Neck n’ Neck Vintage Co.

A man’s wardrobe choices can make or break his entire career. But, what many don’t realize is, a man’s choice in accessories can make or break his entire wardrobe. Now, often, the most prominent accessory a man in business professional/formal attire is his tie. That being said, where do you think you ought to build your wardrobe’s versatility? If you guessed “From my tie rack,” you’re today’s winner.

Processed with VSCO with a6 presetYou’ve likely heard of my go-to groomer Vince Jamael, of Adrian Fanus Grooming, Inc. (and if you haven’t, just click this whole sentence and you’ll get taken to a handful of posts on this site dealing with his greatness). One thing you may not know about Vince is that he’s not only a well-groomed groomer, but he’s also something like a style icon in his own circle. Always well-dressed for any occasion, Vince is constantly asked where he gets his threads. And, more often than you’d believe, his answer is “From XYZ Vintage Clothing Shop.” Much of his style is vintage with an intentional new school flare. Head to toe, the brother is sharp and I don’t say that about everyone.

I can recall the year after I graduated from undergrad and was sleeping on Vince’s living room couch (times were tough but look what God has done five years later), and I saw that he had this dope tie. Now, I didn’t have any skinny ties in my wardrobe at the time and, not only was this one skinny but it was a vibrant shade of red and made of cotton. Far outside my realm of comfort but it had my attention. Vince caught me checking it out and said I could have it if I wanted it. That was my first step to exploring more nontraditional styles of neckwear.

Processed with VSCO with a6 presetFast forward to present day and Vince has started his own neckwear company, Neck n’ Neck Vintage Co., based out of Brooklyn. His business model is a unique one, in which he carefully curates only the most exclusive neckties from vintage shops, both across the United States and in his international travels. His goal is to provide his clientele with the caliber of tie that their grandfather would look for at a reasonable price. The curation, purchase, and restoration of these timeless pieces are responsibilities that fall squarely on Vince’s shoulders alone, but ones that he accepts.

“My passion for helping young men and women feel their best when they put on a necktie is helping to make this dream a reality,” Vince said when asked why he’s investing so much into this vision. “I recall looking at classic photos of gentlemen from older days and thinking ‘What if we combined their knowledge of proper dress with this generation’s fashion sense? We’d be unstoppable.’ So here I am, trying to create a brand that is truly timeless.”

Initially doing private consultations to present clients with his neckwear, Vince is now able to be contacted on Instagram at @vtg_ties. As the brand grows, he will develop more avenues through which his pieces can be purchased but right now, he prefers “personal style consultations to cold cash-based sales.”

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You can’t put a tie on without a shirt without looking like a Chippendale, so get the shirt and trousers together but, when you’ve got those two checked off, make sure your neck speaks to a level of distinction without breaking the bank. The best way to do that? Grab a distinguishing necktie from Neck n’ Neck Vintage Co. and let it tell a story without you having to say a word.

Make quality neckwear a priority.

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The Corporate Sauce

Vince: What kind of cut do you want, bro?
Me: I’m your canvas. You know where I work. Make it dope, but make it professional.
Vince: Cool. I’m gonna give you that corporate sauce.

The Thursday before last, I flew up to NYC for a haircut… Ok, I lied. I’m not at that point in my life yet. But I did fly up to NY for my younger cousin’s high school graduation and I can’t go to the city without hitting Adrian Fanus Grooming (AFG) in Brooklyn.

Ten years ago next month, I met a young man who will likely be my go to barber whenever we’re in the same city and will certainly be one of my best friends for life. Vince Jamael is the most talented grooming professional I’ve ever worked with. That’s not to negate the skills of my two go-to barbers in NC. But, in the decade that I’ve known him, the exponential growth I’ve seen Vince exhibit has me excited to see where he will be a decade from now. He went from cutting in the bathrooms of Phillips-Hawkins Residence Hall for something like $5 to charging a respectable $xx, before my tip (and my cut was on the lower end of the price scale). But back to the cut. 

