Interview with Robert Watkins of The Mail Room Barber

Who are you?

First and foremost, I am Robert Watkins, a barber in a small barbershop in Florence, South Carolina. I wear many hats, however, including that of the graphic designer, photographer, drummer, occasional barista, and small business owner. The Mail Room Barber Co. is a one man show, so I live and breath my company. I go to sleep at 2am after a long night of brewing small batches of pomade and wake up at 7am to go to the barbershop. It would be wrong to say I am working all of the time, because what I do doesn’t feel like work at all. I thoroughly enjoy barbering and operating a small business, so much so that they feel like hobbies. Outside of The Mail Room Barber Co, I play drums for local bands and talent, specifically hardcore and punk bands, but also a few folk/indie bands. I actually had to leave a touring band that I helped form so that I could focus on my career in barbering, so these days, I am not playing as much as I would like to. 

I dig my heels in deep to the fact that I am from the south. I love my home and the friends and family I have here. South Carolina is an extremely important part of my life and the focus of my business.

Why did you start The Mail Room Barber?

I started The Mail Room Barber brand to sort of add a tangible identity to my underground barbering business. I am good friends with a business owner in downtown Florence who had unused space in the back of his shop where I would set up a barber chair along with my supplies and have clients come through the back door to what we called the Mail Room. The name of my company is meant to remind me of how I got my start.

I began making pomade shortly after a human trafficking conference I attended at a local coffee shop where I was working part time as a barista. I learned about human trafficking and how big of an issue it is in the manufacturing/distributing industries and realized that the item I used everyday, pomade, on clients and personally, was not fair trade, or even ethically sourced, meaning that it very well could be made and processed by slave or forced laborers.

This spurred me and a friend to start concocting recipes for an ethical pomade. He went on to start a business of his own, but I have continued with The Mail Room Barber Co, working tirelessly to ensure that what I offer is 100% ethically sourced, meaning no humans OR animals were harmed or taken advantage of to create my product.

What do you believe sets you apart from other pomade companies?

Since the core value of my company is ethical sourcing, I can say without a doubt that I make the ONLY ethical pomade and beard oil. Everything down to the bubble wrap in my shipments is either made in the US or by workers who are being paid a fair and livable wage in a good working environment. 

My pomade specifically is set apart from other brands in presentation, location ( I haven’t found many other south eastern pomade companies), and in washability. My pomade is the only oil based pomade that washes out almost as easily as a water based would. That is a HUGE difference that is made possible by a vegetable based wax that bonds the heavy oils to water in the washing process. 

An Epilogue by The Pomp

Robert Watkins and The Mail Room Barber represent a very unique minority with the pomade community and market. A small set of those who have integrated pomade into their lifestyles rather than using it to define themselves. This allows Robert to offer the community a pomade that is both balanced and versatile -- catering to both the hardcore enthusiast and late newcomer. 

We reviewed The Mail Room Barber very early in his rise, and it has only gone up for him from there. He's been refining and refining his formula since then, and I definitely have his Classic Pomade on the list for a revisit. It's a oil-based with medium-to-heavy-ish hold that unexpectedly washes out very easily. 

Check him out, and if you want to pick something up, don't forget to use THEPOMP to get an extra 10% off. Let me know what you think of it.