Daniel Wells wasn’t looking to open a barbershop. He was happily working as a barber in Lutherville, where he had been for the past eight years. On his days off, he collected vintage clothing and records. That’s what brought Wells to Hampden and, more specifically, into the former bank building on The Avenue.
At that time, the structure housed a vintage men’s clothing shop called Sixteen Tons. Wells would come in on his days off from barbering to buy and sell clothes. He became a regular pretty fast. One day, Wells and Sixteen Tons owner Daniel Wylie got to talking about what Wells did for a living. When Wells told him he was a barber, Wylie said, “Oh man, Hampden needs a barbershop.” Wells replied, “Yeah, and it should be in this building.”
When Sixteen Tons moved across The Avenue to pair up with Wylie’s wife’s shop, Doubledutch Boutique, Wells moved in and opened Old Bank Barbers. He thought he’d start with just a few chairs, then slowly grow from there. But that’s not the way things worked out. It seems Hampden really did need a barbershop.
“I came in here by myself the first month and immediately got overwhelmed with business. I had three chairs when I opened. After a month, I had to hire another guy, then another one the next month. Within six months, we had five guys working here. In a year and a half, we got up to six chairs, 12 barbers.” To help meet demand, they’re opening up a second location in Remington.
Wells didn’t start his career with ambitions to be a barber. He had an uncle who was a barber and his grandmother cut hair, so it was in the family. However, after graduating from high school he bounced around and landed in construction. Eventually though, he knew he needed a change.
“I was looking for something to be creative and make a living,” he says. That’s when two of his friends told him he should go to barber school. “It was a light-bulb moment.”
Wells is kind of shy by nature, but being a barber has opened him up. It’s also forced him into conversations he wouldn’t have had before. “It’s one of the few jobs where you come in contact with all aspects of society. One minute, you’re cutting a construction worker’s hair, the next, a doctor’s, or a lawyer’s, or the governor’s.”
“It’s a very feel-good job,” says Wells. “You’re making people look good. You’re becoming a part of the community. You see your work everywhere. You go out and you’re seeing your customers.”
Q: What’s your number one tip for guys who want to look their best on their big day? A: My biggest recommendation would be to talk to an experienced barber a month or two before the big day. You want to say, “Look, this is the way my hair is. This is my hairstyle.” You also get a lot of people sometimes that want to do something drastic. But you don’t know if you’re going to be comfortable with that. You don’t know how it’s going to look on you, or if your future wife is going to like it. You may not be getting married after that haircut.
Q: When should the groom get a haircut? A: That all depends on your hairstyle. Say you have a longer hairstyle—generally, you don’t want to get your hair cut right before you’re getting married. You don’t want to do anything drastic. You want to keep things loose and flowing and generally not have sharp lines. So you want to get it cut one week or two weeks before to let it grow into itself. A haircut of that nature will start looking better a week or two into it. If you have a shorter style, like a tighter fade, or something with sharp lines, then maybe get it the day of or a couple days before. You want those lines to be sharp. You don’t want loose hairs growing in or the haircut to be growing in. People don’t ask the barber. They go off their own information of what they think is best, and generally they don’t know what’s best.
Q: What about dying your hair? A: My recommendation is to get it done professionally. Don’t try doing it yourself. And don’t get it done right before the wedding. Again, you’ll want to let it grow into itself a little.
Q: What’s the best way to communicate what you need? A: Tell them what hairstyle you’re going for and what you’re looking at. And get the best direction from him how to move forward. You want to feel confident about what you have on, as well as what you’re wearing on your head. You’re taking all these photos. You want to exude confidence. You don’t want to be uncomfortable. Beyond that, don’t mix it up. If you get a good haircut by somebody a few months before, ask when they work.
Q: Let’s talk about the groomsmen. Any advice here? A: This gets into the style realm. Are you looking for uniformity in your party? If so, you may not want one guy with a Mohawk and everybody else with a traditional haircut. For me, it all depends, just like the cut. Everything depends on who you are as a person.
Q: What advice can you give on styling products? Any products you should avoid? A: That really depends on hair type, hairstyle, and what look you’re going for. Go with what you know. Or ask for advice the haircut or two before. All hair products, in theory, are the same. It’s meant to hold your hair in a style that’s not natural. Try to use a product that accentuates what your hair naturally does, rather than one that gets it to do something it won’t. You have levels of hair: light, medium, and strong. Within that, you have low shine, medium, high. Lower shine will be a matte finish. They’re used for messier styles, ones that don’t look sharp and finished. I try to steer people towards medium hold, medium shine if they’re not used to using products. You can use it sparingly. The matte finish is more difficult to apply to your hair and use well and look good. Mediums are easier to apply and work best for a variety of hairstyles. Higher shine, higher hold is more for pompadours or really slick, finished hairstyles.
Q: What’s the number one mistake you think guys make when styling their own hair? A: They don’t evenly disperse the product in their hair. It’s in there clumpy. It needs to be evenly applied in order to get the best style. That’s why I try to steer them towards easier-to-use medium products.
Q: What kind of hairstyles do you recommend for guys with thinning hair? A: The rule with thinning hair is the shorter the better. A lot of times people, when they start getting thinning hair, they try to grow it out. But avoid that. The shorter you cut your hair, the fuller it looks.
Q: What do you recommend for guys with long hair for a wedding? Any thoughts on the man bun? A: Long hair is not my specialty, but I’d recommend pulling it back in a ponytail or somehow off the face. Your wife wants to see you in the photos.
Whether you’re going for an old-school barber experience or a bit of new-school gentleman groomingsalon, these shops will have you looking sharp for the big day.
Located in historic Mount Vernon, this iconic shop has been doing its part to keep men well-groomed for a decade. Get the perfect cut for $18. Zero bull.
This multicultural shop in downtown Baltimore specializes in fades, scissor cuts, and shaves for all hair types. Get a mustache or beard trim or go with a full-service hot towel shave.
Named after a formula that transformed steel (18 percent chromium and 8 percent nickel) into a better performing material, 18|8 prides itself on transforming the ordinary into the extraordinary. This Annapolis guy-only spa offers services in a relaxing environment for the man who likes a bit of pampering.
Hairway to Steven
Get a classic clipper cut, shaggy shear, razor cut, or tight urban style at this retro neighborhood barbershop located in Towson. It’s a single-chair operation, so you may have a wait, but you’ll get a cut from owner Steven Rowell himself.
Head upstairs to this hip barbershop located in the heart of downtown Frederick for a cut, hot-towel shave, and free high-fives.
This downtown man spa offers everything from haircuts, straight razor shaves, and scalp massages to man-icures and exfoliation. Now in its 12th year, owner Craig Martin has reinvented the old glory days of the barbershop experience.