Sometimes when you want something to be a certain way, you have to do it yourself.
And that’s just what three friends did when they founded the Bedford-based men’s hair-care company 18.21 Man Made. Since launching last May, 18.21 Man Made’s products can be found in nearly 1,500 salons across the country, and this month, its first fragrance, Sweet Tobacco Spirits, debuts.
“We feel like we’ve elevated grooming products for guys,” says Aston LaFon, who co-founded the company with brothers Angel and David del Solar. The debut collection consists of a hair and body wash, plus three types of styling creams designed to shape and hold a variety of cuts, from retro-inspired pompadours and high-and-tight fades to more traditional looks.
“It’s a cool time for men right now, because there don’t seem to be any rules for style — everyone can wear his own thing and own it,” LaFon says. “That’s why it was important for us to create a range of products that was so versatile.”
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It all started when LaFon and the del Solars saw a void in the market. They were working as luxury women’s hair-care product distributors when they noticed that men often were being offered women’s styling products.
Then, they discovered that some high-end salon owners were privately mixing up their own men’s products to offer to customers. It seemed to them to be a bit like Prohibition, where speak-easies operating by word-of-mouth bypassed the status quo to give customers what they craved. Within that analogy, the trio found their inspiration.
“We thought, ‘Let’s bootleg our own stuff,’” LaFon says. And 18.21 Man Made was born.
The name is a play on the 18th and 21st amendments to the U.S. Constitution, which enacted and then repealed Prohibition, and a 1930s-era aesthetic touches all corners of the brand, from packaging designs that incorporate the shape of a vintage whiskey flask to the sepia tone of the website design and the company motto, “Don’t take any wooden nickels,” adopted from the Depression-era reminder to be wise in business dealings.
All formulation and manufacturing has been handled locally, and LaFon and the del Solars have done all of the design work themselves, even drawing some aspects by hand.
Perhaps the most distinctive element about the line is the fragrance. The signature aroma, called Sweet Tobacco, is a custom blend of 40 essential oils, and LaFon explains that its complexity is part of the reason that the line took a year and a half to create.
But sales are increasing every day, and LaFon says he’s even hearing reports that a new type of customer is falling in love with the products, especially the hair and body wash.
“It’s women,” he reveals. “They’re stealing it from their husbands in the shower.”
For more information about 18.21 Man Made and to find a salon that carries the products, go to www.1821ManMade.com; hair-care products retail for $24 each and Sweet Tobacco Spirits cologne for $80 (100-milliliter bottle).