Harry Blades & Angry Daves // HBAD
Brad Cowan interviewed…
Interview: Charlotte Thomas
Photographer: Jason Lewer
Photography Assistant: Charlotte Thomas
Harry Blades & Angry Daves (HBAD for short) is an unique space in Bristol.
Combining classic gentlemen’s barbering and women’s hairdressing Harry Blades & Angry Daves is also a thriving streetwear store stocking brands from across the globe, many of which are exclusive to the store within Bristol.
Charlotte caught up with Brad Cowan – Head Barber at Harry Blades – to find out more about how his vision came to fruition and how he manages a successful career and busy home life.
Q & A //
Tell us a little about yourself…
I am from Oxford originally; I moved to Bristol 8 and a half years ago. I am 33 and I have been cutting hair for 15 and a half years.
Why did you want to become a barber? When did you know it was what you wanted to do?
I started cutting hair because I didn’t like art college and the direction it would have taken me in. I started in 1999 when the hair industry was a very different place. I am a classically trained hairdresser. Up until a few years ago ‘Barbering’ in the UK was not held in the esteem that it is now. My love of classic barbering came when I started training and my grandfather was one of my first clients. He used to have a classic razor fade with a side part. You have to understand that hair in the late 90′s was not singing from the same hymn sheet so this was way out of my comfort zone. Over time I made the effort to understand the era and the techniques that my grandfather was referencing and wanted from his haircut, this was my first ’adult’ bonding experience with my grandfather that I had had. He was a craftsman by trade and he taught me the value of that as well as having a huge impact on my aesthetic values, which is why it is so important to me. He died 12 years ago and it still keeps him close to me.
Once a barber has the necessary schooling and credentials, what is their next step? Is it possible to open up your own shop right out of school, or do most barbers first spend time renting a chair at someone else’s shop?
Hahahaha, you could, I wouldn’t recommend it though. I had been working for 10 years before I opened my own shop and it was almost the death of me. In my opinion it is really important for any young newly qualified barber or hairdresser for that matter too, is to surround themselves with their betters and people that inspire them. For any trade/craftsmen the learning process is always happening, challenging jobs or clients can always come out of the blue. Experience is gained from experience not a certificate. A certificate shows you have been shown the basic components required by an academic body, the real learning comes from being in harms way so to speak. Also from peers that are more experienced than you are. The more you listen and watch the better you will be. I am over 15 years in and still learn or refine things everyday.
How hard is it to open your own shop? What does a person need and need to know if he/she wants to do it?
Very, don’t do it! Hahahahaha. In all seriousness make sure you triple check your figures, and only borrow exactly what you need, no more than that as an initial overspend can make life very difficult in the beginning. It is a huge leap for anyone to do but if you have an idea and a passion for something you have to follow that. I have never been so terrified in some ways but on the days that it goes right it is one of the most rewarding things that I have ever done.
Your store decor is extremely eclectic how long did you take to collect all the artifacts and taxidermy gems we can find therein?
I am constantly adding to it. I love finding treasure whenever I am not in the shop. I don’t think I will ever stop adding to it.
What is the best part of your job?
Being in the shop, and travelling.
What is the worst part of your job?
Being away from my son.
You travel all over the globe attending events and visiting other barbers – What is your favourite place to visit? Who do you think is doing it the best in the world?
I have had the enormous privilege of travelling with one of my closest friends Paul who owns the AONO barbershop in Brighton. We met via a popular social media app and started talking; we worked in collaboration and opened up a dialogue between so many other like minded people. I love travelling and couldn’t possibly tell you where my favourite place has been. Likewise I couldn’t possibly tell you who is the best. I have met so many companies and individuals that I take inspiration from directly, and indirectly. The more Paul and I have travelled the more techniques and methods and tips we have picked up on God knows how many different hair types and cuts. There are some incredible talents out there at the moment.
You have a son, is this the kind of career you would like him to go down, to maybe take over and make it a father/son family business in the future?
That would obviously be amazing to work with Noah and for him to share the same passion as me. However the likelihood of this happening is minimal. I just want him to love whatever he does professionally as much as I love cutting hair. If I know that he has that level of satisfaction in his life I will be a very happy Dad.
What’s the work/family/life balance like?
Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha. A strategically placed stiff drink helps enormously.
How has the explosion of beards and men’s grooming fashion impacted your business? Do you think it is here to stay?
Men are definitely paying the most attention to their appearances than they have ever. I think the current aesthetic is very masculine and that appeals across the board. It is not the exclusive territory of the over-preened anymore. Trends in this country can be fickle so inevitably it will change. I do think however that so many men have been relearning some very important lessons and values. I for one will always uphold these values as will many others. Tom Ford once said that to dress well is a form of good manners. I couldn’t agree more.
What do you think is the next big thing to happen in barbering and men’s grooming style/fashion?
I can see big hairdressing companies moving in hard as the stigma associated with barbering has not only fallen away but has seen barbering starting to square up to the hairdressing industry. Salons that wouldn’t even allow clippers in their shops ten years ago are scrambling to accommodate for this skill. I would hate to see things being diluted by huge corporates that want to capitalise on this and will undoubtedly put the smaller brands and shops under a huge strain. Inevitably this is exactly what will happen. Having said that the masses will go wherever they are told to but there is now a huge awareness of independent businesses and brands that people will support instead of chains and large corporate run product companies. How that pans out long term remains to be seen.
What’s your female/male customer mix like? Do you style more men than women and is this something you want to change?
The mix is very much in favour of the guys. I still love to do women’s hair though. I have the background in it and jumping between the two disciplines, as it were, is entirely complementary. There is a very different ethos and approach to both but both have a lot to learn from each other. I am not seeking a specific gender, people come to the shop because they like the atmosphere and the serious attitude we have to the work in hand. This is tempered with a very open social atmosphere. The same community that any good shop should have, patrons become regulars, regulars become friends and so on. This has had a huge appeal for the guys and the girls want to get involved. The more the merrier. I would like to think that our shop is like going to your favourite bar. Some people don’t like bars, I love bars. We are offering a choice that wasn’t there before. Very serious about our work and equally serious about that process being as fun as it should be. Why should anyone be left out of that?
What’s next for Hbad? What can we look forward to in the future?
I am truly blessed to work alongside Dave who is one of my best friends, to have a team of hugely talented people that I love like family, and a fantastic clientele that never fail to make my day worth getting up for. How many people can say that about their day job? Honestly I have no idea long term, at some points I have questioned finishing a week let alone moving into our fifth year of trading.
I have a few things that are coming in the near future which I am really excited about. That aside I just want to be able to carry on doing what I am doing with the people I love to do it with.
Find Harry Blades & Angry Daves online -
HBAD // Web
HBAD // Instagram
HBAD // Facebook
Charlotte is Owner and Editor In Chief of itsjustpeople.com, a successful blog featuring cutting edge fashion blogs from around the world. Charlotte is a freelance fashion blog writer and has written pieces for copsonstreet.com and mytrnd.com
© Photography Assistant // Charlotte Thomas