Matty Conrad started with one barber shop eight years ago; now he owns and operates three others and is up for Canada’s Best Barber Award. Kristyn Anthony/VICTORIA NEWS

Island barber among Canada’s best

Matty Conrad says he got into the biz to serve his community

Seven chairs form a row along the mirrored wall of Victory Barber and Brand, and rarely do many of them sit empty.

Three hundred heads will lose their locks in the run of a day, something owner Matty Conrad still isn’t used to.

“Dumb-ass luck and a lot of hard work is basically what this has been,” he says of the last eight years in a business that has grown to include his own line of hair products, beard oils, coffee and even a collaboration on a craft beer.

Now, with nine others across the country, Conrad has been nominated for Canada’s Best Barber Award, after inspiring so many in the industry.

The former owner of downtown salons The Fix and Lab, he branched off into barbering because he was tired of the old stereotype that said the only thing found in a barbershop was a shortcut to a bad cut.

“[The way men described it was] as if they were being cheap or apologizing for having gone there – ‘Oh, I just went to the barbershop’,” he says with a laugh.

He found a space on Blanshard street – it was literally just four cement walls, he remembers – and with a friend, opened Victory Barber and Brand in 2010.

Barbershops have seen a renewed interest in recent years, often saddled with the idea that they’re painfully hip.

To those who throw around that word, Conrad says, “I think people like to label things as hipster if it’s trendy and they don’t understand it, or they’re out of touch.”

The lifelong stylist is more concerned with how to sustain the “trend,” a word he uses begrudgingly.

“As barbering grows, as it moves forward, the real challenge is, can it stay relevant beyond just the trend,” he muses, pointing out that the art of barbering dates back more than 8,000 years. “That’s one thing about human beings is that they’re fundamentally vain creatures.”

But when it comes to men and women, Conrad says playing to that vanity is different. For men a barbershop evokes a feeling of pride and dignity, something they don’t necessarily find in a hair salon.

That being said, Victory made the decision to offer services based on the type of haircut, not the head who will wear it. The business model doesn’t care how others might identify a client, he says, it’s how they themselves identify. “If we can provide the service you’re looking for, then by all means feel at home here, feel included, we welcome you.”

For the Victoria boy, who has gained global notoriety and regularly travels for speaking engagements or to teach at hair shows, there’s no plan to leave the Island.

“I grew up here, this is my community, I’m not leaving,” he says. “We’ve been able to contribute to the fabric of the city and help put Victoria on the map in some respects, and that’s all I ever set out to do, serve my community.”

His community however, has grown a little bigger. Victory now has a shop in Duncan, in Vancouver’s Gastown and a few streets over from the Blanshard flagship, at Saint Franks on Broad St.

With the other barbershops in town, there’s a sense of camaraderie, a mutual respect, something Conrad is proud of. And that extends to his fellow nominees, some of whom he considers friends. “I know them and I know their work, they’re exceptional at what they do and I’m so, so proud to be on that list,” he says.

But as far as competition goes, Conrad shrugs. He isn’t worried, people will always need their hair cut. “For every barber there’s a client and for every client, a barber.”

To vote for Conrad, visit Pollev.com. Canada’s Best Barber will be announced Feb. 18 in Montreal.

kristyn.anthony@vicnews.com

Barbering

Just Posted

Dylan Hillis preparing collagen samples from ancient dog bones at the UBC musuem of Anthropology. Photo: Eric Guiry
Ancient ‘woolly dog’ ate mostly fish, new University of Victoria study finds

Study gives researchers better understanding of human-dog relationships on Tsehaht First Nation

Mary Fox’s new book My Life as a Potter is available at bookstores nationwide. (Cole Schisler photo)
My Life as a Potter raises funds for Mary Fox Legacy Project

Acclaimed Vancovuer Island potter’s story raising money for developing artists

L to R - Westshore Towing owner dave LeQuesne and Peninsula Towing owners Meghan and Don Affleck believe the cost of dealing with abandoned vehicles, boats, Rvs and campers is a significant financial burden. (Rick Stiebel/News Staff)
Towing the line: Vancouver Island tow truck operators at a loss with abandoned vehicles

Dealing with derelict boats, RVs, trailers, vehicles adds up to thousands in uncompensated costs

Lyric John-Cliffe and Cory Cliffe sing a traditional Laichkwiltach canoe song by the Campbell River Estuary. Photo by Binny Paul/Campbell River Mirror
Learning the land: restoration and education collide on the Campbell River estuary

Wei Wai Kum First Nation project passing the baton of environmental stewardship to seven generations

Comox Valley Unhoused executive director Sam Franey, right, is pictured at the Comox Valley Art Gallery with Jagmeet Singh, leader of Canada’s New Democratic Party, and Ronna-Rae Leonard, BC NDP candidate for the Courtenay—Comox riding. Scott Stanfield photo
Housing, for the unhoused, by the unhoused

Comox Valley man dedicated to battling homelessness after spending five years on the streets

B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry gives a daily briefing on COVID-19 cases at an almost empty B.C. Legislature press theatre in Victoria, B.C., on March 25, 2020. (Don Craig/B.C. government)
B.C. sees 223 new COVID-19 cases, now 2,009 active

Two new care home outbreaks in Surrey, Burnaby

Conservation officers hope the public can provide information about who shot and left a bull and cow Roosevelt elk near Spruston Road, south of Nanaimo. (Facebook photo)
Pair of Roosevelt elk shot and left in woods south of Nanaimo

Conservation officers hope public can help find who killed the animals near Spruston Road

Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam responds to a question during a news conference Friday October 23, 2020 in Ottawa. Canada’s top physician says she fears the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths may increase in the coming weeks as the second wave continues to drive the death toll toward 10,000. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s top doctor warns severe illness likely to rise, trailing spike in COVID-19 cases

Average daily deaths from virus reached 23 over the past seven days, up from six deaths six weeks ago

An artists rendering of the proposed Aragon Properties development in Sooke’s town centre shows a friendly, walkable neighbourhood. (Contributed graphic)
Large housing development eyed for Sooke core

Aragon Properties seeks to build 132 housing units

The Capital Regional District spent $1.7 million to restore the Todd Creek Trestle. (Sooke News Mirror)
Todd Creek Trestle restoration completed

Restoration work adds 35 to 50 years to life span of former rail span near Sooke

Bill Kelly, general manager at Crown Isle Resort & Golf Community, has been named executive professional of the year by the PGA of BC. Scott Stanfield photo
Courtenay golf course, general manager earn PGA of BC awards

Crown Isle’s manager, facility honoured by the industry

Dinner shows in the Playbill Dining Room are keeping the Chemainus Theatre going during the pandemic. (Photo by Don Bodger)
Dinner events satisfying for the Chemainus Theatre and patrons

Small groups enjoy entertainment and the food in the Playbill Dining Room

100 Mile Conservation officer Joel Kline gingerly holds an injured but very much alive bald eagle after extracting him from a motorist’s minivan. (Photo submitted)
B.C. driver thought he retrieved a dead bald eagle – until it came to life in his backseat

The driver believed the bird to be dead and not unconscious as it turned out to be

Most Read