I was fortunate enough to get a moment with Mr. JC Hillhouse of J. Hillhouse & Co. and ask him a few questions.
Mr. P: Being a person who has probably tried hundreds of pomades, what are three must try pomades for everyone?
JC: Oh man, that's a tough one. There are so many amazing pomades and water based products out there. Kind of hard to narrow it down to three, but I would have to say that these are the three every pomade user, collector and/or enthusiast should own: Black & White Genuine Pluko Hair Dressing, the original one. This pomade has been around for over 90 years, and is still one of the best pomades around. It is a great medium pomade with a nice powdery scent and you get a ton of pomade in the jar, 7.oz! Another one is Murray's Nu Nile pomade. This is also a pomade that has been around for decades. It was originally its own pomade, but joined the Murray's family a while back. This is another great medium pomade, but on the cusp of being a heavy pomade. It has a great hold and shine to it with a nice sweet scent. Another cool thing about it is that the can has imagery that is very similar to the labeling it had back in the 40's and 50's, so you get a little piece of nostalgia from the cans as well. The last pomade I think everyone should own would have to be, the original Sweet Georgia Brown in the red can. Yet another pomade that has been around forever, you cannot go wrong with this one. It has a great medium hold, amazing shine and that classic SGB scent. It just smells like pomade, it's awesome. Like the Nu Nile this one also looks almost identical to how the can looked back when. So you also have a little blast from the past with this can. Those are the three everyone should own, however I could easily name a least a dozen more that everyone should also have. It's hard to pick just three because I'm leaving out so many amazing pomades that are absolute must haves for every pomade user, you cant go wrong with those three though.
Just one of the many cases Mr. Hillhouse has.
Mr. P: With just about everyone coming out with a waterbased product now, will we ever see J. Hillhouse & Co. come out with one?
JC: I had thought about putting out a couple different ones yeah. I've been talking to some people about having a ringing gel or premium gel, a hair cream, and a water based pomade made up for J Hillhouse & Co. However with every single pomade maker or company coming out with one, I will most likely hold off. I've never been one to jump on the band wagon. Even though I've had my stuff in the works and been trying to have them done right for a little over a year now, I don't really want to be just another guy following suit and putting out water based products. Plus I feel weird putting out something I didn't make myself you know? I really enjoy making and creating my products and being able to stand by them. And while I have kind of helped come up with the formulas, when it comes time to actually make them, I wouldn't be doing it myself. I don't have all the equipment and whatnot necessary to make a few thousand of those products at a time. But who knows, maybe I will go ahead with releasing the stuff I've been working on. Only time will tell. I get asked quite often when and if I will put out water based stuff from my customers and clients, so I may do it for them.
Mr. P: How did you come into the world of pomade?
JC: Well I have always been into the greaser and rockabilly culture, ever since I was very young. I had used stuff like Brylcreem as a younger guy and then kind of veered off and had long hair for a while. Then back in 2008-2009 I started slicking my hair like I used to when I was younger. Out here all you can find in the stores is Murray's, Royal Crown Hair Dressing, Sportin Waves, and a couple other ones like that. So I was very limited on what I used. Then in early 2011 a friend of mine told me about Addicted to Pomade which is a group on Facebook for pomade enthusiast. So I scoped that group out via my friend and his posts and then decided to join. At that time I had been messing around with making my own pomade because I got tired of using the same 4 things all the time. And once I had joined the group and started playing around with making my own stuff that was it for me. I became addicted to pomade haha.
Mr. P: What do you personally do in your spare time?
JC: Um, it all depends really. There are various things I'm into. I am very into the hardcore scene and community here in Phoenix, so I'm often at shows. I've also been in a few bands, and am currently writing new material for a band a friend and I are putting together. So I play/write music a lot in my spare time as well on guitar and drums. I also have been very into motocross ever since I could walk, so I try and ride as often as I can. I don't get to as much anymore, but now that my son is almost big enough to ride his own dirt bike, I think I will be doing a lot more riding in the near future. I also spend almost every day with my son now that I'm a dad. He's the best thing ever! We do all kinds of stuff together. I'm also into antiques, vinyls, and comics, so I go to various stores checking stuff out trying to find new additions to those collections. Shooting is another big hobby of mine. I'm always going to Cabela's, tinkering on my guns, and going shooting with family and friends. I love to learn new things, so I'm always watching and reading various things trying to learn stuff. Everything from history, to art, pomade and grooming products, animal facts, etc. etc. And on the weekends we go to church and spend time with either my family or my wife's family, depending on the week.
Mr. P: What is your favorite pomade that you make and why?
JC: That's another tough one. I love all the pomades I make, but for different reasons. Plus, I made each one to my specifications of what I wanted that particular pomade to be. But if I have to pick one pomade, I would probably go with Silver Dollar Pomade. Mainly because of its versatility. I can do a pomp with it, a slick back, a smaller quiff, a slicked business style do with a gentleman's part, a contour, and a high and tight. It's a great medium waxy pomade that has nice shine and allows me to get creative with it.
