Welcome to Groom Raider, a series where we, well, raid the grooming closets of the people we admire to see what products they use. While we browse through their moisturizers, creams, fragrances and more, we get a glimpse into their past lives and the stories behind how they came to be. This week we meet with Berlin Nicholas, the men’s buyer at American Rag Cie in Los Angeles.
Berlin Nicholas, @berlinnicholas, buyer, Los Angeles
If there ever was a renaissance man in fashion, it’d certainly be Berlin Nicholas. Now a buyer for Los Angeles’ much heralded men’s store, American Rag Cie, he’s also had a stint taking fashion photos in NYC, was a co-owner of a Houston-based retail store called Manmade Mercantile and is also a recognized face in the men’s street style scene. So it’s no surprise that he also curated Agenda’s newish grooming section, “Essentials.”
We were surprised that we witnessed a traditional skate and surf apparel trade show carry brands from Blind Barber to Uppercut. More so, thoroughly impressed with the selection. It all has to do with Berlin’s eye and his gut instinct when it comes to featuring the best and most relevant grooming brands.
So we had to ask this grooming expert about his own regimen and the products he actually uses. When we met Berlin for the first time in Los Angeles at the Agenda show, we were most taken aback by just how naturally beautiful his skin was. Milky, naturally dewy and clear – with a full beard –and striking hair: Long, flowing, not braided or tied, left in its beautiful natural state. So how does he groom? Berlin not only is a grooming aficionado, he’s been a beauty guru for years. We sat down and got a glimpse into Berlin’s regimen, what’s in his dopp kit, and the secrets he abides by.
Tell us about how you came into becoming a buyer for one of LA’s coolest stores?
I came to work in the fashion industry in 2014 while I was in New York, for women’s fashion week. I was there to shoot street style. I went on a whim with some friends and we threw ourselves into the scene without a gig or working for any publication. When I went back home to Houston I ran into Travis, the founder of Manready Mercantile, a few times and we would talk about what we both had going on. I eventually started working for Manready, became one of the co-owners during my 3 years there. Then, coming to L.A., I eventually landed a gig as a menswear buyer for one of the best stores around.
You have natural, flowing locks. How do you make it work?
Maintaining my hair has alway been a challenge. This is my second time having long hair so I’ve learned from previous experiences. The main thing is always keeping my hair moisturized, not just the roots but the ends as well. I wash it daily and try not to wear hats if I can resist. I’ll use detox shampoo and conditioner by Grown Alchemist found at David Pirrotta. I’ll also use Liv Creme Hairdressing and conditioner, you can find at your local beauty store. It’s used for hair that’s dry or brittle.
Did you just get into grooming or is it something that you grew up with?
I’ve always been into grooming. I got into grooming more while I was working at Manready Mercantile, where we manufactured and produced an apothecary line for men. When Travis started Manready, his goal was to create products that were typically thought of as products for women. He sought out to make what was traditionally for women desirable for men as well. Five or six years ago, you couldn’t find many brands like that, today they’re everywhere.
Why do you think grooming is even important?
Grooming is important to men in the same way that it’s important to women. Having good skin and taking care of the outside of your body. If you’re cautious about your health and what you put inside your body, you should be just as cautious grooming and take care of your skin, hair, nails, etc.
We feel grooming is a funnel to discuss masculinity. What does it mean to you?
Masculinity to me is unapologetically being yourself and not conforming to social norms as a man. Being a good man can be many things, especially with the current state of politics. For me, it’s living up to and exceeding my mom’s expectations and setting a good example for my friends and most importantly, my family.
How is it that as a black American, you share empowerment?
I promote empowerment by trying eliminating any hate. People always feel more empowered when they are fully supported with what they are doing in life.
It also has a little to do with grooming. By indulging in self care, it promotes a more positive you, therefore allowing you to pass that on. Any tips you can share?
I can say the best way to go when it comes to grooming is to try to use all natural products. They are better for your skin and better for the environment and the world.
How he grooms:
All photos taken by Bukunmi Grace, a photographer based in Los Angeles.