Perched on Bristol’s Dickensian Christmas Steps, Harry Blades & Angry Daves is a temple to aesthetics. The shop is an unforgettable space decorated with a mix of vintage taxidermy and skateboard memorabilia. The quirky decor might seem like an odd marriage, but bringing together an old school barbers and forward-looking streetwear store under one roof makes perfect sense.
Brad (the barber) and Dave (the shop manager) first hit on the idea of joining forces at a house party and the shop eventually grew out of the most productive hangover the pair ever had. The unique look and feel is a reflection of how much of their own personalities Brad and Dave have put into the business and since 2009 HBAD has been killing it in a big way. Both are motivated by a respect for the two industries they are a part of, and a drive to do things right. On the barbering side, Brad encourages his team to take as long as they need, build a relationship with their customers and to be creative. Dave is all about finding smaller brands with the freshest ideas and supporting labels he admires. But above all they are trying to create a community where people feel they can just come to hang out.
Tell me how you ended up with this mix of skate junk and stuffed animals?
Brad: “I’ve always loved that traditional British aesthetic and that’s why we wanted a lot of taxidermy, a lot of wood. Being on this old Victorian mews gave us a lot of freedom to do something different and far more personal. I don’t think we’d be able to put a stuffed fox wearing Ray Bans in a shop window in the centre of town. I don’t think people would get it. I’ve also been obsessed with skateboarding since I was a teenager. Skate shops and barbershops are amazing because they have their own vibe and whole communities who never leave. I want HBAD to feel homely and I want the shop to be a community, in the same way that you get with the African-American or Jamaican style barbershops where it’s as much of a social experience as it is a professional business or a service.”
Dave: “We’re always bringing stuff in. It’s like an ongoing evolution of the shop which will never stop. We’re never going to be completely happy with how it is. We’ll keep looking around for things because we like to keep it interesting.”
What do you look for in brands you stock?
Dave: “I just look for what I’d like to wear and try to find the stuff you can’t get locally, so we’re often the first people to get a brand in the UK. I’m always looking out for fresh ideas which is really hard at the moment because it’s such a saturated market. But it’s nice to give someone a foot up, so finding people who are coming up in the world and being able to give them a push is great.”
How do you do things differently?
Brad: “We both have a real respect for the two different industries that we represent. Bristol is a fantastic artisan city so we aim to be consistent with that, we put a high finish on what we’re doing. The main focus is just slowing the whole thing down. You need two hours to do a haircut? Do it, but make sure it’s amazing, because that’s what generates a good reputation. We make sure people are getting the best service in a more relaxed atmosphere without being condescended to by someone who’s trying to pigeonhole them into a niche.”
Dave: “It’s just about making people feel comfortable. Here you can come in and have a chat. It’s a lot more of a personal thing than just selling clothes, you make friends. Once you’ve cut their hair a few times, you build up a real rapport. People aren’t just customers.”
Below Brad and Dave give shout outs to two of their favourite Bristol creative people.
Shout out #1: Mark My Words Screenprinting
He’s one of the most well known street artists in Bristol, but in his day job Tim Woolner runs Mark My Words Screenprinting. From an old workshop in the heart of Stokes Croft he throws out small runs of screen-printed tees and posters for local artists and businesses.
How did you move from graffiti into printing?
“I got in to screen printing years ago and slowly taught myself how to do it. I’ve chosen a few graffiti artists that I know personally from the Bristol scene and we do reproductions for them to help them get a bit of income. I’ve never advertised, it’s always just been word of mouth and people I meet through painting graffiti. We like to specialise in what we do. Instead of just churning out print after print, we work closely with the artist so we can find the different techniques and new little things that give each print a bit of individuality.”
How does Bristol’s graffiti scene compare to other cities?
“As soon as I moved here it felt like home straight away. There are so many different graffiti writers and different styles of graffiti that come out of Bristol. It’s a scene that helps people improve and make new stuff. There’s a unique attitude towards graffiti round here, you can pretty much paint where you want. Every time I get someone coming here from London or somewhere else they consider moving here within a couple of trips.”
Shout out #2: Orca Design
The Orca boys are Bristol born and bred. Joel Alexander and James Ewin’s striking design and typography is brightening up the city, one project at a time. They’ve worked with some of the coolest local businesses to give them visual styles that reflect their identities and capture their heart and soul.
Why did you guys decide to call yourselves Orca?
“We wanted the name to be completely irrelevant, not some cliched thing like ‘Design Hub,’ or whatever. We also liked how it worked in a typography sense, with no ascenders or descenders. It was a nice thing to write, we just played around writing it and Orca flowed really nicely. The Orca whale has its own original markings, which is kind of like our design and they work in pods, like us, we’ve got teamwork. They’re also the most intelligent animal in the sea, and we like to think we’re doing alright.”
Why is Bristol such a creative city?
“We grew up really passionate about graffiti and skateboarding culture so we run in those circles and use them as inspiration. We definitely haven’t forgotten our roots, but also we love that vintage, retro, handcrafted typography. We’re boarders at heart, but we’re both perfectionists. Nearly everyone in Bristol who’s into anything creative was a skater first, listening to hip hop, jamming, sketching up on College Green where everyone used to skate. There’s a lot of healthy competition. Everyone’s pushing each other because there are some amazing artists and designers in Bristol so that keeps you on your toes. You collaborate when you can as well. There’s a lot of pride in Bristol, it’s a good city!”
Stay locked for more rad independent culture from Bristol over the next few weeks.