Remember that scene in the matrix where Neo notices he doesn’t have a socket in the back of his head when he’s plugged into the Matrix? I’ve thought about that scene a lot in the past 18 years. I don’t obsess over the movie*, but it’s a really interesting idea. In the Matrix, you are what your brain projects you to be. Whatever your brain thinks you look like, that’s what you see, and feel about yourself. It’s a really crazy premise to wrap your mind around; especially because it turns out it’s true in real life as well.
I’ve read some studies that say that the person you see in the mirror each morning isn’t you: It’s your brains projection of yourself. I mean obviously not entirely, as you’ll see zits even if you didn’t know about them before. But the overall self image (am I fat, skinny, attractive, hideous, etc.) is all about what your brain thinks about itself, and it will hide or change certain imperfections in order to maintain it’s world view. It’s one reason why you tend to look different in pictures than what you think you look like, and one reason you hate listening to your own voice on that Podcast recording you’re practicing for.
This is getting vaguely intellectual. What I’m trying to say is that I don’t picture myself as a guy with a beard.
I haven’t used a razor on my face in a few years. I still subscribe to Dollar Shave Club, but that’s mostly for other toiletries and my fiance’s legs. I either use a beard trimmer or nothing. However, in my head, I’m still baby-faced. The beard is just a phase**. It’s not that I don’t see it in the mirror, obviously I do, but it took me a while to realize that when people see me for the first time, they categorize me as “bearded guy”. It still kinda weird to wrap my head around, as to me, I’m a guy just trying out growing a beard to see how it feels (for the last few years).
While coming to grips with my new self-image, I was watch Binging With Babish on YouTube. If you haven’t seen this channel yet, I highly recommend it. It’s a cooking channel where he makes recipes from TV, Movies, and even Video Games. Anyway, on a behind the scenes episode he answers the question of how he has such a full, illustrious beard, and he mentioned that he uses an assortment of beard shampoos, softeners, and oils. Realizing that my beard could also use some filling out and extra style, I decided to pursue some products of my own. So that’s how we got here.
I had heard of BeardBrand on Reddit a while back, and I know from there that they had an appearance on Shark Tank, which is that one show with the investors. I don’t watch a ton of TV, but as a consumer of entrepreneurial products, it is an interesting concept to me. The owners of BeardBrand are fairly active on Reddit, and even have their own subreddit, /r/beardbrand. Am I going to post this there? You’re god damned right I am.
First hurdle was what to order. I’m no beard expert. You don’t need to be a mechanic to drive a car. I decided that I’d like my beard to be softer, and so beard softener seemed correct. And that is supposed to be used along side beard shampoo, so I got that too. A cleaner beard can’t hurt.
Second hurdle: what scent? Should I match scents? Does Lumber Yard match with Tree Ranger? I have no idea what any of these things smell like. The internet needs scratch and sniff technology. I decided to go with the same scent, Tree Ranger, for both products, because that seemed to be the best way to not screw this up.
The products are a bit pricey. I paid 11 dollars for each 2-ounce bottle of this stuff, plus shipping. That’s about the same price per ounce as Johnny Walker Blue.
Granted, you don’t use much of it per wash, and the 11 dollars should last you quite a bit longer than a bottle of whiskey lasts in front of your alcoholic uncle Carl.
I received the products a few days later, and started using them the next day. The biggest thing I can say is these things are POTENT. When I got out of the shower my fiancé could smell me from the next room. It’s a good scent, I very much like the smell of whatever a Tree Ranger is, but it will knock you back if you’re not ready.
After a couple weeks of use, the fiancé says that my beard feels softer. It’s hard for me to tell. I can say that I’ve felt more comfortable letting it grow out, and so it is definitely fuller. I think I made a mistake in not also ordering beard oil and balm, which are used to moisturize and style the beard. I was under the impression that it would grow in and look great, and while it’s okay looking, it’s a bit puffy. I feel like I should style it like I style my hair now.
I got a chance to meet up with the BeardBrand founders here in Austin, TX. They sent out an email, presumably to all their customers that live in or around Austin, that they were going to be in town, at a bar, and that we should come meet up. So we said “why not?”, and went out to Weather Up, which is a bar on the east side. They have good drinks, it’s nice. Go.
I didn’t actually talk to them, though. I did notice the bearded guys sitting in the corner booth, but it was an awkward place to walk up and introduce yourself. They all would have been at crotch height: I didn’t feel comfortable. I’m awkward. So we hung out at the bar for a bit, gave my card out to a guy we ended up conversating with, and then left.
All in all, if you’re looking for beard products, I would recommend the BeardBrand line. I don’t have a ton of beard products to compare them to, but these seem like good ones. I’ll probably try out the beard balm and oil next.
* I DON’T, MOM. I JUST LIKE IT OKAY? I DON’T NEED TO GO OUTSIDE
** NO IT’S NOT, MOM