Men’s grooming has exploded over the past five years or so. One of the earliest “men’s grooming experts” I remember was Kyan Douglas, who starred in Bravo’s hit series Queer Eye for the Straight Guy. Since then, Kyan has continued his career as a men’s grooming guru on television and in a new partnership with men’s grooming brand JS Sloane. I recently had the opportunity to speak with Kyan about that new partnership and get some of his thoughts on current men’s grooming trends, masculinity, idendity and what the future holds.
Brian Sacawa: Let’s talk about men’s grooming trends first. There seem to be two main things going on – the Mad Men-esque side part, which I’m obviously a fan of, and the large well-manicured beard. On the surface these seem to be diametrically opposed, but might they be a little more connected than we think?
Kyan Douglas: Yes, there are definitely two kinds of things going on right now – the “Don Draper” side part and “lumbersexual” beard culture, as you mention. Both of these things are about men grappling with a sense of identity, especially during a time when gender roles and men’s identity are up in the air. We’ve gone through times with huge movements for women’s rights, minority rights, and gay rights. But what about the straight white guy? He’s having to figure out who he is in the midst of all that.
We are always growing and evolving and I think we’re starting to see a recalibration of what it means to be a man in America these days – an older model of masculinity that is clear and acceptable. In terms of beard culture, it’s also a reaction to a different mode of masculinity and a desire to touch base with something that is simple, authentic, and centered in itself. On the surface, we see a huge aesthetic difference between guys who embrace the dapper look versus the lumbersexual look, but they’re very similar in that they are both ways men are exploring identity and trying to find a way to express an authentic self.
BS: You’ve had many amazing opportunities throughout your career. Why have you chosen to work with JS Sloane.
KD: Things happened organically with the brand. In general, I don’t chase things, I prefer to let them unfold. Joann [Kuno, creator of JS Sloane] contacted me and sent some products, which I started using personally. People in makeup room at the Rachel Ray show said my hair was looking great and then Joann asked me to help her develop a new product. Through that collaboration we discovered a mutual interest in the history of barbering and men’s grooming products.
BS: How does JS Sloane fit in to current men’s grooming trends for the American Barber?
KD: In principle, it’s a very practical perspective – classic men’s grooming products are necessary for that and the nouveau barber experience. JS Sloane has really gone back and been inspired by that old Hollywood dapper barbershop experience. Functionality is spot on. The products are simple, straightforward, and innovative. They’re also water-based and very user friendly.
BS: You and Joann hit it off so well she agreed to go on a cross-country road trip/barbershop tour with you! Tell us about that.
KD: It’s called “Celebrating the American Barber” and it came about from our shared interest in barbershop evolution. Think about it. We went from 80s androgony to 90s salon culture to 2000s metrosexual. How does that happen? I also just like road trips and wanted to go around, check out shops all across the country, and tell the story of the new American barber.
BS: There are a lot of men’s grooming lines out there now. How does JS Sloane differ from other men’s brands.
KD: There’s a really strong connection to the feel of the old world barber shop, old world grooming products, and old Hollywood. It’s inspired by that moment in time from the approach to barbering to the packaging. Their customer service is very old school as well – products ship same day.
BS: Alright, take out your crystal ball and tell us where men’s grooming is headed.
KD: Tough question! I wish I could predict the future. However, the spirit of what drives men to make choices becomes acceptable in a lot of different ways. I see more space for people to be individuals with fewer and fewer people jumping on trends.
Isn’t that refreshing?
Over the past month or so, I’ve given most of the JS Sloane line a try – minus the beard oil, of course. I can vouch for Kyan when I say that it’s very easy to work with. The Mediumweight Brilliantine is one of my favorites. It keeps my hair in place but doesn’t look like I’ve got product in. Plus, it’s flexible enough that I can still run my fingers through it, which has become something of a reflex.
I hope you enjoyed this interview with Kyan as much as I did. Leave your thoughts on men’s grooming trends in the comments. And do let us know if you like interviews like this. It’s something that I’d love to do more of in the future.
Thanks for reading.
He Spoke Style