Mr. P: What made you start The Dapper Society?
JC: I started The Dapper Society, because I had noticed a lot of people asking about pomades and how they were on Addicted to Pomade. Plus, there were ones I wanted to know about as well. However, there weren't any reviews on them anywhere. Back then Jan Hella had been doing his blog for a while, and reviewed a couple dozen pomades, but none of the lesser known and homemade pomades yet. So I decided to start reviewing the pomades people had been talking and asking about. I had set out with the intention of reviewing mostly the stuff Jan hadn't. That way people weren't just reading reviews of the same pomades and water based products time and time again. Of course there ended up being overlap and reviews I did of stuff he had already reviewed, but for the most part I stuck to stuff he hadn't reviewed. Then I had readers asking me to delve into other grooming products and that's how it all came to be. A few months after I started my blog, a few other friends/members of ATP started reviewing pomades. And then it kind of snowballed after that. Now it seems like everyone has a YouTube channel or Instagram account and is reviewing pomades these days. It's crazy to see how many there are nowadays compared to when it was just Jan, me, and one or two other guys reviewing stuff years ago.
Mr. P: What are some of the things you look for in a product when adding a new one to your group of frequently used/daily driver hair products?
JC: Well that depends. I generally want it to have a nice texture that doesn't clump, or in the case of a water base doesn't gum up or get glue like when you spread it in your hands. It has to have a nice hold to it, whether it's a light, medium or heavy hold, as long as it is cooperative when styling and lasts throughout the day. It can't be too oily, or in the case of a water based too dry once it's in my hair. I also like them to have a nice scent, but don't limit it to one kind of smell, it just has to be pleasant without being overbearing. And it has to leave my hair feeling nice after I use it. I don't like hair products that leave my hair feeling unhealthy after I use them, whether they're pomades or water based products. Lastly when it comes to pomades, they have to have a nice buildup to them.
Mr. P: Give us the rundown of your own line of pomades and hair dressing at the moment, even seasonal and limited edition ones you are thinking of making.
JC: Well I currently make the following pomades;
Atomic Pomade, which is my old school grease pomade. It has a light-medium hold to it and has come in double mint and big red gum scents.
Frankengrease, this one is my medium-heavy waxy pomade. It's kind of geared toward the horror/monster lovers out there and has an orange grove scent to it.
Silver Dollar Pomade and Hair Dressing, this combo is kind of my tribute to Royal Crown. But I wanted the pomade to have a nice hold to it and be significantly different from the hair dressing unlike Royal Crown. The pomade has a scent of fresh apples, and the hair dressing smells like sweet cream vanilla ice cream. They're kind of the all American pomades of my line.
Sodapomp, this one is also a waxy medium pomade and is geared toward the inner kid in all of us that used to love going to the Soda pop & Candy shop. It comes in 9 different old school craft soda pop scents.
Steel Toe Pomade, this is a pomade I started manufacturing and selling when a friend of mine no longer could. It's one of my all-time favorite pomades, and is a nice strong holding pomade with a bay rum and tea tree scent.
Johnny Jr. Hair Pomade and Little Lady Hair Dressing, these are my kids pomades. Being a dad and wanting to be able to share my love of pomade with my son, I had to create him a kids pomade. I didn't want it to be chock-full of harsh chemicals and whatnot though. So I took about 6 months to come up with a good formula that still washes out of kids' hair easily without being hard on it. Then I tweaked the formula to make one for little girls too. The boys pomade comes in banana, and sometime toasted marshmallow scent, while the girls has a nice sweet strawberry scent.
Kustom Brew Pomade, this is one that happened by shear chance a few years ago. I had multiple customers bugging me for a heavy Atomic or Frankengrease with a different scent, etc etc. So after a friend of mine here in Phoenix urged me to give my customers what they wanted, I did. This is a pomade that the customer creates themselves. They're available in many different holds (including the standard pomade formulas), over 70 scents (including the standard pomade scents), and just about any color you want. I try to make all of them unique from others I've made, with the exception of people choosing a standard pomade formula of course.
Atomic Shampoo, this is something I made specifically for me that ended up taking off on its own. With me being limited on what pomades I used to be able to get and a huge fan of Murrays, making a degreasing shampoo was essential. Especially with me starting up my blog and needing to degrease quite often. So after months of failure I found a formula that worked. To be sure it wasn't a fluke, I used 7 different pomades for a whole week, including Murrays. At the end of the week I washed my hair and my shampoo took all of the pomade out of my hair in one wash. So I ran with it. Then people started asking me to make them a bottle, and the rest is history as they say. That's it for the pomades that I have for sale currently. However I have many more that have been ready to go for some time now, but the guy that did the labels for me in the past has kind of disappeared and I haven't been able to add the ones I have to the Atomic, Frankengrease, and Silver Dollar lines just yet. Hopefully I can get it sorted out soon though. He's the only one who can make the changes to the labels I need though, as he has the original images that can be edited.
