Behind the Scenes with Bold Beardsmen
Before the end of the old year (is that a thing? are people saying that?) and as a memorable introduction into the new year, I got to go behind the scenes of a short film hosted by the founders of Bold Beardsmen, a grooming line that targets bearded men of color (did it get hot in here? *fans self*). Neville Hall Jr. and Tony Aniagba founded the line of grooming tools and kits. What I found, though, was that Bold Beardsmen is clearly more than that. The need and creation of this line offers and addresses a unique social perspective which made the event all the while more enjoyable.
The "behind-the-scenes" took place in a Brooklyn barbershop—the setting of which I’m sure one or two Spike Lee joints have been filmed. Whether coincidentally or not, this culturally relevant setting informed the rest of my experience there. While there, most of the conversations that ensued included social justice issues and the implications of wearing a beard--experiences I didn't realize had so much depth or magnitude. Accompanying the conversations, was a sense of comfort and familiarity despite the fact that I hadn't met most of the people before. Needless to say, it was pretty awesome.
The event taught me to recognize the significance of beards in a variety of cultures. Beliefs manifest in appearance and that appearance impacts the way these men interact with the outside world. One of the features of the film, Chef Leon Jardinè noted the religious significance of wearing a beard and the important standard grooming sets for a younger generation. While Antonio Sosa, closely associates his facial hair with his manhood--an image his father created for him. Randolph Dent III summed everything up when he argued his beard is him. His identity, his childhood, and his sense of self are prefaced by his beard. Understanding the different reasons why men of color keep their beards, Neville had to say that, "overall, I always felt like Black men were wild cards. People are either threatened or surprised about what they offer. We want to make sure they're confident in the way they present themselves." He went on to describe a man's beard as his coat of armor, a comparison I'm sure underlies the opinions shared that day and why these grooming products are so important.
I asked Neville what he thought the phenomenon meant for Black men en masse and he had this to say:
"It's a lane that no one else drives in except for us. No other culture touches the hems of our garments. As far as hair and clothes go, it's time for us to own."
Hall was also candid about the power he knows Black women wield and gave us credit for leading the charge. The natural hair movement, he says, has changed the way women beautify themselves and has also set the stage for how men care for themselves.
The goal of Bold Beardsmen is an interesting and noble one: it creates a collaboration of grooming, self-assurance and social awareness. It prepares men for the days that lie before them and the way they'll be perceived. What’s most important about this product and the men behind it is that they’re creating a story and sharing it intracommunally. Though, I’m not sure whether that's a word, the impact of these shared experiences among those who have a similar backgrounds defines and validates identities.
Preparing men of color for the myriad issues they face each day, not only is the duo authentic, their product is organic and one hundred percent natural.
You can learn more about the company and do some fun shopping at www.boldbeardsmen.com.
Ruth Jean-Marie is a graduate of New York University where she received her Master’s of Science degree in Global Affairs. Dedicating her life to the alleviation of misery around the world, her greatest goal is to become a superhero. Her interests include fashion, equality for women and Black people--that real equality, not the surface level stuff, traveling around the world and writing. She's excited about life and intends on living it. She also has a mild obsession with shoes, shopping and sharing her opinion. You'll hear all about it. Follow Ruth on Twitter at @lesocialnomad and on Instagram at @lesocialnomad and @toharrietwithlove.