Bristol is a city of style, and with hairdressers and barber shops open once again, we spoke with Brad Cowan, Co-owner of the iconic “Harry Blades & Angry Daves” (HBAD) barbers on Christmas Steps, to discuss being at the forefront of the rise of barber culture.
Tell us about your background
I started cutting hair in 1999, it was a very different time back then; barber shops were not what they are now. I had a formal entrance into the industry through apprenticeships at multiple salons, working for hairdressers including Lawrence Cole, Toni & Guy, Vidal Sassoon and Wella. My grandfather was my first regular client and he was a firm believer in the traditional 1930’s style cut, so he became my training ground for traditional men’s barbering and implementing all the classic styling techniques.
When did you open HBAD, and how did you build your community?
We opened the space on Christmas Steps in 2009. There was a barber shop renaissance starting around this time, as well as Instagram first being launched. Suddenly, there was a huge client base, and the rise of social media provided access to learn from a network of people from all around the world.
How has being Bristol based played a part in your success?
Bristol’s creativity made it a great place for us to get established and grow. Bristol has given us an incredible platform to work from because of how open and responsive people are here. I feel that there is so much more fluidity in the communities across Bristol, far more than other cities. The city is always evolving, and we have tried to roll with that, whilst staying consistently true to ourselves.
What’s the inspiration behind the interior?
Growing up, I spent a lot of time in tattoo and skate shops, so this naturally translates into the aesthetic we have created here. There is a story behind every single item in the shop. The space is full of antiques, taxidermy, artwork, and plants, and all of these complement the creative environment that we’re in.
What makes you different from other barbers?
We have built a creative hub, best known for barbering, but we also have a full range of ladies services. Our main value is inclusivity, we try to include as many people as possible from any background. We love that we are a space for anyone and everyone! All barber shops and salons offer a similar service, but we are offering a different atmosphere and interpreting what we do in a different way. I get a lot of joy from seeing other companies creating their own identity. The main thing for us is that we don’t get distracted by what other people are doing, we stick to our ethos, and we are proud of it.
What can we expect from a visit to HBAD?
You can expect a professional, personal service in an informal atmosphere, and to feel cared for. With our minimum appointment being an hour, our clients can feel like they’ve been given a good level of care and attention, in an atmosphere where they feel comfortable and can relax. We don’t want that panicked feeling that comes with the conveyor belt of getting people in and out the door, we always want to take the time to build relationships so the service we provide only gets better, while being tailor-made to each individual.