I have never been one for using an app to find love, lust or whatever happens to land in between. The idea of searching for someone to date/bang/meet through my phone has never felt right to me. It’s too cold, too forced, too searching for a person, rather than just living your life and meeting said person or persons. That being said, I’ve never had an issue with looking at pictures of attractive men, particularly of the bearded variety on my Instagram feed. With the surge in popularity that the bearded/tattooed aesthetic has enjoyed recently, accounts like @beardsandtats, @beardedvillains and @brave_n_bearded have huge followings and create great content for pognofiles like myself to peruse. So when a friend of mine told me there was an app that brings the bearded and their admirers together, I knew I had to check it out. Meet Bristlr.
Available online (www.bristlr.com) and in app form (for iPhone and Android), Bristlr describes itself as follows; “There are many people with beards who like to have them stroked. And there are many people who don’t have beards, but would like to stroke them. Bristlr is the link between the two…Put simply, you use this app to chat to people nearby who like beards (on themselves, or on others, or both).” It’s not so much a dating app/site as a beard appreciation society in the digital age, but if you end up meeting someone and going on a date, hey that’s fine by Bristlr creator John Kershaw. I got the chance to chat with him about Bristlr, beards and the babes who love them.
Tell me about yourself! Are you bearded? How long have you been developing software?
I’m 28, and I live and work in Manchester here in sunny England. I am bearded. I’ve been developing software since I was a kid (I was pretty nerdy growing up… not much has changed), studied it in University here in Manchester, and have been mainly a freelance developer since. When I’m not making Bristlr, I’m a member of Manchester Roller Derby, a UK co-ed roller derby league. I actually have a game on Saturday!
What inspired you to create a social networking app dedicated to the beard?
The inspiration was a bit of a joke; I was thinking about all these new apps which connects person who has [thing] to person who wants [thing], like AirBnB and spare rooms. I came up with the tag line “Connecting those with beards to those who want to stroke beards.” and posted it to Facebook. After a bunch of friends said it was funny, I made a fake landing page, and to my surprise people started signing up! I spent a couple of weeks’ worth of evenings making the prototype, launched it, and it’s been growing since.
What sets Bristlr apart from the other dating/meeting apps out there?
I feel like the big difference between Bristlr and the other matching services out there is the tone of the site. And the beards, obviously. You can’t take Bristlr super-seriously so it’s got a much more relaxed vibe throughout. It’s also being made as people use it, and that seems to be something everyone responds well too. An idea somebody tweets to me on Monday becomes a real feature live on the site on Tuesday. It’s improving week by week.
Have more men or women signed up?
There’s an almost exact 50/50 ratio of people with beards, and people wanting beardy people.There’s also a really interesting side effect of only looking for people with beards and people who like them; the numbers balance really well.
How has the response been to Bristlr so far?
The response has been overwhelmingly positive, which is lovely.
Has creating this app given you a new geographical awareness of beards? Are some places just more bearded than others?
The US and the UK are where most Bristlr users come from, though in the last few weeks there’s been a huge popularity surge in Brazil. Apparently beards are both fashionable, and hard to come by there, so there’s high demand! I really enjoy seeing the different regions of the world using the site, and the different styles of beards on display. Canadian beards look a lot more practical, for instance. The balance of 50/50 bearded to non-bearded seems to hold true globally.
Has Brislr lead to any big success stories that you’d like to share?
I know a lot of my friends have had good dates from Bristlr. One said they had their best date ever via Bristlr, which is a pretty bold step. No marriages yet though, but it’s early days.
What do you hope people get out of Bristlr?
My hopes with Bristlr fall into two main camps; I hope those people looking for a beard to snuggle up with and fondle find what they’re looking for. And I hope those with beards get a little more confidence and pride in themselves. If I can achieve those two things, even on a small scale, that’d make me very happy.
Despite my staunch stance against dating apps and sites, I’ve embraced Bristlr, and already chatted with some very nice bearded gents from all over the world. So if you’re just looking to embrace your inner pognophile, download Bristlr now and get to know the men behind the beards.
*photos by Shirlaine Forrest