"Duck Dynasty" may be in ratings decline, and some have pronounced the end of the beard trend in a post-hipster era. But don't tell that to Dollar Beard Club, which since its June launch is having a viral run akin to its clean-shaven forebear Dollar Shave Club three years ago.
If beards are falling out of fashion, many people haven't heard, such as the Los Angeles Dodgers, whose Justin Turner, Scott Van Slyke and J.P. Howell sport bushy beards (along with goateed Adrian Gonzalez). Or everyone else: Google Trends still shows a continued seasonally adjusted climb in searches on beards and beard products.
Besides Dollar Beard Club, another fledgling beard-products brand, the Goatee Saver (a plastic stencil that fits over goatees to allow men to shave around them) recently won distribution from Walmart.com and a trial in some Walmart stores.
And Procter & Gamble Co.'s Gillette just last month continued its lament of a trend of men shaving less weighing on sales.
Dollar Beard Club sees it all as a serious market opportunity. The company's viral video has had early success akin to what Dollar Shave Club experienced in 2012, with 1.3 million YouTube views since late June leading to 25,000 subscribers.
Co-founder Chris Stoikos, who stars in the in-house-created video, struts through a warehouse a la Dollar Shave Club's founder/video star Michael Dubin in his initial video. But he makes a different point.
"What is Dollar Beard Club?" Mr. Stoikos asks. "Well, you sure as hell won't be receiving any fucking razors from us to demolish your manhood. …If you cherish your beard and you want to keep it healthy, feeling smooth and smelling like the beard of Zeus, then you're going to need some oil in that hedge."
While the base proposition is $1 beard oil, early buyers have averaged orders of more than $20, said Mr. Stoikos. DBS sells oils that range up to $7 depending on size, as well as waxes, combs, brushes, money clips and beard shampoo for as much as $17. Even so, co-founder Alex Brown, a former genetic pharmaceutical executive behind product development and operations, said the club's prices are well below sparse offerings previously out there for beard wearers.
Mr. Brown acknowledges rumblings that beards have peaked. But he said prior to the world wars, when men shaved to join the armed forces, as many as 70% of American men had beards vs. an estimated 30% today. With recent generations of Americans having mostly averted military service, he hopes the beard trend can defy any short-term fashion backlash.
"We have all kind of cool campaigns planned to try to influence guys to grow out their beards," Mr. Brown said. Beyond that, the broader male grooming market "is absolutely exploding," and he plans to vie with the likes of Dollar Shave Club to create "a man Amazon."
To date, Dollar Beard Club has only a lone angel investor vs. the eight- and nine-figure venture-capital pools behind online-shaving purveyors such as Dollar Shave Club or Harry's. But early success has the bearded guys mulling their funding options, Mr. Brown said.
DBS sees its role as "beard education," pointing out that untreated beards get dry and stinky. Fragrance is a key selling point for the oil. And beard dandruff is a thing – one that can be treated with shampoo, oil or a beard cream, the latter still in development. Also in the pipeline are beard wipes and a beard comb/bottle opener combo.
"We think the sky's the limit," Mr. Brown said.