How Matt Breen—a barbershop owner, fashion designer, and lawyer—embraces his role as a father.
Tell us about your family.
My wife, Lauren, and I got married eight years ago. We were law school students at the time and we were quite young. Our son, Wyatt, is almost 6 months old. It’s definitely an interesting process. We had been trying to have kids for a long time. It’s been one of the best gifts you could ever receive. It’s changed everything.
Tell us about your work; from what I could find, it seems you’ve done everything from practice law to launch a barbershop franchise to design men’s fashion apparel.
I started my career as a mergers and acquisitions lawyer. But, my heart was never in it. It wasn’t a passion. So, I began laying the groundwork for a move to New York to explore the fashion industry, which is a passion of mine. I opened a high-end men’s fashion boutique, Carson Street Clothiers with my law firm roommate. Then we launched Deveaux, which is the high-end men’s clothing line, which I still design for today. I love designing clothes and bringing my vision into the world.
When I moved to New York, I met the guys from Blind Barber. It’s a speakeasy barber shop concept. I started vibing with those guys. They were talking about expanding beyond New York into Los Angeles. Their concept really resonated with me. I asked them if I could become a part of that company. I joined Blind Barber in early 2014 as a partner. We have six locations. We’re traveling the country looking for locations to open new Blind Barbers, attempting to connect with men and dads everywhere. I don’t get as much as sleep as I used to and I look older than I used to, but I wouldn’t trade that for anything.
There’s an ad from Apple’s new television show, Planet of the Apps, Andrew Kemendo says, “I rarely get to see my kids; that’s the risk you have to take.” I notice on your profiles online that you list you’re a husband and father before describing your work. How do you react to Kemendo’s comment?
Becoming a dad has been a huge transition, but one I’ve welcomed for several years. I’ve had a long time planning this out with my wife and that’s been immensely helpful. At the end of the day, I’m a husband and father first. If you don’t have those priorities right, what are those other things for? If you have nobody to enjoy the ride with and nobody to pass it on to, why are you doing it?
I was fortunate enough to move my design studio two blocks from my house in New York City. That’s been really helpful. I go home on the early side, between 4:00 and 5:00. I’ll spend a few hours with Lauren and Wyatt and then I go back to work after he goes down to bed.
Now, sometimes it doesn’t work out that way, but we have a pretty good system. I’m fortunate enough to control my own hours. One thing that’s become tough is travel. As we expand Blind Barber and Deveaux—my biggest market is in Japan—it will be tough on Lauren and Wyatt. My business partner has two boys and he has to explain that to them. We know deep down we’re doing this for our family. We want to give this business to our sons. This is what drives us as entrepreneurs.
How do you envision bringing your son into your world as an entrepreneur?
My business partner has two sons he brings them to the barbershop to get cuts. It’s great. As Wyatt gets older, it’s something I look forward to doing with him as well.
We always ask: How has becoming a dad made you a better person?
It’s pushed me to better manage time and be more effective in my work. Before, I could go do my own thing and I only answered to Lauren. Now, I have to reevaluate things and work smarter and more efficiently.
It’s also given me a lot more drive to succeed. Knowing I’m doing this for the next generation has made me a better person. We’re going through our first big growth stage, both domestically and internationally. We’re bringing our vision to those places and among the four founders, three of them have boys. We are excited about the opportunity of walking with our boys through that opportunity.
We always ask: What do you believe is your finest fathering skill?
I have emotionally opened up more than I ever expected. I’m generally more guarded, but my emotions now are on my sleeve. Being a dad brings me so much joy. It’s been a good change for me. The first time I heard that deep, booming laugh from Wyatt was really special and brought a tear to my eye. Even hearing your own laugh in your son’s laugh is a special experience.
We always ask: What’s one thing you’ve learned from your father?
My dad taught me to work hard and be extremely humble. My dad is among the most humble people I’ve ever met. And, he helped me understand that whether you’re extremely successful or not, you always need to be humble.
Having a son has helped me appreciate the depth of a father-son relationship. It’s changed my life and caused me to reevaluate my relationship with my father. Watching my dad derive joy from having a grandson and seeing that relationship develop has been something I wouldn’t trade for the world.
We always ask: What is your favorite activity to do with your kid?
I love to take him down to the shore! I’ve been taking him down to the pool and dunking him under the water to teach him about swimming. In New York, we take him to the pier and he loves going on the swing and he has a great time doing that.
We love gleaning wisdom from other dads via interviews.