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Smell Like A Man, Bay Rum Aftershave

Growing up in the 80’s I always looked forward to my trips to the barbershop. From the Pac-Man arcade machine, the checkered tile to the smell of Bay Rum I always anticipated my high and tight cut. The shop my father took me to in Herndon Virginia would splash their customers with Pinaud’s Clubman Virgin Island Bay Rum after a shave or cleaning up a neck line. At the time I had no clue how that smell would stick with me and launch a brand.

My affinity for barbershops never faded in my adulthood. I always had the idea of opening my own shop rattling around in my head and it would be called Soapbox Gypsy. In 2010 I decided that when I did have the opportunity to open a shop I wanted to have a Soapbox Gypsy branded Bay Rum Aftershave. So I did my research, found the original method making a batch the way Barbers would prior to Gillette, Old Spice and Pinaud mass produced men’s grooming products and cornered the market. Then I went to work perfecting what is now known as Soapbox Gypsy’s Hold Fast Bay Rum Aftershave. I still have not been able to open the barbershop but due to the creation of our aftershave, Soapbox Gypsy has altered it’s path with a full selection of handmade, small batch men’s grooming products and an early Americana inspired apparel line.

The History of Bay Rum told by The Art of Manliness

The history of bay rum is as manly as it smells. Sailors in the 16th century discovered that the West Indies bay leaf made a great perfume to freshen up and mask the stink they acquired while being stuck on a ship for months. To apply the scent to themselves, the sailors would rub the dry leaves on their body, thus leaving the fragrant oil on their skin. While sailors were rubbing leaves on themselves, farmers were cultivating boat loads of sugar to be shipped back to Europe. A few enterprising plantation slaves discovered that molasses, a byproduct of sugar, could be fermented into a sweet alcoholic beverage.

Soapbox Gypsy - Bay Rum

Brewers on the islands took the slaves’ crude recipe, distilled it, and made it 10 times stronger, thus creating the rum we know today.Tired of having to rub bay leaves on himself like a weirdo, some sailor got the idea that rum would make a great liquid to steep the bay leaves in to extract their essential oils and make an easy-to-apply cologne. And with that, bay rum was born. Islanders took this basic recipe and began adding their own olfactory flourishes by mixing in cloves, citrus rind, and cinnamon.

Jeremiah Johnston - Owner/Designer - Soapbox Gypsy

From the West Indies the scent spread to the rest of the world and became popular among men as an aftershave scent. Barbershops in America developed their own unique version of bay rum aftershave to slather on their patrons so they walked out smelling awesomely manly after getting their straight razor shaves. And if you check the medicine cabinets of men born before 1950, there’s a good chance you’ll find a bottle of bay rum in it. great for your hair, skin, and even your beard.

Jeremiah Johnston
Owner/Designer – Soapbox Gypsy