On the Current Status and Future Projections of the Pomade Market
I N T R O D U C T I O N
At the core of being The Pomp is acting as a connoisseur of pomade and a handful of other hair styling products. In this public role, I have had the privilege of speaking and working with some of the most prominent members and brands in the Pomade Market. At the same time, I have observed a few brewers start from their kitchen and grow into a fully optimized pomade-brewery. Being The Pomp has given me access to this rare perspective. On a parallel, being an engineering student at Stanford and residing near Silicon Valley have unconsciously pushed me to take on an analytic point of view. Not only with individual pomade reviews, but rather, I spend a lot of time speculating and forecasting general trends in the Pomade Market. This allows me to keep this blog aligned with the Zeitgeist.
The purpose of this short essay is to share the knowledge that has been built up under the name of The Pomp and begin a discussion on where the Pomade Market currently resides and the direction it is headed. To a new user, this essay can act as your quick catch-up to what the Pomade Market can offer you and where you reside within it. To the brewer, you can very well use this as white paper to help plan your business and (re)formulate your products for the future. To a fellow reviewer/connoisseur, this will hopefully act as a welcome to join the conversation. And lastly, to the experienced user, this essay will show you the power you hold (as a consumer) to shape this market as you would like.
P O M A D E M A R K E T
When I use the term, Pomade Market, I am referring to everything pomade-related from the product to the consumer to the business that creates or sells you the product. This includes the PR agencies that publicize for big name brands, reviewers such as myself, brand ambassadors, and anyone else who has even looked at a jar of pomade before. However, in this essay, the specific aspect we will focus on is the product-side of the Pomade Market. So, I am referring to everything from traditional oil-based pomades to new water-based pomades. This also includes texturizing goops and clays.
U P U N T I L N O W
Home-brewing pomades has been an alternative to purchasing mass-manufactured goods for some time now. The process for a basic pomade is simple but can be made as complicated as you would like. Up until the the last half-decade or so, the majority (if not all) home-brewed products were based on relatively simple formulas. In other words, they rarely departed from a petrolatum, wax, and oil formula. Admittedly, there is a lot of variation that can be generated from changing the quantity relationship between each ingredient. Nevertheless, each product embodied what I would like to refer to as single-purpose.
A heavy hold grease (i.e. Murray's Superior Hold) could only serve a single purpose which was usually for support and structure. This typically was not enough for the user and to accommodate this, the user would use another single-purpose pomade (i.e. Murray's Super Shine) to add slickness and shine. The market was saturated with single-purpose pomades and so, people were willing to accommodate because they simply didn't know better. Instead of viewing the formulas as a guideline, they were seen as something one was obligated to abide by.
However, as with many other industries, the makers eventually learned that could expand upon what has been done in order to break forward. In recent years, we have seen an enormous growth in variety and scope with home-brewed pomades.
*** Please note that there is a lot more to the history of pomade and home-brewing. However, we are focused on the current status and future of this market. Thus, the information was omitted.
T H E S I T U A T I O N T O D A Y
With the rise and trending of the pompadour as a hair style, the Pomade Market has experience unbelievable growth. What was then a niche market has now become almost sustainable for someone to quit their job and become a full-time home-brewer. However, how long will this trend last? When will the next hairstyle take over? It is important to maintain visual clarity and see that this IS a trend. An inability to be cognizant of this fact is proof that you are an exemplary follower of trends.
As the market currently sits, it can be simplified into three categories. The first is the beauty companies such as American Crew and got2b. They are not focused on pomade specifically and offer a variety of products that span the entire category of hygiene. They target the average Joe that shops for pomade in Target or Walmart. The second is large-scale but pomade-specific companies such as Murray's, Royal Crown, and Dax Hair Care. They cater to the cost-weary user and rely on the idea of their lineage from classic pomade companies decades on decades ago. Essentially, there is little to no reason a user should feel limited to purchasing from either of these two categories. As I'll talk about later on, the third is the home-brewing community that has not only surpassed all else in performance, but is about to in pricing.
There has been a large amount of refinement done on the traditional oil-based formula. Notable brewers such as Steve Lockhart (Lockhart's Authentic) and Edwin Carson (Pomps Not Dead) have broken the concept of single-purpose pomades. They offer the user multi-purpose pomades. These products provide both hold and shine without sacrificing one another and all in one jar. It sounds simple because we are now accustomed to the idea. However, this is a concept that swooped in and took over very fast. Cocktailing pomade used to be a term one frequently heard about pomade discussions. However, it is now almost never said.
Over the past year or so, we have also seen a break away from tradition. A very small handful of home-brewers are now cooking up water-based pomades out of their kitchen. Prior to this, all water-based pomades were formulate and manufacturing in beauty labs across the world -- I will say more about this later. Benjamin David (Anchors Hair Company) has been at the forefront of this change on the formula side; however, I believe Clayton O'Douds (O'Douds All Natural) will be the face of this change. Anchors Shape Maker (Teddy Boy Original) and Sirens & Sailors (Teddy Boy Matte) are the first water-based pomades that truly never dried to be marketed as pomades. Based off much higher end salon-level products, Benjamin created a formula that was superior to all other water-based pomades and relatively affordable. Note that when I refer to water-based pomades, I encapsulate any hair product that is water-based and marketed as a pomade. Other water-based pomades at the time were based on the Sauvecito standard. It is important to note that this innovation was made by a home-brewer -- not a lab or big name brand. O'Douds Water-Based Pomade has also stepped into the arena of home-brewed water-based pomade but must be held distinct from Anchors. Their pomades are actually nothing alike. For more information on each product individually, please refer to the Anchors Teddy Boy Original and O'Douds WB Pomade reviews. The O'Douds WB Pomade still retains many characteristics normally associated with oil-based pomades. It provides those advantages and adopts the conveniences of a water-based pomade.
