Life Isn’t Long Enough For Regrets

For the next few days, I’m in New York for what I have determined will be the concert of a lifetime. My favorite hip-hop group, The Diplomats, is performing in the city that I’ve adopted as my second home. I’ve been rocking with them for over half of my life. I’ve purchased (not stolen but PURCHASED) every album they’ve dropped. I have their apparel. I’m a fan’s fan. But, sadly, every time they’ve been in NC during my adult life, I’ve been out of the country or state. Most recently, I was in Thailand while they did not one but TWO shows in NC. 🤦🏿‍♂️😫
Know what? Tomorrow is not promised and so, in this moment, I decided I would be in NYC this weekend to see them close out the Dipset Forever tour in their hometown. As much as they break up and get back together, who knows which tour will be their last? So here I am, living my best life. I ain’t goin’ back and forth with you… well, y’all know the rest.
Oh, and, while we’re on the subject of being a fan, I couldn’t come to the city without getting a cut at the best barbershop on this side of the ozone layer: The Standard Grooming Company. If you’re in Brooklyn, make sure you rock with them. While all three of the groomers in the spot are exceptional, I sit in the chair of the man who has been cutting my hair for over a decade now, co-owner Vince Jamael. Definitely a fan not only of the work of Vince, Autumn, and Troy, but also love the decor in their spot. Make sure you follow D Squared Visuals on Instagram to see some of the dope shots I’ll be capturing here (I’m writing at the shop as I await my cut) and from around the City.
Ok. Now I have to figure out exactly what I’m doing with my hair. I haven’t gotten a cut since May! Here’s to a great weekend!
Ballin
Make living without regrets a priority.
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New Tie Alert! 👔

A few weeks ago, I posted about Neck ‘n Neck Vintage Co., a startup out of Brooklyn, New York. Yesterday, I received my first necktie from Neck ‘n Neck and I am impressed. While neckwear curator Vince Jamael specializes in providing customers with quality vintage ties from notable brands, I purchased mine after letting him know some of the styles I was interested in and then he provided me with samples that ranged in style but met my criteria. I finally settled on the Bert Pulitzer paisley that is pictured above. Having sold menswear for years with Nordstrom, Inc., I can recognize quality neckwear pieces when I see and/or touch them and this one passed the test. An impeccable silk tie with a vintage look and a width that, though may not always be on the cutting edge of fashion, will never go out of style.

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While a quality new suit will cost you hundreds of dollars and a well-made shirt is even going to be around $50 (closer to the $30 range if you know where and when to shop), a few ties from Neck ‘n Neck Vintage Co. can add some versatility to your wardrobe in no time for little cost. The more I mature, the more my tastes in whiskey and neckwear align. At this point in my life, I like my ties like I like my whiskey: classic and neat.

So, go ahead, follow @vtg_ties on Instagram, and let them know which pieces you’re interested in. You can thank me later.

 

Make being well-dressed a priority.

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.

Every Look Isn’t For Everyone

Yesterday, I went to get a haircut and, last night, I decided I needed to clean up my beard (ok, what really happened is Desirée told me I looked like I was a person without a home). I remember in high school when I wanted for my sideburns to connect to my goatee so badly. It took a while. Then I wanted a thick beard. That took a while too. Finally, I was hoping for a thick and full beard. That started to come in… but only on one side. But I was praying hard for that second side so I took my little mustard seed and planted it, only to have Desirée and my go-to grooming specialist Vince Jamael tell me after three or four months of waiting that the sides just weren’t going to even out.

There is a lesson in this: when it comes to style, be it grooming or dress, every look isn’t for everyone. Just because something looks cool on someone doesn’t mean it will on me. Prince made millions with holes in the back of his trousers. If I walk into work like that, I will likely walk out in handcuffs. Sometimes, it’s your body type that’s not made for a certain look. Other times it’s your profession or workplace culture. And, still, other times, it’s your personality. I’ll be the first to admit that, though I love tailored clothes, there are some that I’ll step into and say “These slacks are too tight and, even though they ‘fit’ I’ll feel and look awkward wearing them out of my front door.”

Find looks that work for you and complement your features. Everyone can look decent (at worst) once they spend some time learning what colors, cuts, and angles accent their natural physical gifts. The problem is many of us want to look like Jay Z or Beyoncé in their clothes when we were made to look like Jack and Jill in our own. Let them inspire you but never try to be them. You’re doing yourself and the rest of the world a disservice.

And, shoot, who knows? Maybe if we try to be and look more like ourselves, we could be as successful, if not more. You’ll never know how great you could be until you embrace who you are.

 

Make finding your style a priority.

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.

Raw Materials and Raw Potential

The paper that you sign your name to when you sign your work benefits or go to the bank and fill out a withdrawal slip or sign an agreement with a new client is, at it’s rawest form, no more than wood that has been cut down by an ax or a chainsaw or some other tool. Raw materials make everything we have from smartphones to notebook paper to nutrients to even our bodies. Whether manufactured or not, everything on this earth was made from things that have always been found on the planet. Raw materials are the foundation of everything that our world is. It’s hard to think of it on such a basic level when we look at the greatness that has been created after millennia of human interaction but it’s all just rocks, wood, water, dirt, oil, and mined metals that have been manipulated to make that gorgeous Maserati you see on the street. Oh, and let’s not neglect the cows that made the leather interior. Either way, the car wasn’t made from car. It didn’t become great on its own. It was is the culmination of developing and combining many raw materials.

Now, let’s take that concept and apply it to being a young professional. Everything created by a successful person (however you define success) was created with raw potential. I’m not speaking of things that were passed down or gained by less than ethical means. I’m saying that any successful person who pulled themselves up did so by developing the raw potential they had into greatness. I look at the stories of motivators like Eric Thomas (at an elevated point in his career) or Greg E. Hill (at a strong point in his early years) and think about both of them hitting what they both expressed as being rock bottom, only to use that as momentum to shoot up. Or I look at Vince Jamael, a barber from Fayetteville, NC who is now one of the premier groomers on the east coast and I think about the fact that, when I saw him come to UNCG, he had raw potential and now he himself is a brand that is strengthening the brands around him. Or Devon Smith, a young man I met during his freshman (my junior) year who had a desire to succeed but didn’t know what he wanted  to succeed in. With some honing and grooming, he worked his way up to New York and now works at Revolt, a major player in the millennial lifestyle industry, as well as has developed a brand of his own, Infinite Magazine, that is gaining notoriety around the country. I even look at my immediate past blog post, A Moment of Clarity, and I realize that my raw potential and hunger primed me to take the risks necessary to just go for greatness. So, whether you want to be the next Mark Zuckerberg, Bill and Melinda Gates, Mother Teresa, or Michelle Obama, you have to take your ideas, your passions, your skills, and your gifts and put them together to reach toward your potential and your purpose. And, if you didn’t know, you don’t have to do it alone. Your network is one of those raw materials that you have to develop. It may be the most important aspect of your success, especially in this day and age where one share from the right person can put you in a position to expand your brand’s reach exponentially. So take your most valuable resource (time), combine it with your most essential resource (faith), and go out grind, knowing that there is something better for you than what you have now.

 

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.