Looking for love—or something significantly quicker—has never been possible in quite as many ways as it is today, thanks to the rise of the Internet and social apps on smart phones. Finding guys who fit a particular type, though, can sometimes be a bit more challenging.
For many gay men across the world, that’s where Scruff comes in.
“My friend Eric [Silverberg] and I, we wanted to create an app that really spoke to a different community,” says Johnny Skandros, a.k.a. Johnny Scruff, the co-creator of Scruff.
Skandros and Silverberg launched Scruff back in 2010, and since then, it’s become one of the biggest social apps for gay men all over the world. Within three years, the app has garnered 5 million users all over the world.
As for that community Skandros wanted to reach, it was one that was a little…hairier than the norm.
“I had noticed in New York City, there was this new culture of scruffier guys—guys who were a little more masculine, guys with beards, a lot of bears,” Skandros says. “I was familiar with the bear community as well, so I saw this mix of the bear community and these scruffier guys.”
With a wide number of social apps available for download, standing out is vital to becoming—and staying—a success. Skandros believes that Scruff’s users make the difference, both in number and range.
“I think the thing that distinguishes us the most is the guys on Scruff. When you log on to Scruff, you see a different community of guys than you do on other apps,” Skandros says. “We have a lot of military men, we have a lot of athletes. We have a very strong presence of guys that, I think, are visibly different than what you see on the others. We’re definitely a little more niche, but we’re special, and I think people have responded really well to the name and the community. That’s risen around the app itself.”
Part of growing that community is making sure the app is available to more users across the world. While Scruff started as an iOS app, it’s grown to include an Android version and, in the last month, a new Windows Phone version as well. While the app itself is free (and more robust than many competing apps), iOS and Android users can purchase subscriptions for more advanced features, with pro features coming to Windows Phone soon.
Scruff is making sure that the app stays on top of its game, too, according to Skandros: “We have a big release coming up. I can’t tell you what features we’re coming up with, but I think the community’s going to love them. I think we’re one of the most feature-rich apps on the market already, so we have a lot of cool stuff planned that I think our members are really going to love. We’re excited about that as well.”
One common criticism lobbed at apps like Scruff is that their popularity is killing gay nightlife as it’s been known for decades. Common complaints include talk about guys looking at their phone for men instead of around them in bars. Skandros politely, but firmly, disagrees with this assessment.
“I think apps like Scruff haven’t killed gay nightlife, they’ve actually helped it,” says Skandros. “The birth of the Internet certainly changed the dynamics of the gay community; however, gay men have proven that they still want to go out, dance, and socialize face to face. Apps like Scruff also make connections happen faster, which can lead to grabbing a beer at a bar as a first date.”
As part of making Scruff a community app, they’ve made opportunities available to bars and clubs as well: these venues have the ability to list events for free in the app, which provides users with information about where to go both locally and abroad.
Scruff also hosts a select number of sponsored events throughout the year. According to Skandros, “Scruff sponsored events bring in some of the largest crowds most bars have ever seen, so it’s apparent to us that people want nightlife.”
Which brings us to Atlanta. Scruff is bringing its party to Atlanta for the first time ever on April 12 at Heretic, and Skandros for one is excited.
“This is the first time I’ve ever been to Georgia. I’m excited. I know Atlanta’s really popular… I know Atlanta’s very active on Scruff, so I’m expecting a big night. (laughs) I’ve never been [to Atlanta], but I chat with guys from Atlanta all the time on Scruff, and they seem really friendly.”
This aspect of the job—partying in various cities across the country—is what Skandros is famous for among Scruff users. It’s a part of the job that Skandros and his team enjoy.
“Events are really a fun thing for me, and for Scruff,” says Skandros. “It’s not any source of revenue for us. This is just a way for us to have fun, meet guys, give out Scruff swag, and I think most importantly, bring the community together.”
Skandros also predicts a huge turnout, if Atlanta’s like other locations where Scruff parties have been held.
“When guys hear about a Scruff night, they know that they’re going to see a different crowd of guys at that bar that they’re not normally going to see, because it’s heavily advertised on our app, heavily advertised on Facebook,” says Skandros. “So you get a crop of guys that may not necessarily frequent that bar, or even come out, really.”
“These events have become extremely popular whenever we do them, and during the event, it’s really me with my friends, and during this event [in Atlanta], I’m bringing a huge group of people from New York with me.”
The group he’s bringing to Atlanta includes DJ Shane Stiel of San Diego alongside Atlanta’s own DJ Sean Mac, as well as faces familiar to Scruff users like Joey Scruff, Anthony Angelico, Nathan Parker, DJ Nando and Brian Raffery. The crew will be giving away special Scruff swag, including t-shirts and dog tags. Skandros also hints at something extra for those of you with the Scruff app on your phones: “There’s definitely going to be some booze involved for people who show me their Scruff app.”
If making your way out that night is still up for debate in your head, Skandros has one last pitch for you. “It’s really a way for me to meet the community, and really for the community to meet each other. So…good music, dancing, fun, booze, Scruff…it’ll be a good night, I promise.”
Scruff invades Heretic on Friday, April 12, beginning at 9 p.m. Entry is free before 10 p.m. and $10 after 10. For more on Scruff, visit scruff.com. For more on Heretic, visit hereticatlanta.com.