Over the past few years the surge in Black men embracing flourishing, lush facial hair has been astonishing. With the men loving it and the ladies arguably loving it more, the trend, which has become more of a lifestyle, boasts a cultural relevance that means far more than just aesthetics. Nobody understands that better than Vernon Yancy and Jeremiah Regis, two HBCU graduates who make up the dynamic duo at the helm of men’s grooming brand SOSS.
An acronym for “So Organic So Suave,” SOSS was born of Yancy’s own personal experiences, the ones he faced upon graduating from Howard University. “Once I entered the workforce in corporate America, it became a whole process of figuring out who is Vernon authentically and organically,” he tells ESSENCE. “I asked myself what my passion and purpose was, and what impact did I really want to have not only on myself, but on everyone around me. I realized ultimately that I shouldn’t be afraid to be who I am.” That realization led to Yancy deciding to grow out his beard, but the decision presented some obstacles. “I needed to maintain it,” he says. “But being a Black man I couldn’t use most of the products that were in big retailers and drugstores. So I ended up creating a product myself and it garnered a lot of attention.”
That includes the attention of Regis, in particular, who was a part of the fortunate group able to test the inaugural product. “I said, ‘We need this, we need more of this,'” he shares. “I take pride in the things that I put on my body, and it just made sense that this product was not only good for the hair, but was also good for the skin.” Regis, who admittedly has sensitive skin, was immediately ready to help in furthering the reach. “From the first time that initial product was sent to me Vernon and I have been in consistent communication through and through. Fast-forward to 2020, we got on a call, made it official and it’s been going strong ever since.”
With the sudden halt to in-salon grooming and treatments during the pandemic, the demand for SOSS only grew more and more. “For all of us, not even just men, but women as well, we had to see our ourselves in our natural state,” Yancy says. “We weren’t able to go to the barbershop, we weren’t able to go to the hairdresser, so we had to figure out what we could do at home to take care of ourselves. The grooming industry was here for the taking and that’s where we came in.” Boasting all-natural, handcrafted and cruelty-free formulas for beard, hair and body, SOSS has become a safe space for men (and women) of color who’ve long struggled to locate efficacious grooming products crafted with their melanin in mind.
The product lineup is, of course, worthy of applause, as is the brand’s marketing strategy, which is notably marked by one thing: the occasional thirst trap. Make no mistake, however, it’s all intentional. “We do know that women are usually the real purchaser and have that purchase power. Right?” Regis says. “So if we get their buy-in, we’re automatically gonna get the men’s buy-in. If the women love it, the men are gonna like it.” One of the brands most popular posts on their Instagram is a video of Yancy himself, shirtless, ascending out of a pool with his beard drenched in water. This is all edited in slow motion, by the way. “We want to make sure we have high-quality people that represent our brand,” Regis says laughing.
But when it all comes down to it, the numbers don’t lie. “Forty-five percent of our customer base is women,” Yancy says. “That’s women gifting the men in their lives. However, they’re also purchasing for themselves when it comes to our skin care products. It was all about finding a way to make sure we’re not only grasping his attention, but grasping the attention of everyone around him. We’re embracing it.”
When it’s all said and done the cofounders both hope SOSS can one day be a household name, as well as a pillar of the Black community. “I see SOSS being a symbol of safety with a Black man and a Black family,” Yancy says. “There to protect who you are, protect your self-confidence, protect your self-esteem, protect the self-love and protect the love you have for those around you. It’s more than just the act of you maintaining your beard, brushing your hair or moisturizing your body. Instead, it’s that daily acknowledgement that I’m going to invest a little more of my soul today to make sure I’m able to make the most profound impact I can on those around me.”
Shop some SOSS favorites ahead.