Shakir Lashley and Yohance Marshall are co-founders of Classy Gents Men’s Essentials and Accessories (@classygentstt across all social media), a homegrown company that specialises in beard oils, beard balms, and beard wash.

With their mission statement, “Adding a touch of class to the everyday gentleman,” the duo’s vision is to create a brand that represents the notion that an individual doesn’t need to wear a suit and tie to be considered a Classy Gent. They’re also hoping to expand the limitations of both male and female grooming; as they believe when you feel good about yourself you are your own version of a Classy Gent.

Lashley and Marshall are cousins who grew up together. Marshall is a professional footballer by trade and Lashley worked at a telecommunications company for many years.

“But I knew [working there] wasn’t going to be the ‘be all and end all’ of my life,” Lashley says. In January 2015, the idea of Classy Gents came to him and he reached out to Marshall.

The inspiration to start the business was initially a personal endeavour, as they both had similar issues while growing facial hair. It was through conversation that they decided there might be other men locally who could be facing the same problems.

Their line of products includes five different blends of beard oils and balms, incorporating woodsy, minty, and citrus scents, and even includes a scentless option. They make all the products in their lineup themselves, except the beard combs, which are made by local craftsman, Phillip Arthur.

“The process is different for every one,” says Marshall about how they make their oils, balms, and shampoo. They blend their oils in their “special formula”, and into the balms they add cocoa butter, shea butter, or beeswax for a solidified finished product. “The wash is the same as the oils; it’s just how we mix our special blend,” he adds.

The two entrepreneurs still consider their endeavour a startup business and possibly the first of its kind to focus on beard care in TT. With this territory comes an unknown market and many trial and error business tactics. They continuously seek customer reviews and suggestions, and pride themselves on their attentive customer care. Classy Gents’ popularity on the market has consistently grown since inception and as time has gone on, more people have paid attention.

“Our motivation is to continue bringing awareness to men that self-grooming is an important part of our daily lifestyle,” Lashley says. “It’s needed; this area is overlooked by most men, mainly because it’s seen as ‘feminine’. What we’d like to do is help change the male perspective on grooming.”

He says there is nothing wrong with men receiving manicures or pedicures, or doing some exfoliating or receiving a massage.

Marshall adds, “When you go to markets or stores, a majority percentage of their products is geared towards women, so I think it’s necessary to have a place geared towards the men.”

He noted that men can suffer a number of grooming issues such as razor bumps, ingrown hair, dandruff, and dry beard and skin. “The list can go on, but with a little self-care, a lot of these problems can be alleviated.”

While encouraging men locally to pay more attention to their grooming sees slow results, the men behind Classy Gents say more men are coming to understand the importance of self-care and the ways in which it can boost one’s self-esteem and change one’s overall image.

“We believe women have a big part to play in this aspect. Women appreciate a well-kept, groomed man and for this reason a lot of our customers are women. They buy our products for their boyfriends, husbands, sons, and fathers to assist in this process,” Marshall says.

Lashley reiterates that pampering one’s self is not a “woman thing,” and more men are changing their mind about it.

In the future, they hope to take their brand to regional and international markets. “We have big plans for Classy Gents, not only in beard care, but a general holistic feel,” Lashley hints, but the cousins don’t want to let the cat out of the bag yet – they plan to launch a campaign this year that will expand their brand’s ethos.

“The main objective is to become a household name in beard care,” Marshall continues about their brand’s long-term goal, adding that their current aim is to engage potential clients who are unfamiliar with their offerings and reveal the holistic benefits of their line of products to them.

“We intend to show our market that adding Classy Gents to their grooming practice will assist in their overall self-growth.”

The team says they have a few surprises in store for Classy Gents in 2018 and encourages the public to follow their social media platforms for upcoming giveaways, product launches, and campaigns.

Originally published in the Trinidad and Tobago Newsday