I have a love-hate relationship with beards. I love how they look. I hate how they scratch my skin, tickle my nose, and generally assault my face. And being married to a bearded fellow, I’m just peripheral to this abuse—I can’t imagine what it’s like to walk around wearing one of those things.
But it turns out that it’s possible to have a glorious beard that doesn’t torture you or your loved ones. You just have to take a few steps to care for it. I sat down with Patrick Brown, co-owner of facial hair product purveyor Ohio Valley Beard Supply, to discuss mustache wax, famous beards throughout history, and the plight of the modern man. And yes, I’ve personally felt Brown’s beard, and it is soft like a baby bunny.
CM: What inspired you to start caring for your own beard?
PB: I’ve had facial hair since I was 12. I’m Italian. And the hairs are coarse, stiff, and prickly as hell—like little redwoods. Unaided, my beard is wild. No one wants to come near it. So it’s a management system. My business partner is Scott Ponder, who co-owns the Northside Chop Shop. He’s the formulator, I handle design. Our first product was the beard elixir.
CM: How has male grooming evolved?
PB: Most guys have a row of things in their bathroom—we’re pared down. That ritual is so masculine. Men are realizing that it’s OK not to be so stoic all the time. The modern man isn’t necessarily that dude. But the beard ties us back to our masculine roots.
CM: What types of products do you recommend?
PB: If you don’t know where to begin, just start with oil. It will soften your beard. If you have a small to medium beard, that’s probably all you need. I use shampoo and conditioner, oil, and balm. The conditioner works without sitting on top and adding a lot of build-up. The oil softens. The balm helps shape. And if you have a bodacious mustache, you can use the wax. It will keep the mustache out of your nose (and your lady’s nose).
CM: What does Ohio Valley Beard Supply do well?
PB: We don’t use fragrance oils—just essential oils and vitamin E. We like to be pretty straightforward—no bullshit. But we have scents that work for different types of guys, and they’re named after famous bearded men. The Hemingway is woodsy and citrusy (it has juniper, cedar, and grapefruit); The Darwin is scented with tea tree, sandalwood, and fir needle; The Ginsberg has rosemary and lemon; The Melville has bay rum, clove, and black pepper; and the Lincoln is scented with vetiver, pine sage, and sandalwood. And the Marx is unscented because, well, Marx. But we’re not caricatures; we’re just dudes with beards.