Despite this innovation, many of the large pomade-specific companies that focus on a (their) water-based pomade lineup have refused to update their pomade. They continue to sell what can better described as a gel pomade. It is a hybrid of the two types of product: pomade and gel. For example, Suavecito Pomade can style almost like a pomade (instant hold and control) but will harden up and dry after a few hours like a gel. This has many advantages. However, it also has many disadvantages for an experience pomade-user.
In short, we are currently witnessing large strides being made by home-brewers. This has exponentially increased with the introduction of brewing community forums to allow the exchange of ideas. However, larger companies remain stagnant and unwilling to update their formulas. Their new products are still based on years old formulas with a small change in scent and increase in price. As long as the home-brewers never get comfortable, we will continue to see improvement.
A Q U I C K C O M M E N T O N F O R E I G N P O M A D E
In this first paragraph, I'd like to specifically refer to the Maritime Southeast Asian countries such as Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore -- along with a few others such as Japan and Australia. These are countries where pomade was only popularized recently. In the US, the concept of pomade/brilliantine/hair dressing has existed for decades. This means they have had time to fester and develop into new products. This history is important to make sense of why a majority of the innovation is made in the US and Europe. Nevertheless, no matter where the pomade is, it is highly influence by American rockabilly or menswear culture -- both of which I have ZERO taste for. The influence is too strong and actually, stunts develop. For example, Indonesia is a Muslim and Indonesian-speaking majority nation, yet almost all their products are marketed and labeled with English. The choice to use English, despite the many typos, is representative of a desire to mimic and recreate a long-dead component of American culture. As long as they continue to simply mimic pomade formulas and look up to America, we cannot expect any innovations.
Due to some misunderstanding:
The message of the above paragraph was to point out the strong influence of American culture on Maritime Southeast Asia. It's unbelievably strong. When fixies (fixed gear bicycles) became popular in the US, they became popular over there after 1-2 years. After the pompadour and pomade began to trend in the US, it began to trend over there within the next year or so. This relationship carries the undertones of colonialism and is currently structured as a one-way path: US to Indonesia/Singapore/Malaysia. Our culture influences yours. Yours does not influence ours. Now, the purpose of the paragraph was to suggest that as long as this relationship remains, we can't expect Indonesia/Malaysia/Singapore to surpass us in pomade development. You can't surpass your teacher if you're still trying to learn from them.
Japan, on the other hand, is very interesting. There is obviously a niche-community their that fetishizes American culture (just like how we have anime communities here in the US). They are INSPIRED by American culture but not lead by it. We still this in the Cool Grease line and existence of traditional Japanese pomades such as Tancho and Yanagiya Pomade (I think these two have been popularized and manufactured outside of Japan now). These products have adopted American names/labels but are nothing like our products here.
In Germany and surrounding countries, the community that surrounds pomade has adopted an almost cosplay-level of style. The focus has not been on pomade itself, but the aura that surrounds it. Hence, the Reuzel line of products was very mediocre. It's comical to note that their pomades (at least, the first few runs) were manufactured in the US. That's means anyone who actually purchased the product paid mostly just for the shipping from here to the Netherlands and back. These countries appear to see pomade simply as a step into the psychobilly subculture.
Basically, there are few reasons to look outside of the US for pomade-related innovations. There are only a very small handful of brewers such as Daimon Johnson (The Daimon Barber) that are doing good and notable work. Importing is expensive.
S P E C U L A T I O N F O R T H E F U T U R E
It is difficult to visualize a space for oil-based and gel pomades in the future with the oncoming rise of pomades that are water-based. I purposely referred to them as pomade THAT ARE water-based. We have long-awaited for a product that is truly a pomade in the traditional sense, but instead of using petrolatum as a base, it uses water.
A traditional oil-based pomade provides the highest and most refined level of styling. The consistency and pleasure of using an oil-based pomade to style a pompadour is unmatched. Typical water-based pomade (gel pomades) do a horrendous job of mimicking this experience. Yet, the inconvenience of an oil-based pomade cannot be ignored. They don't wash out easily, cause acne, and are highly susceptible to climate environments. Gel pomades wash out and harden which resolves these disadvantages to some extent. Nevertheless, that same characteristics becomes a disadvantage whenever the user wishes to restyle their hair during the day.
The new water-based pomades remedy all disadvantages with no side effects. They style just like an oil-based experience but allow the user to remove the product completely at the end of the day. I am still waiting for these products to completely take over the market; however, they are still two main things to address with them. The first is hold. Unfortunately, these products do not offer a level of hold equal to either oil-based or gel pomades. The second is cost. Due to the greater variety ingredients and a unfamiliarity with the new process/formula, the cost of these new products are significantly greater than a standard home-brewed oil-based or manufactured gel pomade. These two things will need to be addressed before their final acceptance by the consumer.
C O N C L U S I O N
We are amid of moment in time where small-time brewers are making innovative products while pre-established beauty companies are comfortable in their mediocrity. There is no doubt that once these home-brewers expand their kitchen into a company, they will be quick to establish themselves. This success will be based on the new water-based pomade. It is a pomade that styles identically to an oil-based pomade that washes out. These new genre of pomade will replace both oil-based and gel pomades in the near future once fully developed.
The Pomade Market is changing -- take notice.