Chances are you’ve seen the jokes about women’s personal care routines including 30+ steps while men stick with the six-in-one product that’s somehow supposed to be a shampoo, deodorant, moisturizer and aftershave all in one. Well, it's 2023, and the men’s personal care industry is finally catching up with the breadth of options available to women thanks to brands such as Hawthorne. Founded by two best friends who grew up in NYC together, Hawthorne provides men’s personal care products that center both the experience of application and high-quality, data-driven performance. Each and every product is made in the USA with ingredients and formulas that will completely transform your skin and hair.
We added up with co-founders Phillip Wong and Brian Jeong to get the lowdown on all things NYC and Hawthorne.
What was your experience like growing up in NYC?
PW: NYC is a total melting pot — of ideas, inspiration, ethnicities, cuisines, music, you name it. You’re constantly hit with inspiration whether you ask for it or not, and you have to attune yourself to the nuances of life very quickly. I grew up in Morningside Heights which has a bunch of crossover from Harlem and the Upper West Side, two extremely diverse areas. Having first-generation immigrant parents defined my upbringing as well, with energy from both Cantonese and Haitian sides weaved into my persona.
BJ: Growing up in Queens, one of the most diverse areas in the country, I was constantly surrounded by so many different cultures – foods, friends, and experiences of all kinds. This really shaped my POV both by making diversity the norm for my surroundings and also by understanding how much richness each culture has to offer us and how much we have to offer each other in terms of perspective and sources of inspiration.
How did Hawthorne come to be?
PW: Brian and I wanted more out of our self-care shopping experiences – from fragrance to skincare. We knew what products and scents we liked, but only after the painstaking weeks/months/years of trying and failing so many times. There had to be a better way that made you feel confident in your purchase and fit seamlessly into your lifestyle.
BJ: Echoing what Phil said, we really wanted to add our multicultural and NY perspective to the incredible, luxurious feeling that we loved of using thoughtfully scented and formulated fragrances and personal care products.
What is the brand’s philosophy?
PW: Hawthorne elevates and complements one’s personal style. Hawthorne is the finishing touch to your outfit. In an age of self-styling, Hawthorne has a clear vision of coupling individuality with high-end design details and the highest-quality materials available. We believe it is the mix that defines the moment.
How does being based in NYC influence the brand?
PW: Our environment influences everything – it’s our inspiration, our community, our lives – and I think that helps create an honest channel of informing us how we want to portray the brand. A lot of people tell us our brand always looks so diverse and we definitely do that unconsciously at this point because it’s a product of our environment and the people we love that are around us every day. Our community is so multifaceted that we’re always getting inspired by their spontaneity as well, the chefs, DJs, artists, and writers all play a part in giving Hawthorne the character it has today.
BJ: Being in NY is just who we are. Everything from our scents to our community reflects the lives we live and the world we exist in. And that is reflected in the stories we tell through our scents and our formulas.
What makes Hawthorne different from other men’s grooming brands?
PW: We try to incorporate a lot more of the lifestyle we live into our product and our creativity. We want to show that self-care really doesn’t only exist in the bathroom, it can exist on stage at a venue, on the basketball court or at karaoke.
BJ: Yes our products are clean, effective, formulated with natural ingredients, smell amazing, and serve all types of needs with our 90+ formulas, but more importantly, we aim for Hawthorne to be an extension of who you are – your personality, your community, your style. Hawthorne should make you feel comfortable in your own skin and be an extension of your very best self. It’s that feeling that you have on a good hair day or that you get when you smell something that reminds you of a fond memory.
What’s your holy-grail Hawthorne product?
PW: My grail is our Sandalwood Foaming Shave Gel. It’s perfect in my opinion – luxuriously scented, and it has all the premium skincare ingredients you’d find in a moisturizer. It can completely change up the mood of your day in an instant.
BJ: How can you choose? They’re all my children! Right now, I’ve been loving a new product we’ve been working on that will be coming to you soon enough. Stay tuned!
What’s next for Hawthorne?
PW: We want to continue to connect with our community and reach deep into our inner selves, and the formative fragrance/self-care moments throughout our lives that brought us to this point, I think you’ll see a lot more life injected into the brand very soon.
BJ: Just like everything Phil and I do is for the community and world we grew up in and that define us, similarly, we’re always thinking of new products, partnerships, and experiences that can serve our friends, ourselves, and our communities. We’ll continue to let that be our NorthStar
We need all the NYC recs! What are your favorite brunch spots, dinner restaurants, neighborhoods, shops, workout classes, bars, the works!
PW: For lunchtime, I love going to my neighborhood spot Betty, run by my friend Shanny. They have food for whatever your mood is, and the staff is top-tier. I also love getting a Banh Mi from Banh Mi Co Ut – the ingredients, the selection, and especially the bread are top-tier. Also, have to pick up a baguette and pine nut ginger cookie from Mel on the weekend.
For dinner, I love Cantonese spots Great NY Noodletown or Wu’s Wonton King, especially with a bigger group. Other great spots are Casino, Cervo’s, Oh! Taisho, Ichibantei, Wayla, Sobaya, Les Enfants de Boheme, Som Tum Der, Altro Paradiso, Thai Diner, Corner Bar, Time Sushi, Odeon, Lucia Pizza and Paulie Gee’s.
I’m biased, but my neighborhood (Chinatown/Two Bridges) is by far the best hood – you’ve got everything from a food/drink/community aspect, and you never have to make plans, because you’ll run into all your friends. It’s great if you make too many plans with work already and kind of want to go with the flow socially.
For drinks and fun, Clandestino, Casino, Reception, The River, Dr. Clark, The Boom Boom Room, Winnies and Paragon.
BJ: The best workout is, hands-down, Tone House in Nomad. It’s definitely the hardest workout you’ll do in the city, but the instructors and classes are so supportive and help you unlock the very best inside of you. I also love getting my cardio in with Mile High Run Club. It’s an electric class environment and very efficient to get my steps in.
I’ve moved 10x since college and so I’ve lived almost everywhere in Manhattan, but I recently moved to Ktown, and I’ve been loving it. I love picking up some quick to-go bites at Woorijip – make sure you stick with the Korean classics there like kimbap, japchae, kimchi pancakes, bone soup and acorn jelly if they have it. And there’s been so many new restaurants opening up in the area that I can never keep up.
Photography by: portrait by Krystena Patton; all other photos courtesy of Hawthorne