Wendell Kinley makes cutting hair an art.
Instead of a paintbrush and a palette, Kinley uses a pair of scissors and electric shears to create his masterpieces. The clients are walking advertisements for his art. Some of those clients sport his signature style - "hair-tattooing."
"A haircut is like signing your name on a piece of paper," said Kinley, while buzzing client Michael Quigley's hair in the stylist's Oakmont (about 15 minutes outside of Pittsburgh) basement studio.
Using primarily Instagram (@TheBurghBarber) and word-of-mouth, Kinley, 38, has built a loyal following of men and women, young and old.
"He's the best in Pittsburgh," said Quigley, a customer of two years. While Kinley prides himself on being able to cut anyone's hair, anyway they like it, most of his clients are male.
"It's hard for guys to talk to their barber and convey their style," Kinley said, while tending to his son Micah, 4, who is a regular in the studio.
Kinley has been cutting hair since he was in sixth grade. He is helping clients find their inner George Clooney. It's not uncommon to see a professional athlete - a recent Instagram picture shows Steelers offensive lineman Kelvin Beachum gets his hair cut by Kinley - a well-known lawyer or the average Joe walking out of the Oakmont basement.
"I have clients who come from all around Pittsburgh," he adds. "I have a client who lives in North Carolina, and when he's in town, his first stop is here."
"I never really cut my hair; normally, I'd just buzz it with clippers and wear a hat," Meng, 24, said, standing next to his wife, Michelle, 26, and holding their baby, Camden. "Now, I'll show him a picture of something he did on Instagram and get him to cut it that way. I'm being more adventurous." Meng isn't as adventurous enough to try "hair tattooing."
"Hair tattooing" is Kinley's artistic calling card. Clients bring him pictures to carve into their hair, or give him free reign to make his own design.
"Last week, I had a (high school) client come in and he wanted the North Hills logo in his hair," Kinley said. "His dad liked it so much, he had me do the Pittsburgh Pirates logo in his hair."
"Hair tattooing" can give some the idea that Kinley is too wild for their tastes.
"That's a barrier I'm trying to break. I can cut anyone's hair, any way. I have black people that come to me, old Italian guys from Oakmont, biracial, whatever."
"I was always the kid in high school and college that would cut everyone's hair," he said.
"To go from cutting on that little stool to (cutting the hair of) prominent people in the community is humbling," he adds. Kinley's clients form a sort of fraternity, noticing each other's haircuts on the street, making friends while they wait for their turn in the chair.
That fraternity is getting harder to join. Kinley said he's booked two weeks out and isn't accepting many new clients. "It's like a family. I'm trying to do good hair for good people,"?he said.