Old Vince

Circa 2008

Now, before I tell you to go visit the shop next time you’re in NYC, know that AFG believes you get what you pay for. Because their grooming experiences aren’t cheap, their grooming experiences aren’t cheap. Their experiences are by appointment only and these professionals are on time. They know what they need to do, what they have time to do, and, while they will not rush through your cut, they will make sure that you look like you had an artist with a very detailed eye just work on your appearance. You walk into the inconspicuous shop and the receptionist shows you to the waiting room. But, before leaving you, she presents you with their beverage options and returns with something refreshing to sip on during your brief wait. Within a short time, your grooming professional comes to bring you to his/her chair and the work begins.

FullSizeRenderNow, this being my second time in the AFG shop since Vince started working there, I’ve been asked what type of cut I want and my request was followed to a T. They make sure you get what you want. But, knowing that Vince is a visionary, this trip, I told him to do what he wanted. I had let me hair grow for about four weeks so that he would have a very rough canvas to work with. I only gave him two instructions: work his magic and don’t get me fired.

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The moment the clippers hit my head, my spirits were lifted. There are very few things that make a man feel better than a fresh cut, especially after going a few weeks without one. Thanks to Vince’s low cost cuts in college, I’d grown accustomed to a touch up every week and a cut every other week so I was beginning to feel like Pookie from New Jack City. After getting the length right, he took care of my hairline, which begins looking rough when it’s gone two weeks with no attention. Finally, he put a classic blade to my hairline and my facial hair, adding that literal razor sharp look to my cut. The cut concluded with a warm towel, a smile, and a handshake.

IMG_8063Now, sadly, I’m not flying back and forth to BK to get a cut every other week but I do have another close friend who lives in Brooklyn, works in Manhattan, and goes to AFG regularly. We’ve compared notes and he says that his experiences are as good as mine are. To me, that says that each of their grooming professionals pays the same attention to detail and treats clients with the same respect as one of my closest friends does for me. You can be the best dressed, most articulate person in the world, but without a great haircut and facial hair that looks intentional, you run the risk of not getting a job or even losing the one you have.

 

While you may not be able to make it to AFG, that is the type of service all young professionals should look for in a grooming professional, be it a barber or a beautician. You need someone who knows what you do for a living, what you’re looking to do in the future, who can make your hair look like it’s a part of your personality, and still make you look great for a night on the town. Your grooming professional should be your friend who you just happen to pay (and tip well) to make you look awesome. Someone who, if you’re looking for it, can hook you up with the corporate sauce.

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“Spread love. It’s the Brooklyn way.”

Make looking good a priority.

Find a Great Barber/Hairstylist

I’m so fortunate.  Since college, I’ve had some awesome barbers.  But, with each relocation, it takes me getting through the not so awesome ones to get to the ones I need.

Over the past decade, I’ve made four moves within North Carolina: Durham > Greensboro > Charlotte > Durham.  Growing up, I went to the neighborhood barber.  There wasn’t a decision to be made.  That’s just what was.  Then, when I got to college, I didn’t have a car so I went to this barbershop that was near campus and it was like the one back home.  But I wasn’t satisfied.  I saw guys on campus with sharper lines than I had.  So I asked a few of them where they went and, my sophomore year, I switched to a different barbershop.  In between cuts, I would get shape ups from this guy in the dorm who was trying to develop his barbering skills.  He got so good (and was so cost effective) that he took the spot of the actual barbershop.  That guy from the dorm turned out to be Vince Jamel of Adrian Fanus Grooming in Brooklyn, New York.  Now, one of my best friends, I was lucky to have him cut my wedding party and me last October.

