The Story of The Holy Black

March 23, 2015 3 Comments

Welcome to The Holy Black Trading Company, the place for innovative, small batch grooming products made specifically for men. My name is Stefan Vincent, and I started this company in early 2013. I've always had a fascination with old school barbers and barbershops. My grandfather and his brother were barbers in Brooklyn when they moved here from Italy, and when I was old enough to shave I inherited their old straight razors and strops. It took me a long time to learn how to hone them and use them, eventually I amassed a serious collection of vintage barber gear and was hooked on the whole idea of wetshaving and the grooming practices of a bygone era.
      Soon my bathroom cabinet was overloaded with aftershaves, creams, soaps and brushes. Boxes of vintage straight razors seemed to multiply on their own, and I became obsessed with finding older, more unique items. I started restoring them and giving them away as gifts and even sold a few on a commission basis. I eventually pared my collection down to a manageable number and started experimenting with different shaving soaps, creams and aftershaves in search of the elusive perfect shave. Once I tried just about every product I could get my hands on, and knew what I liked, I started buying unscented creams and mixing my own scents with essential oils and different additives. I found that adding a little castor oil to my lather helped to hold it together, and eventually I took to making my own products to cater to my tastes.
      I am a Bay Rum fanatic, to me, the most classic of all barbershop scents. The history of Bay Rum is fascinating, and I found out that many classic barbers would have their own formula. I started right away on my own batch.  I decided to use American Whiskey instead of rum as a nod to the barbers of the old west. I ordered pimenta racimosa leaves from the west indies, I picked juniper berries that grew in my yard and I steeped countless bottles of my own Bay Rum concoction. I gave a lot of them away as gifts and still have a few bottles in my personal stash. Eventually people started running out and asking if I could sell them some. Unfortunately, steeping giant batches of leaves and berries in my tiny little shop was unsustainable so I ordered over 100 samples of fragrance and essential oils and went to work finding the ones that I found to be the most pleasing and close to my original formula. I also started to experiment with other classic scents like sandalwood and the original formulas for discontinued or altered classics.
      I wanted my aftershave to have the look, feel and most importantly smell of something you would see in a barbershop during the glory days of barbers in the 1800's. Everything I make is designed to emulate the aesthetic of gold rush barbers, from the days when your barber was also your dentist and your surgeon, when the barber was the most important person in the whole town. I started printing my own labels on brown paper and buying amber apothecary bottles. I opened up a small webshop and was pretty surprised when the orders started flooding in. I expanded the product line to four signature scents that I felt embodied the type of manly stuff you would find at the time, with a bit of a modern twist. I experimented with the scent of woodsmoke and gunpowder. 
     The name, The Holy Black, comes from cowboy action shooting, where everyone shoots black powder guns, with the advent of smokeless powder and pyrodex, many people switched to the easier, cleaner, more modern gunpowder. The true purists though, only shoot real black powder, and if you ask them what they use in their six shooters and lever actions, their reply is invariable, " I only shoot The Holy Black." I had never heard that term, and I loved the sound of it.
     The production of so much product got to be more than I could handle, and things eventually got completely overwhelming. That is a story for another time, but in the end, I brought my brother in as a partner and we are currently in the process of revitalizing and relaunching the company. I hope you will join us on our journey to make The Holy Black a household name, and a worldwide brand. 

3 Responses

Charles McNeely
Charles McNeely

August 04, 2015

Hey guys, just read this for the first time. I discovered your store on my last deployment when I was becoming obsessed with the idea of finding the perfect scent. After the first time I smelled the Sandalwood Smoke, I was hooked.
I got a little concerned that you guys were not going to be around, but I’m glad you found what you needed to keep this site up. You have a customer for life.

Ron Perszewski
Ron Perszewski

May 14, 2015

Make a wish and sometimes it comes true. Days after my first post, I received an email noting that The Holy Black aftershaves were not only in stock, but there was a special deal being offered. I ordered immediately. Inside of 48 hours, I had a couple of bottles (and soap samples) in my hands. That’s quick!!! I’d forgotten how much I love the stuff Stefan created. It’s even better smelling than I remembered, and there seems to be far less tackiness than my first try. (Bad memory? Formula change? Drier weather & skin?) Whatever. I’m going back for more before the stuff sells out.

Ron Perszewski
Ron Perszewski

April 22, 2015

I tried your stuff when the samplers from a much broader range of products were still available. I love the same aesthetics you do, and the scents you created were fantastic! The look and feel of the packaging was/is outstanding, except for the fact that the labels kept peeling off, which severely cheapens the look. Also on the down side, the aftershaves were effective but too thick, with a viscosity something like motor oil. I presume that’s the castor oil. I loved the scents, especially gunpowder variety, but really disliked the prolonged tackiness on my face. And the shave cream was a joy to open, again due to the scent, but it’s lathering was below average. Performance at the point of blade meets skin is of utmost importance, so I decided not to buy your shaving cream again. All in all, I’d jump at the chance to restock your aftershaves, and if I read reviews saying your shaving cream had improved, performance-wise, I’d be all over that, too. But the most likely barrier to another purchase is staying on top of your product availability. There’s almost nothing on the shelf compared to what was there when I first stumbled upon your site. May I suggest you create a mailing list? I volunteer my email address (see above) to help in that effort. I’m not likely to check your site again and again with my fingers crossed. But if I was notified that you’ve restocked the shelves, I’d open my wallet. Please don’t take this note as a negative. I’m just trying to nudge a good thing in an even better direction. Thanks for making time to read this.
—Ron P., St. Francis, Wis.

Leave a comment

Comments will be approved before showing up.