Tag Archives: hipster

Weston couple grows beard-grooming business

When he decided not to shave during a Florida vacation last November, Roger Zerbe had no clue his whiskers would be the springboard into a new business.

“I just wanted to see how long I could stand it,” Roger told the Wausau Daily Herald (http://wdhne.ws/2c9BXcS ). He was referring to his facial hair. But the comment could also apply to his devotion to Northwoods Beard Co., the business that he and his longtime girlfriend, Dana Buehler, launched together in March. Since then, nearly all of their free time has been devoted to thinking about beards, talking about beards, producing and selling products for beards, and, in Roger’s case, continuing the cultivation of a beard.

Roger, 47, has a great beard. It’s got to be, of course, as it’s front and center in the Northwoods Beard Co. marketing strategy. The beard is red mixed liberally with gray, or vice versa, and falls a few inches below his chin. When he was manning the Northwoods Beard Co. booth at a recent Food Truck Thursday event on Wausau’s East Side, he wore a black T-shirt, black baseball cap (both sporting Northwoods Beard Co. logos) and white sunglasses. He looked like a short-shorn member of ZZ-Top, or a modern-day version of a Viking.

Dana and Roger have developed a line of more than 20 beard-related products. There are 10 versions of beard oils and balms. There are wooden beard combs. There is one version of mustache wax. There are a couple versions of T-shirts. They sell their products online, in person from a booth at arts and crafts events and Food Truck Thursday. And their products are in a few different stores, notably in Hayward and in Wisconsin Dells.

The business squarely scores on some hip trends. Roger and Dana use only natural products in their formulas. They play up the fact the products are made in Wisconsin, giving them a rugged-guy cache, while also tagging into the buy-local vibe. The Roger-designed logos spin off masculinely-centered themes of motorcycling, outdoor adventure, cycling, and retro style. Of course, there is the beard mania itself, a fashion trend that they hope won’t diminish anytime soon.

Look around, and you’re likely to see beards on a lot guys. We’re in Wisconsin, so it’s nothing new or uncommon. We’ve always had the lumberjack/farmer/hunter/fisherman vibe going on here because, well, a lot of us are lumberjacks, farmers, hunters and fishermen. But visit the trend-setting urban centers such as Los Angeles and New York, and you’ll see the craze manifest itself in beards of all shapes, sizes, colors and lengths, ranging in looks from deranged to meticulously groomed, Hercule Poirot-style.

It’s easy to get sucked into a beard vortex. Type in “beard trend” into an internet search engine and hundreds of advertisements, memes, blogs, photos pop up. Magazines such as GQ and Esquire have devoted pages of copy designed to help guys grow and trim beards.

In 2014, an associate research fellow for the Centre for Medical History at the University of Exeter in England named Alun Withey wrote a piece for the UK newspaper The Telegraph headlined: “The real reason why beards go in and out of fashion.”

Beards have been grown to exude manliness and sexual potency, instill fear in enemies and connote individuality, Withey said.

“How long this current beard trend will last, and indeed also what lies behind it, is difficult to say,” Withey wrote. “Perhaps masculinity is under threat now, from changing gender, sexual and emotional boundaries, and the pressures of modern life.”

Nor is it only a modern phenomenon. In his book 1861, about the beginning of the Civil War, author Adam Goodheart briefly veered into the subject of men’s beards.

“As early as 1844, one physician began inveighing against ‘woman faced men’ with their habit of  ’emasculating (the) face with a razor,’ even suggesting that shaving caused diseases of the throat. At the time, this was still an eccentric opinion. By the following decade, however, talk of a `beard movement’ was sweeping the nation,” Goodheart wrote. “… (A)ntebellum beards bristled with political connotations. American newspapers reported that in Europe, beards were seen as `dangerous’ tokens of revolutionary nationalism, and claimed that the Austrian and Neapolitan monarchies even went so far as to ban them. In England, they were associated with the sudden burst of militarism at the time of the Crimean War. The phenomenon — like other European fashions — reached America slightly later, and the connotations of nationalism, militarism, and revolution traveled with it.”

