The Haircut

Last week, I was looking over my finances. About 25% of the money I budget monthly goes to haircuts. I spend $16 on a cut, tip Jennifer about $4, get two cuts a month, and grab a complimentary shape up in between, for which I tip another $4 or $5.

I’m dropping $50 per month on haircuts (double that number on months I go to New York) and I shouldn’t be. So, in September, I’m investing in a set of basic clippers. $20 right now will save me at least $200 every year from now on. I can do a haircut and a shape up each month at the barbershop, and clean myself up in between.

Looking good is important to me. Saving money is important to me. In order to make money, I have to look good, but in order to look good, I have to save money. Lines must be drawn and compromises must be made.


Make looking your best a priority (but do so responsibly).


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.


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.


“Spread love. It’s the Brooklyn way.”

Make looking good a priority.

Maintaining Relationships

This past weekend, I had nothing to do and no one to hang out with (Desirée and her sorority sisters took a road trip), so I left work on Friday and hit the road for Charlotte. On my way there, I was posting periodically to my Instagram story and one of my friends of almost a decade, Bianca Payton of S&S Associates, shot me a message letting me know that one of her clients, Opera Carolina, would be having an early screening of “The Girl Of The West” that evening and she invited me to come as a “Tweet Seater” (blogger). I haven’t been to the opera in years but it is always nice to immerse yourself in settings that you aren’t regularly in. Not only did I get to see an awesome performance with spectacular music in an amazing venue (get tickets by clicking here), I was also able to meet some movers and shakers in the entrepreneurial and creative sphere, like photographer and re-branding consultant Josh Galloway and footwear designer La’Cario Sellers, owner of Customs by Cario. After the opera, my LB, author Brady S. Moore and I connected with our college friend, marketing specialist Brittany Maul.  Bianca and Josh met up with us there a bit later and we closed the bar.


The next morning, after a 2+ mile run on the south side of Charlotte, I went to visit family and then took some time to catch up with my friend and the best barber in North Carolina, Tim Doe of No Grease Exclusive in uptown Charlotte. I had about 30 minutes to kill so I took my camera bag and shot around downtown before grabbing an awesome brunch w/ Brittany at Mimosa Grill. I closed out my trip by trying to catch an NBA playoff game with Sean Johnson of Toshiba Business Solutions, Cory Bennett of XChange NC, Branden Reid of Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage, and Tony McNeal of Bank of America (I say “trying” because we spent the time catching up and missed the game in its entirety).

Thing is, the game was just wishful thinking. That last chill session with friends is what the trip was about one thing: catching up. As those of you who’ve been rocking with me for a while know, I lived in Charlotte for four years after graduating from UNCG. I loved the city but ended up moving back to Durham to be closer to family. Though the Triangle will always have a place in my heart and it is great for Desirée and me right now, eventually, I hope we get the opportunity to move back to the greater Charlotte area. That being said, though it is years away, maintaining relationships in Charlotte will be key to my success as an entrepreneur. And, though phone calls and text messages are nice, there’s nothing like taking some time to go hang out with those in your circle who are in the physical area that you’re looking to be in. When I came to Charlotte the first time, I had an aesthetically appealing résumé with no experience and I was still developing my network. If I return, I will come with a network that opens doors and experience that closes deals. But to have those doors opened, you have to invest in your relationships on the front end.


Make professional development 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.

Maintenance in Movember

This past Friday, I posted about Movember and its importance. Well today I want to address the reason so many men do not participate in the symbolic month: It takes away from their clean cut appearance.

We are at a point in American corporate history in which it is more acceptable to don a full beard or mustache in many offices. Still, allowing one or the other to remain unkempt in a professional setting is frowned upon. So, whereas I have not cut the length of my beard this month (and do not intend to), this morning I had to trim around the edges of my mustache and clean up my beard’s neckline. Failing to do so is disrespectful to say the least. And, because I don’t yet sign my own paychecks, I must respect the environment in which I work.

