Beardo, a hat for beards, more popular than creator imagined

Shine On

Beards are great for winter — they keep your face warm and make you look like a lumberjack. Yet beards have drawbacks: they can be scratchy and itchy, women can't grow them, and they make you look like a lumberjack.

Fortunately, entrepreneur Jeff Phillips has come up with a handy solution to all of these problems with the invention of the Beardo, a toque with a foldaway detachable knit beard.

A Dragon's Den reject, the Beardo has gained a level of popularity even Phillips is surprised by.

"They were very quickly picked up by a range of people, not just skiers and snowboards as originally thought," writes Phillips on his company website.

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The former Stratford, Ontario resident (he lives in Australia now) came up with the idea while snowboarding on the "Seventh Heaven" run in Whistler, British Columbia. It was unusually chilly, so he pulled his scarf across his mouth and made a hole to sip from his water bottle, and the Beardo was born. His friend's grandma and an ex-girlfriend who could knit helped him improve the design, according to the Globe and Mail.

The Beardo now sells online around the world, and the product line has expanded to include a collection of cheeky winter-wear products, like the Houdini 3-in-1 Beanie (a beanie that turns into a scarf and headband), and the November Cap which has a bendable moustache.

The kitschy caps have been a huge hit in the media — Phillips' has appeared on numerous TV shows and has received several celebrity endorsements. The CBC's George Strombolopolous says of the product, "How amazing are these knit Beardo beanies? It's got all the warmth of a ski mask without all the hassle of people thinking you're trying to mug them."

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Phillips' appearance this past March on the CBC television show Dragon's Den initially garnered a chilly response. Arlene Dickinson's reacted to the Beanie-clad entrepreneur's origin story thusly, "Were you high?" Yet as he related his early successes with the company — Phillips brought in $100,000 in five months — the panel warmed to the product.

"When you came out I thought it was just a joke," says Dickinson. "I thought oh my gosh here we go again, but you completely turned me around."  The Dragons ultimately agreed that Phillips didn't need their money and sent him on his way, encouraging him to "Stay alternative."

Phillips has done so, relying on Facebook advertising, media appearances and word of mouth to promote his product. So far, it's working. The Beardo Facebook page currently has 47,930 likes, up from 11,000 in March.

So whether you're a fan of the beard or not, you'll likely be seeing a few of the knit variety this coming winter.