Roger considered none of that when he started growing his beard, nor was he following any fashion trend beefed up by coastal hipsters. He liked the idea of seeing what a beard looked like on him. And it helped that growing a beard meant he didn’t have to shave day after day after day.

Dana says she has no strong emotions pro or con about beards. She does not want to tell Roger how he should look.

“After all, I don’t want him to tell me what I should do with my hair,” she said, with a laugh.

The modern beard mania grabbed Roger by his whiskers while he was thumbing through his Facebook feed. He came across an advertisement for a beard balm and was instantly intrigued. He clicked on the ad, and learned that the only way he could get that particular product was to order it.

“Well, I’m an impatient guy,” Roger said. “When I want something, I want it now.” So Dana and he jumped into a car and started driving to Wausau-area stores that stock hair-care products. They found not a dollop of beard balm, not single drop of beard oil. So they went home, and Dana went to work on an online search of her own.

Dana and Roger met at the State College of Beauty Culture in Wausau. He was aiming to become a barber, she a stylist. So they understood the concepts behind hair-care products and what they need to accomplish. Dana also is a chemist at heart, and she took some online recipes for beard balm, added some of her own expertise and started experimenting in the couple’s kitchen. She took meticulous notes on what worked and what didn’t. And ultimately she gave Roger some beard balm to try.

He liked it. He liked it a lot.

Roger was working in a factory at the time (he now works in a customer service position for UMR, the health insurance administration company). A lot of his colleagues there wore beards, and he started talking about Dana’s homemade beard balm. He took some samples in for them to try.

“They loved it,” Roger said. “They kept saying, `You should sell this.”’

Northwoods Beard Co. was born.

They don’t know how long the beard boom will last, nor do they know where the business will take them.

At this point, Northwoods basically pays for itself, Roger and Dana say. Dana still enjoys the meticulous production of their wares, and Roger likes talking to people about beards, and helping direct the marketing campaign for the company.

Would they like to make their livings exclusively off the company?

“Sure,” Roger said. “But we’ve got no expectations. We’ll just see what happens.”

Northwoods Beard Co. aside, Roger has no plans to shave his beard.

“I’ve got a lot of time invested in it,” he said, running his fingers through it. “I would like to get it trimmed a bit though, to give it some shape.”

Man of letters: Fans leave notes at Kerouac’s former home

Letters pile up outside the vacant corner house on 10th Avenue North at 52nd Street South in St. Petersburg, Florida.

Some are folded neatly into envelopes and sent through the Post Office to jam the mailbox to overflowing.

Others are written on crinkled scrap paper, hand delivered and stuffed inside the front screen door.

Jack Kerouac, once the home’s owner, died at a St. Petersburg hospital in 1969, but you wouldn’t know it from the correspondence he receives from grateful fans of his novel “On The Road” and other works.

“You remind me to stay true to who you are and to nurture the wanderlust gene in all of us,” reads one letter, handwritten by “Cindy” on stationery adorned with colorful butterflies and flowers. “I hope you’re writing, unrestrained, with a shot & a beer.”

A nonprofit group wants to create a Kerouac museum from the 1,700-square-foot, one-story house, built in 1963 and valued today at about $190,000. But John Sampas, Kerouac’s brother-in-law and executor of his estate, told the Tribune last week he has changed his mind and doesn’t want to sell.

Meanwhile, the letters keep pouring in.

“It’s become a cosmic mailbox that can reach the heavens,” said Pat Barmore of St. Petersburg, president of the Friends of the Jack Kerouac House, which took care of the house until a property manager was hired a year ago.

Tour buses also park out front so sightseers can try peering through the curtains inside, Barmore said.

Margaret Murray, secretary of the friends group, said she rarely drives by without seeing fans in the yard or parked across the street, catching a glimpse of where their hero lived.

