Grooming. It's a word most men have heard, but what does it mean beyond getting regular haircuts? We asked Nick Shaffer, owner of Tatanka Goods in Los Angeles, to share his best advice, from how to find the right barber to what every man should have in his medicine cabinet. He also has a few thoughts on top-knots.
If you were speaking to a guy who, until recently, hasn't put a lot of thought into "grooming" per se, what is one essential step he should start including in his routine now?
Get a regular haircut for starters. We all feel better walking out of the barbershop or salon, feeling lighter and better than we walked in. I tell my clients with short-to-medium length hair that they should try to get a cut every four weeks. When clients ask me why, I often make this point: Whether you’re single and dating or partnered, people notice when a man takes care of himself. The least we can do is stick to a regular haircut routine. When you look good, you feel good. When you feel good, you live good.
"Most of us aren’t blessed to be like Brad Pitt or David Beckham and just wake up and look magnificent. A little effort goes a long way."
How important is a good haircut? And what defines a "good" or "great" cut?
A good haircut is super important. I’m sure many of us have had a bad one — whether it be by a professional cut or a parent in the garage when they were a kid — and if that’s you, I’m sure you remember how that made you feel. The same goes for the opposite: most of us know the feeling when you go in way overdue for a cut and can’t hold back that smile when you look in the mirror before getting out of the chair.
A good haircut experience is empowering. It gives us confidence. You walk a little taller. Many guys will joke about the “power of the barber” or the “power of a cut” (seriously, there are plenty of barber memes about it if you feel like going down a rabbit hole). Technically speaking, most people’s eyes can’t tell the difference between good and mediocre, let alone good and great. But when you’ve got a great one, you just know.
In the simplest terms, I’d chalk it up to attention to detail. Things like blending at the temple and tapering the neck (if you’re paying us good money, you deserve better than just a squared-off neckline).
Also, an incredible cut includes the experience. You should feel it the second you walk in from the front desk greeting to the smell in the air to a hot towel during your cut. The little things add up to the difference between good and great.
What are your tips for finding the ideal barber?
The advice I always give to clients who are moving, when I don’t have someone to refer them to, is: if you see someone with what you consider a good haircut, just ask them where they go. That’ll be more effective than Google and Yelp, I believe. And no, the person won’t find it weird. They’ll be flattered. We all love it when a stranger compliments us on something, so don’t be scared to be that guy.
An incredible cut includes the experience. You should feel it the second you walk in from the front desk greeting to the smell in the air to a hot towel during your cut. The little things add up to the difference between good and great.
If you need a haircut ASAP, so you don’t have time to wait for a stranger with a great cut to walk by, I’d say do some research beyond just the top Google result. Check out the barber or barbershop’s website and Instagram. Read reviews, but take them with a grain of salt — many people review negatively for things beyond the service or experience.
Make sure your barber specializes in what you’re looking to get. If you have long hair past your shoulders, don’t go to a guy who only shows photos of his fade work. While researching, check out the barber's style, how they present themselves, and if they show any of their interests. You’ll spend an hour talking with them, so you want to get along and hopefully build a relationship.
What's your advice for someone looking to change their style through their hair or beard? How far is too far?
Change is good. It’s fun. And at the end of the day, it’s hair, it’ll grow back. I always advise people to find a picture online (this is essential whether making a change or not). A photo is the easiest way to show someone what you’re looking for. And show different options of what you like, not just the same reference. If you show some photos of ideas you like, a qualified professional can talk you through the best options for your hair type, face shape, lifestyle, etc.
As far as too far — I don’t know if there is a too far. I’ve made major changes myself. I think it's about seeing the right professional for the job and not just looking for the cheapest option or the first available one.
When you look good, you feel good. When you feel good, you live good.
What do you think is the grooming step men overlook the most?
Blowdrying! For most of the cool hairstyles you see online — or in a show or movie, blog, magazine, etc. — the hair was blowdried and styled. Keep in mind: Blowdrying creates the shape; the product just holds it in place.
Most of us aren’t blessed to be like Brad Pitt or David Beckham and just wake up and look magnificent. A little effort goes a long way. And in most cases, blowdrying shouldn’t add more than just a couple of minutes to your morning routine.
How often should you go to a professional for a shave or trim?
For short- to medium-length hair, at least once a month. Six weeks tops. Anything less than four weeks is my personal preference. For longer hair, like anything that lands over or past the ears, I’d say 8-12 weeks for routine maintenance. I tell people with longer hair that routine maintenance is essential because there is a fine line between making something look intentional instead of just neglected. We want things to look intentional.
As far as a shave, there is no specific timeline as it is a luxury. A hot towel shave is like a spa service; its a way for someone to treat themselves by paying me or any other service provider to do something they can easily do for themselves at home. The difference is that we, as professionals, will do all the additional feel-good steps that most would skip at home.
How much should you tip your barber?
Tipping is never expected but always appreciated! But if you tip your service provider well, that would make them much more willing to accommodate you in a time of need. If you don’t tip your barber, don’t expect them to go above and beyond to accommodate last-minute scheduling, for example. But as far as amount goes, I’d say most people tip the percentage they would a server at a restaurant.
What are the essential products every man should have on his shelf? Any specific recommendations for brands?
A signature fragrance. A variety is okay, but every guy should have a go-to that people register for them. Remember, if you smell good, somebody gon’ like you.
Also, a good face wash and moisturizer. And a quality hair product right for your style. Not all hair products are universal, so the right one for the style is important. Some brands I like are ADH, Kevin Murphy, Go 24/7, and I like what a colleague of mine has been doing with TEN haircare. All four are great, affordable, and clean.
What's one beard or hairstyle you wish would die? What's one you wish you'd see more of?
The top knot! It’s played out. Most guys still rocking them look like they are trying to hang on to their youth, but in actuality, they just look like they ain’t with the times. And it might be controversial, but I think the mullet isn’t far behind. It’s getting kind of played out in my opinion.
Things I’d always like to see more of are timeless classics! Sideparts, loose pompadours, slickbacks, crewcuts, short, messy textured looks. Looks that feel effortless but also styled. Everything I just listed is going to be in style forever — tried and true. They will look good in your 20s, 30s, 40s, and well into your elder years.! Just like menswear, the timeless classics are always the right choice.