A Janesville-based men’s hair accessories company will be a part of this year’s Grammys gift bags, given to performers and presenters.
The family behind the business? Former actress-turned-mental health professional Tracy Douglas, her husband and their two 20-something sons and nephew.
Under The Hair Forge, the family sells an array of hair accessories for men, from a hair elastic with a metal wolf’s head to a fish skeleton claw clip.
“The mission is to redefine masculinity. To let men have more of a possibility regarding expressing their style. And, to be authentic,” Douglas, the company’s CEO, told the Journal Sentinel. “This is a really great way for them to express themselves and have fun.”
Douglas’ sons, Max and Rider Jarzen, and nephew Jeremiah Mansavage are the faces of the brand and “represent diversity beautifully,” she said.
Max is part-Filipino, like Douglas; Rider, who was adopted, is white; and Mansavage is Black and Filipino, Douglas shared.
“Their hair represents the whole spectrum of different textures and styles,” she said.
And, through the company, the young men are learning about e-commerce, business and communications. It even inspired Max to pursue small business entrepreneurship at Madison Area Technical College.
Here’s a look at how The Hair Forge began, how it got into the Grammys gift bags and more:
The story behind The Hair Forge
While Douglas and Rider were visiting Greece in October 2022, there was a very windy day.
With Rider’s long hair flying all about, he and his mom stopped into a little shop to pick up something to hold it back.
“It was this really nice floral headband,” Douglas said. “I put it in his hair and was like, ‘You look like a young Greek god.’ And, didn’t think too much more about it.”
The following summer, Max asked Douglas for something to hold back his long locks.
But, he wasn’t interested in the black elastic or thin wire headbands he had seen other guys wearing. He wanted something more “stylish” and “groundbreaking.”
“We kind of thought about it for a second and were like, ‘Oh, men’s hair accessories. Is that even a thing?'” Douglas said.
After doing some Googling, Douglas and Max didn’t find any they liked. Right then, the family decided to start its own company to fill that niche.
“We just figured there would be guys out there who’d want to express their style a little bit more, maybe through their hair,” said Max, who’s the company’s chief operations officer.
Preparing for launch
Being new to e-commerce, the family learned about the industry through online trainings, Douglas said. Their Janesville basement became a warehouse of sorts.
They ordered around 400 samples from manufacturers around the world, Douglas said.
Douglas would place the accessories into her sons’ hair and show them how they work. Max and Rider would “remark and critique” what they did and didn’t like about the products.
“They’ve learned a lot about how to style their hair — and they’re continuing to,” Douglas said. “That’s something that’s really super-fun.”
Quality also played a “very important” role when it came to selecting which items they’d carry, according to Douglas.
“We received some products that looked pretty neat, and then just oof, no. No,” she said.
With the three young men having the final word, the family narrowed it down to about 20 products to sell, which retail for between $5 and $25. The line’s overarching theme at the moment is metal alloy, with some pieces that are more simple, and some that are bold, Douglas said.
The Hair Forge team names all of the products and gives them a personality through their descriptions, Max said.
In December 2023, The Hair Forge made its debut at two pop-up events at the Uptown Janesville mall.
“We were so gratified to be received really well,” Douglas said.
Their website, thehairforge.store, launched the first week of January. It features a handful of tutorials — made by Douglas’ husband, Robert, the Midwest creative services director for Audacy — on how to wear and style certain products. The styling is done by Heidi Crull.
“An aspect of this definitely is educational — helping men learn how to wear these in their hair,” Douglas said. “And then, we get to see fun stuff people are doing with them.”
How The Hair Forge got into the Grammys gift bags
In addition to the Grammys, Distinctive Assets has worked with the Tonys, American Music Awards, Kids’ Choice Awards, BET Awards and Academy of Country Music Awards, according to the company’s website.
Days after Douglas followed Lash Fary on Instagram, Lash Fary made a call-out for businesses interested in being a part of this year’s Grammy swag bags, Douglas said.
She reached out immediately, then submitted her application. In the matter of hours, she said, The Hair Forge had been selected.
“So thrilling,” Douglas said. “Utterly thrilling. It felt like this is an idea that the time has come for this. And, this is such a really good sign that we’re onto something really wonderful.”
Which items from The Hair Forge will be in the Grammys gift bags
The Hair Forge items in the Grammys gift bag are four men’s hair accessories, a sticker and an informational card with the company’s story and a QR code card that directs users to tutorials on the products, Douglas said.
The products included in each bag are:
Claymore ($24.95): A sword hair staff that can be used to hold buns or be a stylish accent to an elastic hairband.
Fenrir ($18.95): A hair elastic with a wolf’s head attached to it and a “Nordic” theme.
Isda ($16.95): A fish skeleton hair claw clip named after the Tagalog word for fish — a nod to Douglas’ and Max’s Filipino heritage.
Folha ($19.95): A barrette-like accessory that looks like an etched metal leaf.
The gift bags are given to performers and presenters ahead of The Grammy Awards, which are Feb. 4 in Los Angeles.
From commercials to shows: A glimpse at Tracy Douglas’ career
Douglas — who was born in the Philippines and raised in Brodhead — moved to New York to be a model in her late teens. That’s where she met her husband.
Douglas went on to act in national commercials — including ones for Pepsi, Sears and JCPenney — and appear on several shows, like “Mortal Kombat: Conquest,” on which she played Vorpax.
The couple spent time living in Orlando, Paris and Los Angeles before moving to Wisconsin about 15 years ago. They wanted to raise their kids near Douglas’ sister and her kids.
“Seeing the three little boys growing up and supporting one another, and growing into young adulthood and be friends, and now, they’re business partners — it just feels so special,” Douglas said.
The Hair Forge’s future
The Hair Forge is in talks with several barbershops and salons to carry its line, Douglas said.
The family has its own designs for men’s hair accessories in mind and plans to have them manufactured once they raise enough capital through their current business model, Douglas said.
While Douglas and her husband are leading the company, they hope to eventually pass it down to their children.
“We love what we’re doing and the fact that we get to do it together,” Douglas said.