Stepping out of my car, this home would look like any other home in this quiet Quail Creek suburb. A few houses down there’s an infamous yard with fake flowers in its garden beds. American flags move with the gentle breeze from porches and poles. Every lawn seems to have a fresh, even cut.
As I walk to the front door, a few cars pass by. An occasional dog bark can be heard in the distance. I ring the doorbell, waiting for a response. A minute goes by and I try again. Finally, I pull out my phone to call; but right as I do the door swings open. Taylor Hanna ushers me in with his hand, giving a non-verbal apology for being on the phone. I quickly realize he’s talk with his supplier, they’re clearing up something about ingredients that are on backorder. I walk in and immediately am hit with the elaborate aroma flowing from his collection of oils and fragrances.
I enter the house behind Taylor. As I walk inside, I immediately encounter a room to my left - busy from floor to ceiling. One wall is lined with shelving that holds the ingredients to his grooming creations. The outer wall has a huge window and a desk cluttered with drawings, order forms, and receipts. In the cornerare some relics of Clad Stache’s quick upbringing, a picture handing Mayor Mick Cornett a bowtie, model Ricki Hall showcasing a tie for a photoshoot, and a Curbside Magazine photo of a vendor who was able to use a donated tie for a job interview. A few bowties hang on a nearby shelf, memories of the Clad Stache’s beginning chapters.
In the middle of the room sit boxes of containers and a table littered with more papers. His laptop is playing a Kanye West Pandora station, a sharp contrast to the tattoos of music idols, from Jim Morrison to Johnny Cash, that cover his limbs. He shuffles through papers and repeats order numbers to the supplier. Finally, they reach some sort of conclusion.
He gets off the phone, apologizingagain. I immediately unload the questions about this sudden change in the brand’s direction that have been on my mind since taking the first step inside.
Clad Stache for four years was a hobby that I was trying to turn into a business. When I finally took time to sit and think about what I was doing, I realized that I needed help.
The Clad Stache quickly built its brand around the unique bowties Taylor Hanna designed. Instead of the traditional silk, he opted for colorful patterns on cotton cloth. Addtionally, instead of seeing them at business meetings with bankers or at charity galas, they started to appear at whiskey tastings and date nights as the wave of new gentlemen took interest in this style of “New Americana”.
The momentum continued to grow as Taylor found stores around the country looking to carry his creations. It was a time when Mumford and Sons were played on the radio and A-Frame cabins in the Pacific Northwest were the places to be. His bowties had its niche, its place in this movement. But like most trends we see, things changed.
“I had to take a step back and look at what Clad Stache was doing. I had to ask myself questions like if I thought it would be viable, could I support my family with what I am doing, and if something happened to my wife can I do this by myself, and even the most basic: am I making money?”
Recently, the Clad Stache has significantly shifted its direction. Instead of focusing entirely on men’s fashion, Taylor Hanna has shifted his attention to the line of men’s grooming products. There’s not a sewing table out in his workspace, or rolls of cloth. Neither are there any fabric swatches or scraps. There’s just bottles, droppers, containers, and piles of endless papers.
I actually feel like I’m accomplishing something now. I have a sense of accomplishment each week and can see the company finally starting to grow.
As Taylor was explaining the new lines of beard oils and balms, the ingredients he was using in each one, and the scents he was mixing; he got a knock on the door. Cy Prigmore, his new sales rep for the Oklahoma City area came in, carrying an armful of order sheets and checks.
Products from The Clad Stache can now be found in over two dozen storefronts and barbershops, partly due to Taylor’s recent shift to a single focus but also to having brought on new sales reps to the team. The brand message still seems reminscent of the idea of a “New Americana”, seen in his bowties and stylization. But there’s definitely a more natural fit with grooming products. Instead of hitting a niche or working with a trend, there’s a real need being met.
One thing I had to realize is that ifI’m not making a profit at what I’m doing, I have to re-evaluate the company and either come up with a new idea for a business, or in my case realize what is making me a profit and roll with that.
Even further still, the Clad Stache shows signs of moving beyond the realm of balms and oils for bearded gentlemen. As we were chatting, Taylor applied new labels to his newest line of products: pre-shave oil and after-shave balms, highlighting a stark change from the original brand image of a tattooed, beareded individual wearing a chambray work shirt and a bowtie.
“One major mistake I feel like I made in the beginning was trying to introduce too many items into what the brand was. It started with bow ties, then I introduced beard oils and had a couple of shops ask me to start making neckties, I had people ask me to make kids bow ties and so on and so on. I almost immediately jumped on board with every item people were requesting. The company started to evolve into a business that I didn’t much care for. Adding on more items obviously brought in more money, but I was never able to focus on just one thing and do that one thing the best I possibly could.”
On the drive up from Oklahoma City, I passed by countless signs saying “Leased” in the new and upcoming districts. In a time wherenew businesses are sprouting up on every street, there seems to be a sense of maturity in how Taylor answered my questions. His responses indicated a keen sense of self-awareness with where he and his brand stood.
“Starting a company with just the money in your pocket and trying to grow from there was incredibly hard. I had to figure out how to build a team of people that could help grow my company and take it from a hobby to a business. I think building a team of people I trust and that fill where I lack is the most important thing right now.”
With this sudden shift in attitude and direction, it’s a breath of fresh air in a market full of artisians and craftsmen. Later on, it was time for wrap up our interview and let him go pick up his kids. Walking out the door, I was left with a sense of excitment for this brand and its new stage in the game. Taking on the challenges of rebranding, Taylor has steered his venture towards a clear course.
Replacing someone dreaming of everything the Clad Stache could be, now stands someone who has turned out the best of those dreams into a reality: his dream of supporting his family by offering quality organic grooming products. This newfound sense of identity has brought with it a clear confidence. A man with a dream and a family to support; perhaps this is the nature of that “New Americana”.