Mr. P: Whats in store for the future from J. Hillhouse & Co.? Any new products or projects that you are working on that we will see in the next few months to a year?
JC: There's actually quite a bit I have in store for the future. I'm about to release Miner's Choice - Lignite Hair Treatment which is kind of my tribute to Slick Black which was a very popular pomade back in the day. And Jailhouse Pomade by JHillhouse & Co. is about done as well. It's my super heavy pomade for the crazy summer temperatures out here in Arizona. I'm also trying to wrap up getting the labels done for my Pinup Pomade, which has been ready for about a year now. But each time someone starts on the labels they decide not to finish them for one reason or another. That pomade is specifically formulated for women's hair and hairstyles, allowing for multiple day stylings without getting gross. Doesn't have any chemicals in it, but rather nourishing oils that condition the hair. And comes in 5 colors and matching scents for the different colors of women's hair. Then, like I was saying above, if I can get the labels figured out, I'll be adding stuff to my current lines. Atomic heavy, Frankenshine (medium hold high shine), Frankenwax (super heavy hold), Frankendition (oil tonic/leave in conditioner/top coat), Frankenbride (women's version of Frankengrease), and New Penny Hair Slick (high shine medium hold to go with Silver Dollar). As far as limited editions, I'm about to put out the infamous FOP pomade! Yep FOP. So many people are using the Dapper Dan name, some that aren't even pomade, that I figured someone needs to put out FOP, so I might. Then the release of Liberty Hair Dressing is right around the corner, and this year it's going to have a different color, scent, and prizes this year. It also comes with more prizes than last year, so get yours while you can! I'm also going to put out Pumpkin Head Pomade again this Halloween since it did so well last year. And at Christmas, Krampus will be making a comeback as well. Plus if things go right, Candy Cane Hair Clay, which will be an addition to the holiday pomade set I did last year and the year before. I'm also wrapping up all the things I need to release my shave company Viceroy Shave company, my soap line Smith & Foundry Soap Co. my facial hair care line, and my ointment company as well. But like always, labels seem to be the holdup. I do have a new guy that I think will do awesome in making these labels though!
There are a couple things up in the air right now that may happen as well. A Father's Day collab with Bees Knees Pomade might go down this year. Collabs/sets with other companies like Doc Elliott, and Pomps Not Dead might happen as well. One thing I'm very excited about and really hope happens is a team up with DAX! And finally, I'm nearing completion of getting The Dapper Society Pomade(s) out as well. I've been talking to companies for quite a while and things are coming to a head. So be on the lookout for all that stuff!
Mr. P: What are some tips you have for new homebrewers, some Do's and Don'ts?
JC: Do's and dont's for newcomers to making pomade, hmmm. Let's start with the do's first, do your research! Make sure you know what you're getting yourself into, and know what type of pomade you want to make before you start. Also, have passion when it comes to doing this. Getting into it just to make a quick buck is the wrong way to go, and your pomade will show that. You have to put love into it, you can't even make pomade if you're mad or bummed out or apathetic, because the pomade will know and it will reflect those things in its performance. Write things down. Keep track of your progress and especially your failures! You're going to have a lot of them, trust me. And finally test out your stuff extensively before giving it to someone else to try or selling it. If it's not good enough for you, it's not good enough for anyone else! As far as the don'ts? Don't ask for recipes. People spend countless hours and hard work coming up with their pomades. To ask for a recipe is a huge slap in the face. Don't expect handouts. No one is going to give it to you for free, and why would you want them to? That takes out all the fun, and you don't get the sense of accomplishment when someone else tells you what to do every step of the way. Don't just seek out solutions from other people. Try and figure it out yourself first. Try 50 things until you've exhausted every option you can think of before asking someone else to tell you how to do something. Don't put out sub-par pomades. Like I said, have passion and love what you do, otherwise your pomades will show that and won't be the best that you can make. Don't think it's going to be easy, or cheap. You are going to fail, A LOT! And you're going to waste countless batches and tons of money, so be prepared for that. And lastly, but by far most important, don't get discouraged and give up. If it's something you love and want to do, you can't lose heart. You gotta knuckle down when things are toughest and figure it out. Otherwise, you may as well not even begin. Also don't listen to the naysayers and haters, you'll have your share of them, trust me. Don't pay attention to them. If you like what you're doing and people like your pomade, that's all that matters. Besides oftentimes the people who bring the most hate are the ones who are most jealous of what you have or are doing or who you are.
So to all you people getting into making pomade, I wish you the best of luck and can't wait to see what you put out. You can always email or message me to talk about pomade or for advice on making stuff. I will do my best to answer any and all of the questions you may have. Keep it greasy everybody!