So keep your beard. Let your mustache grow until it can’t anymore. Have fun. Be rugged. Participate in raising awareness. But do it with a level of professionalism. Because, unless you’re a model, your beard will not pay your bills.

Oh, and definitely keep your hairline looking tight. And your nails and hygiene and skincare. If everything else looks spectacular, your supervisors will recognize you’re not just letting your grooming completely fall by the wayside.

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Haircut: Professional or Personality?

Haircut: Professional or Personality?

Gentlemen, the hairstyle you choose is key to your success as a young professional so I had to include it in the “Controlled Externalities” series. Though the business world is becoming more and more progressive, there are still glass ceilings that can be placed above those of us who opt out the traditional hairstyles.  It might not be fair but it is reality.

This week I took the time to catch up with one of my two my personal barbers, Vince Jamael, and pick his brain on making sure that your hair looks the very best that it can.

While in college, I got a haircut at least once a week and a trim on the night that I went out for social gatherings.  That was right when Vince Jamael was getting comfortable with his clippers and sheers and his prices were right in line with my undergraduate student budget.  But, as I aged and relocated, I found that my haircuts were becoming more and more expensive.  Whereas I was paying between $30 and $60 per month in Greensboro, where I attended college, Charlotte haircuts were costing me $80 before I even pulled out a tip.  But I am a firm believer that your appearance is something you invest in and, if you want quality, you have to pay for it.  I asked Vince Jamael how often he believes an image conscious young professional should get his hair cut and he recommends “an actual haircut every other week and a trim or shape up in between.”

But, if you’re anything like me, you travel a couple times a month and may be away from your barber for a week or longer.  At that point what do you do?  I know that I won’t go to just any barber but I do know how to follow a line so I asked Vince what product he suggests to keep that hairline looking as clean as possible.  “The Andis T-Outliner is what I would recommend.  It is barber-quality but easy to work with and not very expensive.”  I looked it up online and the outliners are about $50 but that’s 3-5 trims at a regular barbershop so definitely not a bad investment in my eyes.


Now for the hardest question:  What do you do in the age of the beard?  Men both in and out of the office are sporting them now.  But, more often than not, the president of the United States sets the for what is professionally acceptable in America and what is not.  The last president to be elected with any facial hair was William Taft in 1913.  When I asked Vince Jamael his opinion on professional facial hair stylings, he said “It’s always safe to go all the way close shaven but if you want to keep the beard, make sure it’s close and neatly trimmed. You can never go wrong w/ the goatee.  It’s the best of both worlds.”

I am always one for playing it safe but your hair speaks to your personality.  So, whether you decide you want to wear your hair longer or shorter, bearded or shaven, it is imperative that you keep it clean if you want to get (or keep) the job.

If you have any questions about hairstyles, I definitely recommend you follow @VinceJamael and @NoGreaseBarbershop on Instagram.  As of now, they are the only two brands I trust to take my hair as seriously as I take my professionalism and that is saying volumes.


The 5 Men Every Man Needs

#WellDressedWednesday is usually about… well, dressing.  But today I decided that just as important as being well-dressed is being well put together.  So I wanted to share this article by Adam Baidawi I read in Esquire.

As an aside, black men, we know we have to get a haircut more frequently than this writer prescribes but otherwise, everything else pretty much hits the nail on the head.

Asking for help can be hard. Asking another man for help can be harder.

When a man places his trust in another person’s expertise, he’s hit with a swift one-two punch. At once, he’s admitting to his shortcomings and acknowledging that, hey: someone else may know better. (Preposterous, we understand.)

But we all need help. Help be sharper, to be fitter, smarter – even saner.

Naturally, finding the right men for the job is worth questing for. We asked a few of London’s finest to point us in the right direction.

Why is he essential?
Perhaps the most crucial expert in every man’s life – and with clear reason.

“A tailor hides all the bad bits, and highlights all your best bits,” says Richard James, whose iconic bespoke suits have been donned by the likes of David Cameron and Mark Ronson.

“Having a great relationship with a sharp tailor is invaluable,” says James. “He knows you. He knows your body. He knows what you like and don’t like – and he can challenge your sense of style every now and then.”

