andrew on a number of product and model shoots, we wanted to know more about how he's turned a growing beard into a growing brand.
Waxwing Media: How did the Bearded Brethren come about?
Andrew Boswell: Officially, I launched The Bearded Brethren in October of 2016, but the idea to start making beard oil came in early 2014. For the longest time, I was able to grow a goatee but I couldn't grow a full beard, so I stopped shaving and started surfing YouTube for some tips. One thing that kept popping up was beard oil. I had no idea what it was at the time, but I was instantly hooked because as a kid, I liked playing with glass bottles. I wanted to be a chemist, I wanted to work with liquids. So I thought, maybe if I can get good at this, I can turn it into a living.
WM: The beard care market has exploded in recent years. What separates you from the rest of the competition?
AB: Even though I'm going to offer my own scents, I want to empower my clients to customize their own product to suit their exact wants and needs. And the magic word there is custom. I want the customer to have the potential to pick their favorite scents, mix and match oils, and even come up with their own name for it. So it's specifically going to be for you, there's not gonna be another one like it unless you order it again.
WM: What's been the most challenging part of establishing your own brand?
AB: The biggest struggle has been finding the motivation to keep going. Obviously there's a lot of competition out there that's already established, so that thought gets discouraging at times. I've had people sample my product, I've gotten good reviews, and I've gotten a few reviews that are, you know, teaching points - like if something's too potent or too greasy. Also with having a day job, you get home at 9 o'clock at night, and it’s easy just to say, I'll do it tomorrow. But I'm determined, I've set goals for myself that are pretty high, and as I better myself as a person, I know I can better my company. And if I can better my company, I will succeed.
WM: What have you learned while working to overcome those struggles?
AB: Sometimes, all it takes is the support and appreciation of a stranger. When I first launched on Facebook, I put out a competition where people submitted pictures of their beard or mustache to win a free tin of balm that I made. And one of the winners was in Belgium. The tin arrived after a couple of weeks, but he was beyond happy with it. And that was really eye-opening, the fact that somebody outside the country who I've never met before is interested in buying more. That makes me want to keep doing it!
WM: You currently offer oils, balms, and mustache wax - what else is in the works?
AB: I want to get at least one new scent, incorporating something along the lines of whisky or rum. I believe Scotch, whisky, rum - those symbolize a man. The idea of a whisky-scented oil just screams “manliness” to me. You know, that old-fashioned man who comes home from a hard day’s work - after fixing a car, chopping wood, building something barehanded, barefoot - and has a glass of Scotch to unwind. And as men, we all have something tangible that makes us feel manly. Whether it's a pocket knife, a handkerchief, a wallet, some kind of heirloom or ring. Your beard, your beard products. I want to bring that to the forefront. And as far as other products go, I'm working on making pomades.
WM: What's a pomade?
AB: It’s an ointment, basically, something to help style your hair and keep it in place. I've got a lot of research ahead of me, and I'm going to be experimenting with different ingredients and mixing styles. I’m definitely interested in getting some small batches made and sampling some products out, getting constructive criticism from people so I know what to tweak and go from there.
WM: Can you tell us about your own beard care regimen?
AB: In the morning, I’ll towel dry my beard in the direction I want it to grow, to help kind of train it. Once it's dry, I'll oil it up - about 4 or 5 drops, 2-3 times a week. Then I'll follow up with some balm, which I use every day. And the balm that I have right now, it's more of a cross between a moisturizing and control balm, which I'll keep with me throughout the day. If I go to the gym, when I'm done showering, I'll comb my beard and apply some balm. It helps control your facial hair and keeps it moisturized. Sometimes if I have a little excess, I’ll rub it on my arms as lotion. It adds a really nice shine to the rest of my hair, too.
WM: How do you feel about mustache ends - curled up or slicked down?
AB: I love the idea of curled up mustaches! Britt, for example, has an amazing mustache. I haven't seen one that amazing in person except that photoshoot, but I like that idea. I have the beard, I just lack the mustache! You know, I got up in the morning thinking I’d curl it, and I was met with a terrible fate that I couldn't really do it. So right now I'm learning how to grow my mustache without touching it - even though it's hard, because every time you eat a sandwich, you get some leftovers stuck in your whiskers!
WM: On a more serious note, there have been some concerns regarding your logo design. What’s your take on all this design controversy?
AB: In all seriousness, it's not a nod to the Freemasons or anything. To piggyback on the question of my biggest challenge, I guess the second challenge would be creating the logo and the name. I love the square and compass look. I've always loved it. I don't really care what it means, I'm not associated with that. I understand where I took the inspiration from, obviously, but I’ve simply adapted the design elements - a straight razor, two combs, and obviously a depiction of TBB. The beard, monocle, the hat. I've seen a lot of other companies use their own interpretation of a square and compass. To me, it's basic marketing. And it's a conversation starter, for sure.
WM: How did you come up with the brand name?
AB: That's a funny story, because it literally came to me in a dream. I made an effort to keep a pen and a notebook near my bed, just to start recording my dreams. And I had a dream one night, almost a year ago, and TBB was in it, so I wrote it down. I didn't remember it when I woke up until I looked in the book. So I did a little digging - it's not trademarked, it's not being used, and I'm like, this is it! It's a brotherhood of beards. You and I were strangers at one point, but anybody you meet with a beard in public, you've instantly got that mutual connection. I want my product to emphasize on brotherhood. I want people to not only think of it as a beard company but also know the fact that if you have a beard, you are part of something greater.
WM: Any final words of whiskered wisdom you’d like to share?
AB: Keep growing your beards! Don't cut them. If you have patchiness in your beard, don't shave it. Just let it go! My hair grows extremely slow, but I haven’t seen my bare face since 2013. I've trimmed it here and there, and I've had mess-ups, but I think it's an important skill to learn how to trim your own beard. You can go to barbers, give them business, but as a beardsman, I think it’s essential that you know how to trim your own beard. Cut it, trim it, style it, it's part of the trade. And hopefully in the future, on my website I can include products to help sculpt it. But in the meantime, check out my current products - I don't care if your hair's a millimeter long or 10 inches long, beard oil is for everybody!
Check out The Bearded Brethren at thebeardedbrethren.com