“Drive by tomorrow and you’ll likely see someone staring at it,” she said. “Visit a few days after the current stack of letters are taken away, and there will be new ones.”

With permission from executor Sampas, the Tribune read a handful of the notes recently left inside the screen door.

“Cynthia” of Texas put her thoughts on yellow Post-it notes. She said she not yet read “On The Road” but plans to as soon as she returns home from her Florida vacation.

“I feel blessed to have been able to drink your favorite drink at your favorite bar ‘Flamingo,”” she wrote, speaking of The Flamingo Sports Bar at 1230 Ninth St. N., St. Petersburg, where Kerouac spent time during a stint in the area that stretched from 1964 to his death on October 21, 1969, at the age of 47.

His favorite drink, according to the Flamingo, was a shot of a whiskey with a beer wash.

“I hope you are writing in peace wherever you are!” Cythia added.

Another letter written on a small piece of lined, white paper is signed “Friend of Jack” and says, “I prefer to think of myself as a free spirit and a person who follows a path of her own choosing. You have always been my inspiration.”

It’s a common theme, Barmore said — appreciative fans making a pilgimage to a site associated with their idols.

One prominent example, Murray noted, is the burial place in Paris of “Doors” frontman Jim Morrison.

Throngs of tourists surround Morrison’s grave. Gifts are left. Some people scribble on the tombstone.

“I think people still reach out to Jack Kerouac out of a desire to connect with something bigger than themselves,” said Kristy Anderson, a filmmaker producing a documentary on Kerouac’s life in Florida. “He has touched the lives of many and will continue to.”

Kerouac’s longtime friend, musician David Amram, said he believes the late author would appreciate the attention.

“This new generation has come to Kerouac by reading his books, as he wanted,” Amram said. “That is opposite to what he felt happened when he was alive.”

Kerouac struggled with his fame because he thought it had more to do with his pop culture identity than his books, Amram said.

“He would say, ‘They are ignoring me,’?” Amram said. “And then he would say in his Lowell, Massachusetts, accent, ‘I’m an author, I’m a writer, why don’t they read my book?’ Even in the times before reality TV, when being a celebrity seduced most people, he was a modest person who didn’t want that. He only wanted people to read his books.””

Amram believes this contributed to the alcoholism that would kill Kerouac.

“People looked to him to perform for them, to be the Jack Kerouac character they envisioned rather than himself. They expected him to be a vocal leader in this new movement. He just wanted to write.”

There were two sides of the St. Petersburg version of Kerouac, filmmaker Anderson said _ one who wished to be left alone by fans who would stalk the house and one who openly pined for attention.

This Dr. Jekyll half usually appeared with some liquid encouragement, Anderson said.

“That Jack was usually the drunken Jack. And he drank a lot while living here. As much as he sometimes hated his fame, he would also go to a party and introduce himself as the ‘famous Jack Kerouac.’?”

On another occasion, she said, Kerouac and a friend were at an upscale bar in the Tampa Bay area dressed like “bums” and very drunk. The gameshow “Jeopardy” was on the television and the answer in need of a question was “He wrote ‘On The Road.’?”

“His friend, who wants to remain anonymous, said Jack jumped up and started yelling, ‘Me. I did.’ And they were kicked out,” Anderson said. “I don’t think the bartender believed he was Kerouac and thought he was just a loud drunk.”

A typewritten letter from Kerouac to his agent from September 1968 recently was sold by Boston-based RR Auction. Who made the purchase has not been announced, and it is up to the buyer whether to go public.

The letter was a pitch for his next book, to be titled “Spotlight.” He died before he could finish it.

“Spotlight” was to be an autobiography on the years following his rise to fame from “On The Road.”

“That would have been a fascinating account,” Anderson said. “It may have included his time in Florida.”

Among the episodes described in Kerouac’s letter are bar fights in a number of cities, bad experiences during television appearances and his frustration over people always recognizing him in public.