“Having a good tailor shows that a man’s got good taste.”
How to find yours
Hitting the pavement in Savile Row is an excellent place to start.

“Go into a couple of tailors and talk: ask them what they think you should be wearing, tell them what you’d like to be wearing,” says James. “It won’t take long to figure out who’s on your side.”

Why is he essential?
“You wear your haircut 24/7 for six weeks. It’s the most important part of your outfit,” says Brent Pankhurst, who has styled hair for Vogue, Esquire and Daniel Craig.

The man makes a vivid point. Nothing ruins a brilliant suit or sharp off-duty outfit like a terrible haircut. It’s aesthetically demoralizing.

So, let’s not undervalue the competency of your barber of choice. The right man should pull together your interests, your job, your social life and your aspirations into single, holistic style.

“The best barbers,” says Pankhurst, “will make you look like the very best version of yourself.”
How to find yours
“A good barber needs to find out exactly what look a man is going for, while being honest enough to say what’s possible,” says Pankhurst.

Your best tactic is to walk in for a consultation – without the gown.

“Any barber who doesn’t give you a free consultation isn’t worth his weight in gold.”

Why is he essential?
“Men should take care of their shoes and take care of their bed – because if they’re not in one, they’re in the other,” says Tim Little, the creative director and owner of Grenson.

Of course, every man can and should handle the basics of his shoe care. “Give them a proper seeing to after every three wears, or every time they’re rained on,” Little recommends. “Many men polish their shoes every day.”

Sometimes, though, experts are needed – like when needles and threads are involved. Your best and brightest need surgical precision.

“The right cobbler will add years to the life of your shoes,” says Little. “ A good cobbler is second on the list to a good doctor.”
How to find yours
The rule of thumb to finding a worthy cobbler? Steal a glance at his working table. “If he’s repairing English and Goodyear Welted shoes, he will be okay,” says Little.

Consider shoe care a man’s most necessary non-necessity – a distinct point of pride.  “Shoe care is symbolic because you don’t have to do it. You do it because you feel it’s important,” says Little.

“A man who takes care of his shoes, takes care of his life.”

Why is he essential?
A man begins and ends with his body. Everything else – his work, his success, his style – is auxiliary. Makes sense to take care of it, right?

“Your selection of personal trainer says a lot about you – and it’s key to reaching your goals,” says Harry Jameson, one of London’s leading private personal trainers.

Sure, the right trainer will lift you to supreme personal health – it comes with the territory. But let’s – for a moment – fully embrace superficiality. The aesthetic benefits of fitness are innumerous: clothes fit better, partners are more easily attracted and beach holidays are (finally!) an exciting prospect.
How to find yours
“In some circles having a ‘top trainer’ is seen as a status symbol – but really, your success will come down to the relationship between trainer and client,” explains Jameson.

“Remember: you might be spending as much time with your trainer as your best friend – you need to gel with them.”

Jameson recommends a five-pronged attack to filtering out your potential candidates.

  1. The Qualifications: “Demand a minimum of BSc degree level qualification.”
  2. The Experience: “Look for a minimum of 5 years.”
  3. The (realistic) CV: “Anyone who claims to be a specialist in 10-12 different areas probably isn’t. Pick someone who’s brilliant in 3-4 key areas that interest you.”
  4. The Personality: “You have to gel with your trainer. Always do 1-2 sessions with them before you go ahead and buy an expensive block of sessions.”
  5. The Location: “In general, you will find a higher quality of trainer in a private studio than you will in a massive branded gym with thousands of members.”

Well, this just became very bloody personal, didn’t it? A psychologist, psychiatrist – or even psychoanalyist – is an expert that requires entirely more consideration than we can summarise here.

Happily, though, we can point you in the right direction. Esquire‘s own Giles Coren delved into one of the stranger and more vulnerable relationships in his life: that with his psychoanalyst. Even better, he came out advocating it. Read Coren’s case for professional cognitive maintenance.


Source: Esquire