Swivel chairs, ring lights and brick interior walls line the room, and the musky scent of barbicide and aftershave lingers as you enter. R&B music plays in the background, setting a calm mood, welcoming you into The W Hair Loft, a barbershop tucked in the colorful streets of the Hyattsville Arts District.
Men sit with their heads slightly tilted back as barbers take fresh razors to shape hairlines and sharpen beards. Artistry and precision is demonstrated throughout the process as the barbers skillfully juggle scissors and combs. They maintain intense focus while cracking jokes about the latest in pop culture.
“Do you guys think A$AP [Rocky] cheated on Rihanna?” one barber asks the room.
At the end of each service, the client stands, dusts off any fallen hairs and admires the new look they get to wear out of the shop. The final transaction tends to be more friendly than formal, and the payment is followed with a ‘dap up’ and well wishes.
Devin “7 the Barber” Dickerson says the shop serves to deliver more than just a good haircut. Dickerson hopes to give his clients, especially Black men, a safe space to open up and discuss the hardships they face daily.
“As barbers, we’re pretty much therapists … I always tell people, when you’re in a barber chair this is your moment to be at peace, your moment to be alone as a Black man,” Dickerson said. “We don’t have too many places where we can speak our minds, vent, release things.”
Dickerson grew up knowing he wanted to be a creative and started working as a barber when he was about 15 years old. For him, becoming a barber allowed him to escape the violence of his hometown, the 7th Ward of downtown New Orleans, Louisiana. While his craft saved him from going down the wrong path, Dickerson vowed never to forget where he came from and allowed his nickname to represent that.
Despite his own ambition, Dickerson said he would not be where he is today without people who cared about him. He said he wants more young people who find themselves in similar situations to be able to find a passion that keeps them on the right track.
“You can’t do it by yourself. Find a good mentor. Believe in yourself,” Dickerson said. “Put the blinders on and drown out the outside noise. Lace your boots up, strap your gloves on and get to work.”
Clients come from all over the D.C.-Maryland-Virginia region to get their haircut at this shop for special occasions and regular appointments.
Rudy Daniel, an associate pastor and founder of the nonprofit organization, Young Kings’ Leadership Academy, came to Dickerson a few days before his birthday.
“I want to feel special going into the weekend,” Daniel said. “I tapped in with my barber and he makes sure that I look good, I feel good, so I can accomplish great things.”
For many clients, the barbershop experience has been ingrained into their routine for as long as they can remember. Michael Doe said his first time in the chair was when he was only one year old.
Since then, it’s remained an essential part of his lifestyle.
“When I was younger, and didn’t have much money, I would make sure that I got my hair cut. I didn’t care if it meant I had to eat ramen noodles for the whole week,” Doe said. “It makes me feel good, so that’s what I like to do.”
Kerry Minter, Dickerson’s fellow barber, said building relationships with clients is one of the most rewarding parts of the job, and it tends to come naturally.
“It’s something about the barbershop culture … it’s something about when somebody is doing a service for you, having to be close to you. People just start talking,” Minter said.
Minter’s interest in barbering stemmed from being a client himself. When he was younger, he often found himself dissatisfied with the haircuts he received and would fix them at home after leaving the barbershop.
Holding this high standard led Minter to become the one behind the chair.
Minter recently became the owner of The W Hair Loft and plans to rename it Monarch Studio. The transition came as the previous owner, one of Minter’s good friends, asked if Minter was interested in pursuing what he knew was one of Minter’s long-term dreams.
“I just kind of slid into the position,” Minter said. “It was just an easy transition from one successful Black man to another.”
Minter’s goal for the future of the barbershop is to continue uniting and uplifting the Black community, one service at a time.
“I definitely want to bring the community back together,” Minter said. “I want them to feel like they can conquer the world … I mean a haircut can definitely change how you feel about yourself … so I give it my best every time.”