Meet Blair Cowan. The powerful London Irish and Scotland flanker, currently on loan at Saracens, who is now a fully qualified barber. Blair chats to the RPA about completing the 28-week course, his aspirations for life after rugby and explains the support he received through the RPA Personal Development Programme.
Sparking the Interest
There’s always been a big elephant in the room about my life after rugby. It’s something I’m chilled about, but equally I want to be ready for. Before rugby I worked in the construction industry back home in New Zealand. I loved it, it was an awesome gig, but it took a massive toll on my body. Looking ahead I know I need to look after my body and I can’t put it through the intensity of hard labour again. A barber recently opened on my street, it looked really cool and therefore I started to head into the shop and have a yarn with the owner. It’s called the Fellowship Barbers in Surbiton, and has such a chilled atmosphere, the owner plays awesome music, and it’s sweet to just to relax and have a chat. One afternoon he spoke about how he got into barbering and what the industry is like. He explained why he loved being a barber, the enjoyment he feels and the awesome culture that surrounds his work. It grabbed my interest and from there I organised to help out in the shop. I would spend a few afternoons throughout the week, cleaning up, sweeping the floors and having a chat with the customers.
The London School of Barbering
I love being creative, and the thought of learning the trade of barbering really excited me. Following a few sessions helping out in the shop, my barber put me in touch with one of the best academy’s in the UK, The London of School of Barbering. After speaking with my family and running the idea past my RPA Personal Development Manager, Kim Johnson-Pool, I went ahead and signed up. The course went for 28 weeks, starting in the summer of 2017 and finishing in January this year. It was a part-time course meaning I could juggle it around my rugby commitments, spending three and a half hours after training on a Monday and Tuesday afternoon. At first I was super nervous. It was completely different to anything I had ever experienced, but it didn’t take me too long to find my feet. I remember walking into the academy on my first day and watching how smooth they were, the different styles they were working to, and thinking to myself ‘man there’s no way I’m going to get to this level’. But over time you get more and more confident. It was an awesome experience, I met so many epic people. People from all over the place with such diverse backgrounds. I really enjoyed engaging in the culture and building a strong group of mates.
Practice Makes Perfect
During the course I made sure I practiced each of the different styles on my London Irish teammates. I cut the boys hair for free and it was a beneficial experience. The boys were very impressed too, I didn’t get any bad feedback. Over time I started to charge a fiver for a haircut. The money would go in a big jar and then donated to charity. There’s quite a few players at the club who have terrible hair styles, so it was awesome to play a part in giving them a fresh makeover. It’s funny after doing a course like this you never look at hair the same again. It really opens your eyes to what looks good and what looks absolutely rubbish.
The End Goal
I am absolutely stoked to have finished the course. It’s been an amazing experience and I’m extremely excited about life after rugby. I love how a barber plays such a massive part in the community. You always have the same regular customers and it’s a terrific way to build mates, chill and have a laugh. I also enjoy the technical aspect of being a barber. The academy really opened my eyes to all the different styles and I found learning about all the cuts such a cool experience. I would love to start my own barbers which is also a coffee shop, with a bar as well if you want to grab a beer. It’s a goal of mine and something I’m keen to explore. I want to create the whole barber experience. I have been looking at places back home in New Zealand for when rugby comes to an end. I have found some really cool spots, which would be wicked and suit the image I want to create.