PORTLAND, Maine — Growing up in South Portland, Jason Dodge had to strike out to the mall if he wanted to shop for style.
As the skater and biker grew older and more fashion-conscious, it became harder to find duds in Maine that fit his lifestyle.
“I had to shop in Boston and New York and larger cities,” said the 29-year-old.
And when he needed a haircut? He skipped town too.
Inside Momentum in the Old Port, he is doing his part to change that dynamic. His newly opened men’s boutique includes an in-house barbershop along with the latest streetwear. The concept is personalized style, “so people my age in Portland don’t have to go to a chain store or a Supercuts,” he said.
At first glance Momentum on Middle Street looks like a barbershop. But beyond the swivel chairs, mirrors and brushes, outsider art lines the walls, colorful tank tops and graphic T-shirts, shades and hats fill the airy space. Hip-hop beats punctuate the steady buzz of clippers.
By combining the old-fashioned art of barbering with new-style skater chic, Dodge is filling a mercantile void in Maine’s largest city. Hair grows heedless of age and styles always need freshening.
“Mothers bring in their children and men in their 70s come in,” said Dodge. “That’s the beauty of it.”
With brands such as IMKing, which makes tank tops with palm trees sprouting marijuana leafs, hats from Crooks and Castles, and labels including Standard and Grind, a New York company that produces “high quality goods at a low price,” his main demographic is teenagers to 35-year-olds. But the barbershop tilts the scales.
With stylist Frank Crosen offering “high fades, low fades, lineups, fros, Caesars” six days a week, Momentum completes the fashion circuit top to toe.
The synergy makes sense.
A customer willing to drop $250 for a pair of bright red Air Jordans and socks to match will then go get topped off with the latest fade.
“I can provide the fashion on this end and Frank can provide the style from the haircuts on the other end,” said Dodge. “There was an open window in the market to bring everything together.”
That happening hybrid appeals to customers like Korey Barnes. The chef at The Old Port Sea Grill was in Momentum recently for a fresh summer look. As Crosen snapped a striped smock around his neck the duo discussed a “back-to-the-’80s mohawk.”
To Barnes, a Momentum regular, updating his look in one fell swoop is an exciting retail experience.
“You come in clean, get your pair of kicks, your hats and you’re ready to party for the night,” said Barnes. “It’s like a one-stop party stop.”
To make sure the party keeps rolling, Crosen, 26, pays attention to hair trends, but doesn’t push a look.
“I say rock what you’ve got,” said Crosen.
That’s what Crosen, who sports a finely hewn beard, backward baseball cap and tattooed forearms, did on the road to becoming a barber.
As a student at Husson University in Bangor, the freshman started offering haircuts to friends on the football team.
“I charged $5, put up a sign and did them in my dorm room,” he said.
It proved profitable and fortuitous. The burgeoning business helped fund his tuition, but his new calling led him to drop out of college to attend New England Hair Academy in Malden, Mass.
Crosen, who rents a chair at Momentum, loves the freedom that barbering provides. He makes a personal connection with each client and attempts to bring out individuality with each cut. His is a modern take on an old-school profession.
“Haircuts to some people are just haircuts. Haircuts to others are who they are,” Crosen observed.
Dodge, who came up with the dual business concept in part to stay busy in the winter, agrees.
“You can leave with a smile on your face saying that you got more than just a haircut, you created a relationship with your barber,” he said.
One part merchant, one part style counselor, Dodge sees himself as more than a salesperson. He reflects the skater-driven fashion he’s promoting — dressing in clean and bright lines in sizes that fit. He helps teens and 20-somethings stay fashion forward by telling them the truth: The baggy look is over.
“It’s about curating the look on the street,” said Dodge, who color-coordinates his hats with his sneakers and T-shirts. ”It’s not just about some baggy jeans. Let’s slim up the look,” he tells customers.
The labels he carries are also finely curated. He buys clothes from designers in California, New York and New Zealand that are made by “cost-of-living wage workers like us,” said Dodge.
“The concept wasn’t to make a profit. It’s about giving back to the youth around here so they can feel good about themselves,” said Dodge.
Though technically a Millennial, Dodge doesn’t shop online and is not techno-savvy.
“I can’t stand buying things online. I’m a very huge fan of brick-and-mortar stores. I like to walk in, I like to be able to talk to the sales associate, I like to learn about the clothes, I like to touch them,” said Dodge, who managed a lumber department for Home Depot while saving money to launch Momentum. “I designed the store to be very easy to look at. Everything is in your face. ”
In a city like Portland, with ample “boutiques that cater to women,” he is filling a niche for men.
“There are plenty of places to buy a suit,” said Dodge. “I’d like to help Portland advance one step further.”
Kathleen Pierce can be reached at kpierce@bangordailiynews and on Twitter at @PierceNews.