Rochester barber weaving his way to worldwide recognition
On a wintery Thursday afternoon inside Adrin’s Sports Barbershop, clients filled six of the shop’s eight bright red barber chairs. Big round lights framed the face of one customer, like a Hype Williams video from the 90s, while future appointments sat waiting, filling the shop with a boisterous, good-natured energy. Backhanded compliments, over-exaggerated stories, and ongoing sports debates coursed through the air.
Owner Aalix Dydell, however, was laser-focused at his station, giving first-time client Stephen Lopez a mid-drop fade with a comb-over. Among the barbers in his shop, Dydell is one of the quiet ones. Online, though, his voice, face, and advice are being absorbed by tens of thousands of viewers daily.
Though Dydell owns and barbers at Adrin’s, he earns just about as much running a YouTube channel, AdrinTheBarber, where he’s amassed nearly 100k subscribers and reached over a million people. His videos feature tutorials on barbering techniques like comb-overs, Travis Scott-style taper-fades, beard trims, and bald head shaves. Alongside videos of the techniques, Dydell’s face narrates the process from a corner of the screen. Last month, a video tutorial about man-weaves received over a million views.
“I never thought that it could become what it is,” said Dydell. “I can literally just make videos and live off YouTube if I wanted to, not even cutting hair.”
Rooted in Rochester
Despite his worldwide audience and out-of-town clientele, Dydell’s barbershop is as Rochester as it comes. Support for local brands is worn, literally, on the sleeves of patrons and staff. On the Thursday we visited, one guy was rocking a LVLs shirt, two more sported Stationary Astronaut garb, and a display of Raid Ready goods sat near the entrance.
That local focus extends to the decor, too. Dydell’s chair station features a framed Marcus Sherels jersey. Kansas City Chiefs and Lakers gear dominate the rest of the space around his mirror. Kansas City is where Dydell got his start. At 16, he found a pair of clippers at his dad’s house there. Upon Dydell’s return to Rochester, his father gifted him the clippers.
“In Rochester there was never anybody to cut your hair,” he said, so he decided to learn to give himself a haircut. Then he moved on to friends. His longtime friend Tim Nela was his first customer.
“It probably wasn’t good. (Laughs) I know it wasn’t good,” laughed Dydell. Good or not, it inspired loyalty. Nela is a frequent customer (and sometime lingerer) at Adrin’s.
At first, Dydell gave out ‘even’ haircuts — meaning no frills or even fades. When he and his pair of clippers headed off for college in Mankato, his dorm-mates asked for cuts. He’d explain his limitations, buy the requests persisted, so he put his little clipper to work. He returned to Rochester in 2007 and bought a $60 pair of clippers.
Hungry for a bigger set of skills, Dydell would scour Youtube for tutorials. All that existed at the time were promos for paid tutorials, so Dydell nicked techniques from the previews. He eventually bought a DVD for $20 and began trying fades and more.
“I didn’t know how to start a fade. Online there was nowhere you could go. That’s kind of what started my YouTube thing,” he said.
He began filming haircut tutorials and started growing the organic audience that’s helped him succeed.
“You can have the followers, but if your followers aren’t watching, then it doesn’t do anything for you,” he said. “You look at my 93,000 subscribers, that’s 93,000 people that are actually interested in what I have going on.”
CReating a buzz
After gaining a certain number of subscribers, creators can become partners with YouTube, and every video they upload is monetized. That’s where Dydell is now.
As he grew his channel, he simultaneously continued progressing as a barber and businessman. He’d always wanted to be self-employed, and an almost full load of business classes at RCTC helped put his dreams into motion (though he’s still six credits away from a degree).
“I started to understand I had an opportunity with barbering and I could turn it into something,” he said.
On November 17, 2016, Adrins Sports Barbershop opened its doors. Initially located on on 37th street, the first shop had room for six barbers. A year and a half later, the shop migrated to its current location at 1115 7th Street Northwest, Rochester. Now there are seven barbers, and aside from the unfilled 8th barber chair, they’re doing well.
“There’s not a shop around here that can match our atmosphere,” says Dydell.
This location puts the shop in a neighborhood as lively as its atmosphere. Kids from John Marshall wander by on their way to getting lunch and the surrounding shops all generate more walk-in business. In the last month and a half, since his man-weave video skyrocketed into viraldom, people on the street are beginning to recognize Dydell, too.
February was his biggest month on YouTube to date, thanks to his decision to make the techniques behind ‘man-weaves’ public and free. Currently, four of the six top videos that appear when you Google “man weaves“ direct you to Dydell.
“[Man weaves are] nothing new. Wigs and toupees and things like that. Only thing is, the African American community hasn’t done toupees. Caucasian community, they’ve done toupees for thousands of years, you know?” said Dydell. “Now it’s moving into the urban barber community and people are like, ‘this brand new technique…’ It’s not brand new. It’s just a different group of people are now getting service.”
He paid $700 to learn the technique in a class. At the time that was the only way to gain knowledge of the technique. Dydell, though, planned on releasing whatever he learned to YouTube all along, as a way to raise his profile.
“When I was in that class, I was like, I’m going to be the first person to actually put this out on YouTube. I’m going to blow this thing up,” said Dydell.
Though he knew someone would give away the information even if he didn’t, it still took Dydell a few months to make the decision to post. When he did upload a video, the reward was almost instant; his first man weave tutorial garnered roughly half a million views in its first week. So, he released more. His most-viewed tutorial now sits at 1.1 million views.
“All of the sudden it’s becoming cool to become a barber,” said Dydell.
Bryan Lund covers politics and culture for the Med City Beat.