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A business for Baltimore’s sartorially-inclined men

Walking into the Sixteen Tons menswear shop is like taking a brief trip to another decade. Tins and vials of beard oil and pomade, men’s grooming products forgotten by time, line the shelves. Coats of tweed and herringbone hang neatly on wooden hangers. The voice of a 1940s crooner oozes out of a set of wooden speakers.

Daniel Wylie, who started the business three years ago in Baltimore’s Hampden neighborhood, said the business of men’s fashion is thriving right now for a number of reasons.

“Men are taking a bit more care about how they dress,” Wylie said. “It could be something as simple as shows on television like ‘Mad Men,’ where guys can see men wearing clothes that fit them properly.”

Menswear is a $53 billion industry in the United States alone — and growing. (The women’s clothing industry is still larger, at $107 billion a year in the U.S.) Designers are aware of this. Fashion mogul Tommy Hilfiger told CNN recently that menswear used to make up about 20 percent of his business. Now, he says, the percentages are about even between men and women.

What is driving this? Many industry professionals agree that the Internet has played a big role, giving men access to eye-catching photos of other stylishly dressed men every day, exposure that inspires them to keep up. Menswear blogs like How to Talk to Girls at Parties and A Continuous Lean have become popular avenues for men to pick up fashion cues.

While men in general seem to be more interested in looking good, Baltimore’s men might not be too keen, according to a recent story in Travel and Leisure that ranked Baltimore as the third worst-dressed city in America.

“In a city judged to have fairly offbeat residents, there are bound to be questionable fashion choices,” says the magazine.

Wylie said he has a core base of customers, many from the Hampden area, who are interested in quality clothing and who keep doing business at his store.

“I started from a point of believing that a store like this could do well in Baltimore, that there is a segment of Baltimore that was thirsting for something like this,” Wylie said. “It hasn’t been easy, but it’s definitely built a core following, and that’s what keeps the doors open – people coming back and buying.”