VOSB Highlight: Matt Amos Does things Right, or Not at All
By now you probably know my rant about how Instagram is full of beard oil startups. If you need a refresher, just check out my previous beard oil writeup. Let’s just get the basics out of the way: there are a lot of beard oil producers; some are good, some are bad, some are expensive. We care because beard oil can improve the texture, shape, smell, and shine of your beard. It can also hydrate dry skin underneath. Personal hygiene is important, and your beard is a big ball of pubes that sticks out of your face, so it’s best to keep it appealing to colleagues, family, and women (or men if that’s your thing). Admiral’s Pennant beard oil is hands down my favorite beard product for three reasons: it smells astoundingly good, it’s subtle, and it does the best job at keeping my beard and face skin healthy. We’ll get into the oils themselves, but first you should know the motivation and background of the man behind the brand.
Matt’s story reveals a lot about his tenacity and the demands he places upon himself. He has endured challenges in life that are humbling to contemplate, and his success is a testament not only to his perseverance and courage, but also the the Veteran community as a whole. He enlisted in the Marine Corps in 2003, and was bounced around until he completed boot camp in 2004 and promptly deployed to Iraq. He spent a total of 10 years serving with the Corps, and sustained his first combat injury in 2006 due to an IED blast. In 2011, Matt stepped on a pressure plate IED in the Sangin district of Helmand Province, Afghanistan. He lost both of his legs. After a two year recovery, he transitioned out of the Corps in 2013. One can scarcely imagine how such an injury might impact an individual, but Matt persevered. Feeling the support of the Veteran community, Matt had the opportunity to become involved with the Sportsman Channel show “Chili Off the Grid.” Former marine infantry team leader Aaron “Chili” Childress who uses the great outdoors as therapy for returning Vets. Matt joined the team, leveraging his experience as a hunter and outdoorsman (check out his profile here). You’ll notice that these guys all have a physical characteristic in common: the Freedom Beard.
Many servicemen choose to sport a “freedom beard” after retirement. They glory in a departure from grooming standards that prevented them from growing facial hair during their service. Naturally, such a large bearded community knows a thing or two about how to keep a mane healthy. Despite rocking one hell of a face forest, Matt was skeptical of beard products. One day, while working with the fantastic people over at The Raider Project (many of whom are bearded), one of the big tough MARSOC guys started talking about beard oil. After a bit of convincing, Matt decided to give the stuff a try. To his surprise, he found his beard softer, pleasantly scented, and more shapeable. Unfortunately, most of the products he tried also made his sensitive skin break out.
Matt decided to take it upon himself to create his own blend. After spending around six months researching, testing, blending, and repeating the process, he found a mix that worked well for him. It smelled good, and was made with natural ingredients that caused no dermal irritation at all. Friends began asking him to make batches for them, and the business slowly took form. During this early phase, Matt was reading Herman Melville’s excellent Naval novel entitled White Jacket. In the book, there is a chapter entitled “The Massacre of the Beards,” which features a list of 25 different names for facial hair; one of which is “Admiral’s Pennant.” This chapter spoke to Matt because it takes place in the Port of Callao, Peru aboard a Naval ship. After Matt’s first injury he took a non deployable billet and trained infantry guys on their summer training program in that very port. His love for American history and that initial connection to Melville and Callao provided natural branding for his new company.
Each oil is named for a significant date in American History. 1775 is for the founding of our Marines, Army, & Navy, 1797 for the first ship commissioned in naval service (which Matt just got to tour this summer), 1815 for the end of the war of 1812, and 1783 for the end of the American revolution. 1843 is a tip of the hat to Melville, since that The Massacre of the Beards occurred in that year. Each of his oils are predictably excellent, due in no small part to the fact that Matt is a crazy person perfectionist. He refuses to mix his oils in batches because (much like motor oil) beard oil ingredients have different weights. If mixed into large batches, they’ll settle differently and create imbalances in the proportions of each individual bottle. Matt mixes each bottle by hand: that’s 600 individual droplets of oil per 1 oz bottle. Crazy. His oils are all natural, which is limiting because he can’t use fragrances. That’s why it’s so impressive that he’s created such an array of scents while maintaining his hardline approach towards non-irritant ingredients. Let’s dig into the oils.
1775: Named for birth of our military, this oil is hands down my favorite (and Matt’s too). This mix of patchouli, cinnamon, and lavender smells like a colonial hearth at Christmas. Don’t worry, you won’t smell like a hippie- it does not smell like straight up patchouli. The only thing it makes me think of is a warm winter night near a hearth during the Revolutionary War. You have to get this one.
1783: The Treaty of Paris was signed in this year, marking the end of hostilities between Britain and the United States. Matt makes sure to note that usually, soldiers celebrate the end of a conflict rather than the beginning. This oil is a very clean, neutral, and understated scent. It’s for folks who like to smell good, but who don’t usually select more distinct scents. Sandalwood, Cedar, and Teatree work together to make a slightly citrusy, earthy, tone that’s generally very appealing.
1797: This year saw the formation of our Navy. It’s by far the cleanest smelling oil that I’ve ever used. The blend of rosemary, lemon, and peppermint will make any beard smell like it’s not held together with sweat, woman, and meat grease. If you like brighter scents that will wake you up and have you craving a summer Gin & Tonic, this is the one for you.
1815: This blend celebrates the end of the War of 1812. It’s a combination of fir needle, clove, and cinnamon. I like this oil because it successfully combines the classically musky or manly smell of the forest with robust spice. The result is probably what women imagine when they’re fantasizing about a lumberjack: pine cones and leaves with a touch of sharpness underneath.
1843: This is the first perfected blend from Admiral’s Pennant, and the nod to Melville’s Massacre of the Beards. Personally, it’s my least favorite. I don’t use it often because it just doesn’t appeal to me. It contains Cedar and Bergamot, and I think the latter ingredient is what turns me off of it. The bergamot orange is a very fragrant citrus fruit, but smells too much like Star Anise (black licorice) to me. I hate that smell. It’s worth noting here that it’s a favorite of a number of folks who’ve given it a try, so there’s that.
There’s Soap Too: I didn’t believe in using anything but body wash for a long time. Matt’s beer soap was a game changer, and not much more expensive. Seriously. It’s hard to overstate how much better you smell when using soap, and if you’re already getting some beard oil you might as well give it a try. It’s also literally made of beer! The whole idea started when he decided to try his hand at soap making and did the most Marine thing he could: replaced water with beer. As it turns out, the minerals in beer make for a soap that’s good for your skin.
Hunter, Veteran, Business Owner
Like almost all Veteran business owners that I’ve spoken with, Matt didn’t take advantage of any specific programs while he was starting his company. Like many others, he wanted to do things his own way and remain independent. At the same time, he voiced deep thanks for the veteran community for their support, advice, and loyalty to him throughout his journey. He’s still expanding, and hopes to move into beard balms in the near future. Unfortunately, he hasn’t found a way to do it better than his current favorite balm, so we won’t see that product until his meticulous mind has worked out a superformula.
The veteran community was also an integral part of Matt getting used to life as an injured combat veteran. He’s a lifelong hunter, and after his injury he was grateful to Wounded Warrior Outdoors for taking him through his first hunt an incredible 9 months post injury. Let me reiterate: 9 months after losing his legs, Matt was hunting again. The Raider Project is another organization that helped Matt through this dramatic change in life. I encourage you to support both of these fine organizations.
To the right is a picture of one of Matt’s recent hunts that he sent me when I asked how it went…