Anyone who is familiar with the counterculture movement of the 1960s has probably happened upon the unofficial anthem of the hippie regime, “San Francisco,” by The Mamas and the Papas. Within the first two lines of the peaceful song the listener is instructed to wear flowers in their hair if they are planning on wandering over to San Francisco. And while travelers to The Bay Area might have chosen to visit sans blossoms, two men who reside just north of the song’s namesake took that advice very seriously.
Johnathan and Brian, friends since the age of eight, make up the incredibly creative duo that refer to themselves as The Gay Beards. Much like the name suggests, their activity of choice involves decorating their facial hair with various accouterments from rainbow-colored glitter and potato chips to candy corn and ornaments, season depending, and then posting the eye-catching creation on social media.
Their alternative-grooming operation began in 2014, when Johnathan and Brian plucked flowers from their personal garden, stuck them in their beards and had a friend snap some photos. The guys—who had not yet claimed their Gay Beards title—posted the shots on their social accounts and received positive feedback, even though validation was not what they were aiming for. Once they realized how much people were enjoying the images, they started to ponder what else they could fit in their beards. And as the saying goes, the rest was history.
The two best friends believe the world needs more love and laughter, and beard decor is certainly one way to promote that ideal. It’s impossible not to smile, chuckle and share when you get a glance of the most festive facial hair out there. So while the world is turbulent and it feels like society is eons away from wearing flowers in its hair, Johnathan and Brian are here to save us.
Find out how The Gay Beards grew from a one-time activity to a full-time craft that boosts more than 261K Instagram followers and provokes just as many smiles, and how V76 helps the guys groom and spruce before each scruffy shoot.
Give us a little insight into your name, The Gay Beards. Is it just what it seems or is there something else to it?
It is just what it seems, but there are so many ways you can look at it. Yes, we're both gay and have beards, but there is something appealing about taking a word like “beards,” which is generally categorized as masculine, and putting the word “gay” in front of it. It gets people to think a little bit. Some people love the idea, others hate it, and that's the way it should be. Humor has always been at the core of what we do, but at the same time, we want to encourage others not to be afraid of living their lives openly and feeling accepted for who they are.
Is The Gay Beards your full-time gig?
The Gay Beards has actually become a full-time gig for both of us. Neither of us has worked at a full-time job for more than a year. We're both so grateful to be doing what we do, and the fact that it provides a living for us is just the cherry on top.
Did you ever think that this hobby would turn into a career?
Yes and no. We started doing it because it was a good creative outlet for us and we were having a blast. Both of us have always been creative people, and we specifically enjoy being creative together. Finding someone you can work well with artistically can be quite challenging, but we've always had a blast being together and using our minds to be dorky and hilarious.
What did you do before The Gay Beards got big?
Prior to The Gay Beards, Johnathan worked in various retail jobs and as a touring musician over the last few years. Brian was employed at Netflix, but also worked, and continues to work, as a freelance painter and photographer.
How does living in Portland influence your lifestyle?
Portland has always been a very progressive city, full of artists and entrepreneurs. If we lived anywhere else, The Gay Beards might not be what it is today—or even exist! Because we live in such an amazing city, it has definitely played a huge role in our creative lives. Often we are reminded that Portland is a city filled with a higher density of individuals who choose to be their own boss and purely create for a living, whatever it may be.