Later this month, Nick Shaffer, the man behind Tatanka Goods, will pop-up at Meridian Men. Shaffer has spent more than a decade working in men's grooming and constantly evolving his definition of style. He recently relocated from Los Angeles to Bozeman.
For Fine Line's inaugural Well-Being Issue, we spoke to Shaffer about his philosophy and taste — and also got his best tips on men's grooming.
Saturday 1/27 and Sunday 1/28
107 E Main St, Bozeman, MT 59715
Complementary styling and facial cleanups. $15 off future appointments, 15% off storewide at Meridian Men, and giveaways.
Tell us how you got into men's grooming as a specialty.
I’m very fortunate to have found something I love doing at a young age. For starters, I always enjoyed getting my haircut and dressing well. I often like to joke that being a barber was the first serious career path I ever really considered — once I realized that white guys don’t have much of a shot at the NBA. I played basketball and other sports growing up, and while in middle school in South Florida, many of my teammates often wanted a fresh cut/lineup before games. So one day, the hustler in me had the thought, “Well shit, I’ve had my hair cut enough, I can do that!”
I got a few brave souls who wanted to save a few bucks to let me give it a go in my parent's garage. And then, as time went on, it became something I enjoyed and could see myself making a career out of. I wasn’t the greatest student, so I knew college wasn’t for me, and I wanted a career where I could be myself. I wanted something where I could control my destiny, so barbering felt like a natural fit!
What's the meaning behind "tatanka," and why did you feel it was the name for your work?
Tatanka, for me, is the second chapter in my career. For the first ten years of my career, I had the tagline “Your Lady’s Favorite Barber,” which started as a joke but stuck. Before turning 30, around my 10th anniversary as a barber, I wanted to rebrand myself to be taken more seriously and better reflect my clientele and me. I also wanted to create a bit of a “brand” — something beyond just a service in the chair.
“Tatanka” came to me in 2020 while out of work in LA due to the pandemic. I had road-tripped solo to Yellowstone just to get outside and do some soul-searching. I was in my hammock reading American Buffalo by Steven Rinella, and the opening page read, “Tatanka: a Lakota word meaning ‘big beast’ in reference to the American Bison.”
I had always been a fan of the bison and its imagery/symbolism. It's old-school Americana and tough as nails. I love that when a storm is coming, a bison herd goes head-on through it rather than going around or waiting for it to come to them. That relates to life — you know, face your fears and problems head-on. Don’t run from them. Get comfortable with the uncomfortable. And that’s how I like to live.
So yeah, Tatanka was it. It represents me, my personality and my work, and all the creative possibilities I can see coming.
What self-care and grooming rituals do you engage in daily or weekly?
When it comes to self-care, for me, a big part is taking care of my mental state so I can be the best me for those I serve, as well as all the other important folks in my life. A big part of that routine includes boxing and jiu-jitsu. I spend so much time servicing and talking with others that I value my time unwinding and getting my mind away from everything. Both practices require me to be fully present in the moment, and not thinking about anything else, to succeed. It’s meditative for me. I also enjoy anything that gets me outside, whether a hike, taking my dog to the park, skiing, etc.
Then, when it comes to grooming, I just have a good, regular hygiene practice. I remember watching MTV Cribs as a kid watching NFL great Ray Lewis show off his bathroom and fragrance collection. He said, “My grandfather always said, ‘If you smell good, somebody gon’ like you,’” and as silly as it is, that stuck.
I wash my hair about once a week and condition every other day. Many people tend to over-shampoo — the general rule of thumb is you should condition more than shampoo. I wash my face regularly while in the shower. I change my hair regularly, so upkeep and styling depend on what I’m doing with the hair then.
In a few words, how would you describe your style?
Versatile, functional, timeless, workwear-driven, and streetwear-influenced with a splash of outdoor tech wear and occasional Western touch. I love the day-in-day-out “uniform” look for the work day, but I also love to get cozy when not at work. And equally, I enjoy any opportunity to throw on a nice tailored custom suit and do it proper. I’d say my biggest style influences are Andre 3000, Paul Newman, Steve McQueen, and Salehe Bembury.
How do you think men's grooming and men's style intertwine?
Simply put: When you look good, you feel good. I think it’s essential to have the two match. Sometimes, people show me a reference of a very styled haircut they desire but simultaneously tell me they don’t want to style their hair at all. Hate to break it to you, but in the words of Randy Jackson, “That’s gonna be a no from me, dawg.” A great example of hair needing to match one's style is the show Peaky Blinders. Those haircuts work because they’re always dressed in three-piece tailored suits. I always tell my clients that I want to cut their hair in a way that matches their style and how they regularly present themselves.