"The tidy look is back," proclaims a small sign in Dave Mitchell's Marlboro Barber Service, a.k.a. Mitch's Barber Shop, in Upper Marlboro. "Mitch" caters to older people who, like himself, don't believe in blow-dried styling.
Mitchell, 66, is unabashedly old-fashioned, and his one-chair shop, still the home of the six-buck haircut, is a bit of Norman Rockwell Americana. There's a small American flag in the window, which is flanked by two red, white and blue neon lights, and there is the classic revolving barber's pole in the middle. Mitchell is one of two barbers in town, a haircut hold-out in an age of coiffure.
Inside, the magazine rack holds Field & Stream, Golf Digest and Family Circle, and the radio is tuned to an oldies station. It is playing "I Don't Want to Walk Without You, Baby," popular around the time of World War II, and "Twilight Time." They are tunes Mitchell remembers well.
Only a few customers venture in. Mitchell, 66, who has unfashionably wavy gray hair, says he lost a quarter of his business when a new beauty shop opened up around the corner. But that doesn't disturb him much.
If the truth be known, he'd rather play golf -- or drums. A member of a military band during World War II, he says music came naturally in his family. His father was a bandmaster, and all 12 children in the family played instruments or sang.
Mitchell, a native of Clearfield, Pa., was living here when he was drafted into the Army in 1941.
As a member of the 271st Army Guard band Mitchell said, he played "all the bond drives" in the Northeast states, an assignment that came up after Glenn Miller took his orchestra overseas.
Mitchell thought he might attend the prestigious Juilliard School of Music after he got out of the service, but wound up at the Johnstown, Pa., School of Beauty Culture, studying on the G.I. Bill.
When he could, however, he still played in bands throughout central Pennsylvania. In 1962, he returned to this area, where the rest of his family was living.
He had one small taste of the big time 25 years ago, when he worked for bandleader Louie Prima for a month, but found the roadshows too grueling, and quit. From time to time, he still performs at such places as the Marlboro Country Club.
Mitchell talks about the big band greats -- Gene Krupa, Benny Goodman and the like -- as though he knew them personally, and as though they never died.
"I've seen Gene play," he says. "He just had everything; introduced hand-over-hand drumming. The record he made with Benny, 'Sing, Sing, Sing,' should be in the drumming hall of fame."
Mitchell opened his shop on the Prince George's County seat's Main Street 14 years ago, and says he is pleased with the peace and quiet there.
While most of his customers are transients who come and go, he has a few longtime regulars.
Among them is retired golf pro Frank Abood, 62. "We don't have enough fellas like Mitch around this town, I'll tell you," he said recently in the middle of a trim. Abood also praised Mitchell's golfing skills.
"He's a very top-notch amateur," he said. "He could've been a professional very easily."
In the back of the shop are nine trophies. Mitchell said he has a hundred more in Capitol Heights, where he lives with a brother.
His barber shop, with its print of the Mona Lisa and its aging 50-cent combs for sale, is "a place you can come in and feel relaxed," he said. "You don't have to worry about wiping your feet."
At its best, business fluctuates, he said, "like the stock market . . . . One day you eat peanut butter sandwich, the next day it's barber steak. You know what that is? Hamburger.
"I don't have that big a business, just enough to satisfy my pocketbook," he said.
"I'm not that aggressive, but I can still wail on the drums." Or without them.
He swings into a rendition of "Some Enchanted Evening," and pauses for an aside to the customer: "You don't have to pay for that."