The iconic Mason Pearson hairbrush is one that has been coveted by hair stylists for decades… So what’s the story behind this iconic company?
Well, for starters, they don’t need to push their product—they just work. You’re going to want to read in this article from Allure about how Mason Pearson got its start in 1885 with their boar bristle brush, and how since then they have continued to dominate in the beauty industry.
Hairstylist Guido backstage at fashion week holding a Mason Pearson | Patrick McMullan
By Edwina Ings-Chambers for Allure
Behind an inconspicuous door on London’s Old Bond Street, up a narrow flight of royal-blue-carpeted stairs, you will find a small, unremarkable office. There is nothing to indicate that you have arrived at the nerve center of an icon.
Mason Pearson, the company that made, and kept, a name for itself with a boar-bristle brush, has been run by the same family for four generations. The brush’s design has changed little since the original was created in 1885. It still features a soft rubber pad (thought to be easier on the hair), which might not seem like the biggest deal but was pretty much hair-care heresy in the late 1800s. If you’ve drunk the Mason Pearson Kool-Aid, you would say that the rubber pad allows the bristles to more gently massage your scalp, triggering increased oil production, which gets distributed through the length of the hair via the natural bristles. The intellectual property behind the brush is so closely guarded that the staff of the company must sign the British equivalent of an NDA.
Hairstylist Jen Atkin’s Mason Pearson | Donato Sardella
Michael Pearson, the CEO, is a soft-spoken, matter-of-fact man who’s on the lighter side of follicular life and dresses like a kindly grandfather in a Roald Dahl book: crewneck sweater, checkered shirt, understated tie. His sister works in the accounting department. It’s not necessarily the clothing style you’d expect in a family that has staked a claim in the front row of the beauty and fashion worlds. Name a famous hairstylist — Sam McKnight, Guido, Chris McMillan — and chances are they have several Mason Pearsons in their bag at all times. Often this will be the last thing that touches a model before she steps on a runway or in front of a photographer. The brush’s unrivaled popularity is a fact that Pearson himself seems pleased with, if unimpressed by. “Yes, it’s curious, isn’t it?” he deadpans. “We haven’t pushed it.”
A Mason being used to smooth the hair backstage at Rebecca Minkoff Fall 2014 | Astrid Stawiarz
Model Devon Windsor backstage at Prabal Gurung Fall 2014 holding a Mason | Jennifer Graylock
To say the least. Mason Pearson is in fact notorious for not pushing it. They don’t dole out freebies, toss brushes into influencer goody bags, or woo editors with their latest models. “We don’t want pushy PR. We can’t make enough brushes to capitalize on it, so what’s the point?” he says. Annual production is somewhere between 200,000 and 300,000. That some beauty brands spend tens of thousands of dollars to be part of the backstage-beauty story surprises him. “Really?” he says. “Hairdressers just want [our brushes]. Same as film sets. If people use the product and they like it, that’s fine.” But to Pearson, his is not a capital B Brand; he’s a manufacturer. He’s interested in production, not product placement. “This is a utilitarian product: It’s a hairbrush.” His work is serious. Look for juicy stories, misdemeanors, or dramas and he’ll recount the time the factory switched from gas to electric. Or the time the construction of London’s Olympic Park meant the factory had to move (for only the second time in its history) and they were at risk of losing all their skilled workforce and closing down. Temporary (now full-time) employees saved the day. “I got a bit angry,” he says, sounding anything but. In case it’s not apparent, this is a family committed to its cause. Pearson tells me about the time his grandfather moved his empty hand slightly up and down on his deathbed: “It’s how you check the balance of the brush handle.”