Soon after graduating from UNCG, I moved to Charlotte and only heard the name of one barbershop: No Grease.  Everyone I asked who had a nice haircut (with the exception of my financial advisor George Acheampong) said the same thing.  So No Grease it was.  I tried two barbers there.  The first did a good job but I didn’t communicate the cut I wanted well enough.  So I tried one more and I hit the nail on the head.  Currently in North Carolina, Tim Doe holds the crown for cuts in my opinion.  Great customer service.  Accommodating.  And he gets to know who he’s cutting so that he can give good suggestions on what would best fit your style and industry.  See, a barber/groomer/hairstylist shouldn’t just be there to do the job.  (S)he is a friend and consultant.  Shoot, half the time, a good barber is your unofficial therapist as well.  When I had friends move to town, I pointed them to No Grease.  “Everyone in there can cut well,” I always said, “but see if you can get on Tim’s schedule.”  I even had a frat brother come down for a wedding and his barber in DC was out of town when he left but he really needed a cut.  I took him to Tim and got him squeezed in.  As always, an immaculate cut was given.

You can imagine how hard it was for me to move back to Durham and know that, as much as I wanted to go to No Grease like usual, a 3 hour drive would turn that into a $50-$60 haircut every two weeks, including gas (or, as I like to think of it, at least $1,300/year).  So I started the process all over again back home.  My old barber was no longer around.  At the time, I worked at Nordstrom and one of my assistant managers heard me say I was looking for a new shop so he recommended his, Rock’s Bar and Hair Shop.  Now, cutting straight hair and curly hair are two different processes, so I figured “I may check it out but I need someone who knows how to cut black hair.”  And I found someone there who does it very well.  The customer service there is exceptional and the environment is super cool.  Plus you get a free beer with your haircut!

As I said in the first sentence, I’m fortunate to have been blessed with great barbers over the past decade.  If you find a good one who knows you, your professional aspriations, and your style, keep him/her.  Do I have a favorite over all of them?  Of course.  But, since they’re all in different locations, you should just try each brand out when you’re in their respective cities.

 

Photo credit: Suave Visions

 

Make professional development a priority.

On Transparency in Pricing

Many entrepreneurs who provide services as opposed to products are faced with the challenge of pricing. Even I have struggled with people working to negotiate prices with me. And you know what I’ve realized? Everyone wants to be paid what they’re worth but most of us (except the true entrepreneur) doesn’t want to pay what a service is actually worth. For example, one of my clients, Vince Jamael, is a professional groomer. When we were in college, Vince was the campus barber. He would charge guys $30 per month and provide unlimited haircuts. At the time, haircuts were going for about $10 and the standard for many men of African descent is to get a haircut once a week. So you’re really saving $10 a month. Not too shabby. But, as Vince got better, the demand for his service increased. Now, if you’ve taken Econ 101 (or ever watched the news), you know that, the higher the demand for a product, the more one can charge for it. So Vince ended that monthly plan program. Of course some people were disappointed but Vince realized two things: 1) He had a gift that he could making a living from and 2) He needed to go to school to become a licensed barber. So his prices went up. And people kept coming to him because, by this point, he had developed a reputation of being not only one of the best barbers in Greensboro but also in North Carolina, having won a major grooming competition in Charlotte, NC the summer prior to entering barbering school. Now, less than a year out of formal barbering school and two years after receiving his bachelors, Vince is a groomer with Adrian Fanus Grooming in Brooklyn, NY. He is getting the exposure (and pay) that he deserves. 

But I digress. I began that story to make the point that setting prices as an entrepreneur is difficult but you must be firm and transparent. I just changed my price list because of an increase in demand as well as realizing that I have years of success in professional development and branding experience. If I charge you $80 for a résumé or cover letter that gets you into an interview for a $40,000/year position, you should think you got a deal. The same is true if I charge a business a $300 monthly fee for managing their social media. The problem is, most people think that résumés and Twitter accounts should be free. And they are… if you maintain them yourself. But do you fix your own wiring when the lights in your home go out? No. You hire an electrician who posts set prices. And you pay them. Without negotiating. So why not pay an expert a set, non-negotiable fee to make add to your professionalism or your business’s brand?

If your employer tried to haggle with you about your already set salary, you’d feel as if he didn’t value your work enough to pay you what you were worth. Need I say more?