Rex Wax founder Paul Branham’s journey to starting his own men’s grooming company involves some colorful twists and turns, including run-ins with the law while he was a traveling peddler of cannabis and a stint as a chef in Portland. Branham’s Long Beach-based line reflects his eclecticism, with beard oils and moustache waxes packaged in psychedelic prints and almost always featuring a miniature of his head as the mystical face of the brand. His products are exuberantly done and inventive in a market currently oversaturated with beardcare.
We recently had the chance to chat with Branham and discuss why he goes by the name Rex, the inspired process behind his first moustache wax, aesthetic influences, and much more.
Read on for our very elucidating interview with the founder of Rex Wax!
Where are you located?
I’m based out of Long Beach, CA.
When and why did you start this business?
It was 2009 and I had run out of moustache wax. I was using two brands at the time, and against all odds, ran out of both, at the same time. In my capacity as host of a popular restaurant, I had to maintain a certain image, and if I wanted to keep my moustache, I’d need some wax.
I had $25 to my name for the next two weeks, the cupboards were bare, and I had choices to make. Being someone who never thought I’d be able to grow a moustache, I was keen to keep this one. It was born in the fire.
Essentially, the decision was made for me – I’d have to make my own moustache wax. It took some trial and error, but I’m a fast learner, and came up with my first formula. I made a few dozen tins and took them to work. I gave a few away and sold the rest over the weekend. A business was born. At that time, there were only a handful of makers worldwide who produced moustache wax.
You used to be a chef in Portland? Tell us more about that.
Portland is probably the best city in the United States for dining out. The quality of food is unreal – the freshest, most local ingredients at affordable prices. You can go out to eat with a few friends at a top restaurant, order the entire menu (some places twice over), and have cocktails and only spend a couple hundred dollars. The same experience in L.A., San Francisco, or New York would be well over a thousand dollars.
That being said, the Portland food scene is hyper-saturated with restaurants and with eager, young, aspiring chefs. This guarantees that you get worked like a slave and have virtually zero worker rights. I also had a lot of fun, don’t get me wrong.
How did you come up with the name of your company?
When I was younger, I used to be, shall we say, a traveling marijuana entrepreneur. Part of my route took me to my hometown, and in an effort to keep my family’s name clean, I went by Rex. A run-in with the DEA and half a dozen branches of law enforcement ended my career. I had a lot of folks who still knew me as Rex. As I was thinking of names for my new business, I decided on Rex Wax. It was short and to the point, and it brought Rex out of the shadows. Plus, Rex means King, and you can’t do better than king.
You have a very unique personal style.
How did you come up with your aesthetic and the aesthetic of your company?
My style evolved organically and draws inspiration from many elements, including: Georgian Era menswear, men’s work clothes from 1930s-1960s, and classic western wear, with a heavy psychedelic flair. My company’s aesthetic follows a similar path.
What inspires you?
Beautiful music, magical books, epic films, and delicious food.
What are some of your accomplishments as a business?
I started with $25 and an immediate need for moustache wax. In a handful of years, I’ve grown Rex Wax into a respected global brand with an ever-growing range of products.
What do you believe makes a quality product?
A quality product begins with the finest ingredients available. They must be carefully chosen and masterfully blended. Small-batch manufacturing ensures freshness and consistency.
What is one Rex Wax product every man should own and why?
Even though Rex Wax originated with a simple moustache wax, we have grown beyond the limits of facial hair to offer a full range of products, as we understand that not all men have facial hair.
But every man (and woman) has a set of lips. The mouth is one of the most-noticed, most attractive features on anyone’s face. If your lips are cracked and dry, you’re not making the best impression possible. That said, everyone needs a tube of Rex Wax Lip Balm; with its thoughtful blend of spearmint and peppermint essential oils, combined with shea butter, mango butter, and beeswax, Rex Wax Lip Balm refreshes, invigorates, and locks in moisture without feeling heavy or leaving your lips shining.
What advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs?
Don’t start a bandwagon business. That is, if you’re hearing a lot of press about a particular industry and hear reports of unbelievable profits, that’s not the place nor the time to jump in for your piece of the pie. If you heard that story, read the article, or saw the TV show and then got the idea for your business, chances are, there are thousands who had the same thought at the same time.
Find something that you have an existing interest in or passion for and look for unexplored avenues, find the unmet needs and meet them. The world doesn’t need more people regurgitating the same ideas and goods, over and over again. Be bold, be different.
Invent something that makes me want to give you all of my money.
What do you have coming from Rex Wax in the near future?
Hard to say, I have so many products and ideas constantly in the works. I can say that I recently launched a special beard oil and moustache wax combo, the Longhorn Blend that is a fundraiser for The American Cancer Society.
Quick Question + Answer:
Right now, I’m obsessed with:
Canter’s Deli and figuring out how to get into doing voice-over work with the least initial investment.
I’d love to visit:
The French Laundry (a restaurant in Yountville, CA).
Rule I live by:
My motto comes from the play/film “Harvey”: “In this world, you must be oh so smart, or oh so pleasant. Well, for years I was smart. I recommend pleasant. You may quote me.”
Where can readers find out more about your company?