When is the last time you had a thought-provoking conversation? These days, I find life happening so rapidly that I don’t know when my next good convo is coming nor who it will be with. I can usually count on between four and five a month (outside of home or work), between chatting with Sean, Maul, Vince, C.B.3, Juju, and Barry. While that’s more than many people I know have, I miss undergrad and the think tank known as UNCG. I vividly recall going to the basements of Reynolds and Phillips-Hawkins to talk with other students from the wee hours of the morning until the sun came up. Or there were the countless times that the long hand on the clock hit the same spot two or three times as I sat in the cafeteria chatting with Devon or Jakiya.
Ideas flowed freely in college. We had time to think without the burdens that we would come to find accompany adulthood. We didn’t have to worry about bills. The only consequence to quitting jobs at that point for many was having to mooch for more hooch, a favor that would eventually be repaid when our generous friend quit his/her job and we were reemployed.
We have to create that free thought as (true) adults. Some people say childhood is the best time of lifetimes but I challenge that; College, for those of us who are privileged enough to go, is the best era. It is when we can be idealistic while having some semblance of control over our lives. No one can tell us when to go to bed, when to come home, or who to hang out with. We go into classrooms with people of all backgrounds and debate issues that actually matter but have been written off by the world because too much of the world doesn’t believe in happiness and change anymore. Life in college is inspiring.
My challenge to you is to make time to grab coffee or a drink with a friend who brings the best out of you sometime before the end of July. If you can’t get together because of distance, hop on the phone. Either way, without forcing it, make an effort to have an organic conversation with someone that you know feels comfortable challenging you and vice versa. Share what books you’re reading. Talk about politics, socioeconomics, and current events (without dwelling too long on the depressing state of affairs unless you’re figuring out a way to positively impact them). Discuss a business idea and have your friend shoot holes through it.
One of the many true things I learned from my fraternity is that, “college days swiftly pass, imbued with memories fond.” How can we keep those memories coming for years after?
Make free thought that stems from conversations a priority.
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.
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.
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.
You’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.
Fast 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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
Now, 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.
Now, 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.
Make looking good a priority.
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.