“I order my lunch but everybody’s yakking so much around me I begin to realize right then and there that ‘success’ is when you can’t enjoy your food anymore in peace,” he wrote, speaking of a meal experience in New York.

The auctioned letter was written in Kerouac’s native town of Lowell, during a brief visit away from St. Petersburg.

But considering St. Petersburg was his full-time home at the time, it is possible the book might have been written here, which would have added further allure to his local home, Anderson said.

The Friends of the Jack Kerouac House wants to buy the author’s house and use it in a way that honors Kerouac. Barmore, the group’s president, was disappointed to learn it’s off the market but said the group will keep raising money in case it becomes available. Options they’ve discussed include a Kerouac museum, a rent-free residence for talented writers where they could concentrate on their work, and moving it to a local college campus for a writing program.

The next time friend Amram vacations in Florida, he plans to stop by the house and perhaps leave a note of his own.

“I am so happy that people are still moved by his words and go out of their way to thank him,” he said. “Fortunately, Jack’s beautiful spirit has survived.”

One letter left at the home by “Jackie Z,” written on a piece of paper torn from a notebook, speaks of how Kerouac’s spirit has affected her. The letter seems to capture Amram’s own memory of his friend.

“When your books became popular, maybe it wasn’t like the be all end all experience, but I respect that so much,” Jackie Z says. “You wrote your personal, beautiful books not for glory or fame, but because you needed to write, needed to commemorate the people you met & experiences you had because they were transformative, colorful, MAD. You’re pretty mad & you lived it right.”

Save face — get a beard transplant

They hail from the trendy neighborhoods of Bushwick or Bedford-Stuyvscent, they hold jobs in advertising or Web design and they seem the very model of the modern Brooklyn hipster.

Yet there is one thing they lack — and all the skinny jeans and tweed blazers in Williamsburg will not make up the deficit. They need a beard.

To remedy this deficiency, increasing numbers of would-be hipsters have begun visiting plastic surgery clinics in Manhattan to have facial hair transplants.

At a clinic a few blocks from Central Park, Dr. Yael Halaas used to fill her days performing Botox injections and facelifts on a largely female clientele. “But recently we’ve been seeing these young guys in their 20s who want beards,” she said.

Some have grown beards with patches missing, and in more extreme cases Halaas must start from scratch.

“Some men can’t grow a beard, particularly certain ethnicities,” she said. “Frequently, Asian men have difficulties, and some Hispanic men can also have a hard time to grow one.”

They live in Brooklyn, where eight out of 10 hip-cats prefer whiskers.

While many clinics offer hair transplants as treatment for baldness, transplants to the face “require a more artistic sensibility and technique,” Halaas said. During the surgery, which takes a day and is performed under local anesthetic, hairs are mined from the head, or individually removed and replanted in the face. She might perform 1,500 individual grafts “depending on what we are starting from.”

Patients often ask her to model their beards “after musicians from Indy bands whom I mostly haven’t heard of,” she said. She also gets requests from men who want beards that will help them to look more like the actors Jake Gyllenhaal or Ryan Gosling.

She has performed about 40 such procedures over the past year, and is by no means the only plastic surgeon in New York now engaged in upholstering the faces of trendy young men.

Several other plastic surgeons have reported the same demand for a procedure that can cost as much as $7,000.

The news provoked considerable surprise among members of the Gotham City Beard Alliance, a facial hair lobby group.

“I’m looking forward to talking about it at our next meeting,” said Joe Minkiewicz, 32, director of product development at the tech company Prolific Interactive. His beard measures eight inches from lip to tip.

“Hipster culture was meant to be underground, cutting-edge a couple of years ago,” he said. “Now it’s just like any other culture, and you are going to do whatever you have to, to fit into this mold. If that means having a great beard, then that’s what people do.”

However, he opposes the idea of getting one through surgery. “You should be comfortable with whatever growth you have,” he said.