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News of the Beard
Beards have undergone a renaissance of sorts in the 2010s. Thanks to their resurgence, Sooner State men have no shortage of products, salons, and shops to make caring for their facial hair easier.
Illustration by JJ Ritchey
One writer takes a journey through the shops, stores, and salons helping Oklahoma’s bearded men keep their faces fashionable.
By James McGirk
Published March/April 2015
Oklahoma is one of the country’s most beard-friendly states. The American Mustache Institute, a St. Louis-based group advocating for the rights of mustachioed Americans since 1965, ranked Oklahoma City the nation’s fourth-most facial-hair-friendly metro. They achieved this humorous ranking using data like monster truck ownership and the number of nightclubs admitting adult males wearing tank tops. Tulsa wasn’t far behind at number 32 out of 100. Humor notwithstanding, in recent years, beards have become as common on men as whiskers on a walrus.
I joined the bearded in New York City a few years ago through a combination of neglect and life in a rough neighborhood. Like a puffer fish or barn owl, I figured a tuft or two would help disguise the smaller creature underneath. My beard is long and black with silver streaks that make me look like I’m drooling milk.
Eventually, my wife Amy and I moved to Tahlequah. One day, a red pickup slowed down beside me in a parking lot so a bearded youngster could shout, “Hey, man, that’s a nice beard!” Later, an old fellow in a wheelchair tapped me with his cane and asked if I was a rabbinical scholar.
At first I took this as gentle invective: Okie humor has an amiable, teasing edge to it. Maybe it was silly to sport such a large beard. I suggested shaving it off to Amy. “Why would you do that?” she asked. I mentioned the teasing. “Every single one of those guys had a beard,” she said. “Those were compliments.”
Amy suggested I have a proper trim to get a little perspective. At the Straight Edge salon in downtown Tahlequah, I watched the proprietor, Emily Hullinger, expertly tame a tangled ginger mane. After a last dusting of talcum powder to prevent itchiness, her client stood up, looking delighted. Hullinger dropped her scissors into a bottle of blue disinfectant and swiveled the barber chair—once owned by Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker’s grandfather, a barber—toward me. The Straight Edge has been open since October 2014, and Hullinger stays busy.
“You see all those scissors soaking in disinfectant?” she says. “Each one is a client.”
Hullinger’s salon has an elegant, masculine look—dark wood, plush leather, black-and-white photos, glassware. Hullinger sells her own line of beard balm and conditioner, essential for containing straggles and keeping a beard glossy. Farther down Tahlequah’s Muskogee Avenue, a new clothing store, Boulevard, sells shaving kits and beard-care products and hosts meetings of the Tahlequah Beard Association.
Oklahoma’s beard associations are fiercely competitive. Members often win at beard and mustache contests all over the country. In Oklahoma City, there’s the champion OKC Beard Club, and Tulsa has its Tulsa Bearded Awesomeness Guild.
In addition to fellowship, the bearded gent has more accessories to choose from these days. At Tulsa’s Boomtown Tees and on Etsy.com, Macie McBroom and Keith McAdams, owners of The Bee and Bear, sell fabric ties, mustache waxes, scarves, and beard oils. Taking another tack is Sylva Pagana, run by “Madame Theodora” and “Bruno the Bearded,” the alter-egos of Jones-based husband-and-wife team Patterson and Delaney Martin. Their online shop is dedicated to the art and alchemy of perfumes, colognes, and curiosities.
Sylva Pagana sold me a thick beard conditioner scented with dark patchouli and cocoa butter. I teach a class at Tulsa University, and I put the conditioner on before my lecture one day and forgot to daub it off. While I was standing over a hot projector, the scent spilled out. One of my students piped up.
“I smell something odd, a combo of coffee and cleaning supplies,” he said.
A shy and pretty Canadian student turned around. “Well, whatever it is, I like it,” she said.
Illustration by JJ Ritchey
Get There: The Straight Edge: 514 South Muskogee Avenue in Tahlequah, (918) 207-2098. Boulevard: 308 North Muskogee Avenue in Tahlequah, (918) 506-4419. The Bee and Bear is available at Boomtown Tees, 114 South Elgin Avenue in Tulsa. (918) 938-6000 or boomtowntees.com. Sylva Pagana is available at stores, craft fairs, and online. sylvapagana.com. Carwin’s Shave Shop: 5710 North Classen Boulevard in Oklahoma City, (405) 607-1197 or carwinsshaveshop.com. Elephant in the Room Men’s Grooming Lounge: 1609 South Boston Avenue and 8931 South Yale Avenue in Tulsa, (918) 877-2219 or eitrlounge.com. Razor’s Edge Barber Shop: 2018 East Eleventh Street in Tulsa, (918) 408-5823. Weldon Jack: 3621 North Western Avenue in Oklahoma City, (405) 241-5660 or weldonjack.com.