IF BRIAN Condon is the root of the hair, the ends are still long and healthy in Tamworth half a century after he brought his skills to town.
The mentorship of the hairdresser and former Coronet Hairdressing salon owner is still evident in other salons across the city and beyond today.
Brian signed off on anywhere from 50 to 70 apprentices during his years in Tamworth, retains the gratitude and respect of many of his staff and students, and continues to educate younger hairdressers years after his retirement.
Brian says his start in the career was both partly because of and despite his dad being in the same line of work.
“My father, grandfather and two uncles were all in hairdressing,” he says.
“My father gave me lots of advice about it [once I started] – although he didn’t want me to go to work as a hairdresser, because he didn’t particularly like it.”
Despite his dad counselling him away from the career, a few factors combined to get Brian into it.
“I had a heart problem when I was a young child and spent about two years in and out of hospital, until I left school when I was 15 – although that was very, very common in those days, too,” he says.
“My mother saw a sign in a barber shop and said, ‘Why don’t you have a go at it?’
“The guy I was an apprentice to there had wanted to be a schoolteacher but suffered dramatically from stuttering, so they wouldn't let him be one.
“So he ended up barbering, and he ended up teaching me and others.”
From barbering to hairdressing
Brian studied at Ultimo TAFE and soon went from barbering to women’s hairdressing.
He moved to Tamworth with his young family in the mid 1960s – keen, according to one source, to bring “big-city hair to the country”.
Brian bought Coronet Hairdressing in what is now the Atrium Shopping Centre.
In the decades to follow, he would expand that to four salons – another in Tamworth, and one each in Armidale and Taree, employing many highly skilled hairdressers and training up even more.
Brian was big on staff education and development: there was weekly in-house training, and staff were sent away to training events and expos in capital and major cities.
During the ’70s and ’80s, Brian even travelled as a Schwarzkopf educator.
Coronet won many awards in hairdressing competitions across the state.
In September, Brian was surprised with a reunion of his staff from as far back as 1968, with a do at the Tamworth Hotel.
He spoke about the privilege and responsibility of a career that gave the practitioner license to touch their client and shape their appearance.
“I had a great career, I had a wonderful time,” he says.
Brian retired about five years ago and now enjoys gardening and exercising.
“I do wish to linger on, and so I go the hospital gym three times a week to keep myself fit,” he says.
“I used to linedance a lot and have gone back to linedancing lessons.
“My partner and I thoroughly enjoy dancing … and I ride an electric pushbike.”
His advice for young hairdressers?
“I suppose one I’ve preached constantly is: if you don’t like it, don’t do it,” he says.
“You’re better off sweeping gutters than doing something you don’t enjoy.
“If you enjoy your work, you do it much better.”