Pick an NFL star: Lamar Jackson of the Baltimore Ravens, Alvin Kamara of the New Orleans Saints, Travis Kelce of the Kansas City Chiefs.
They’re sporting a Pat Regan original.
His work can be seen on the cover of the 2019 special body issue of ESPN the Magazine, and on Super Bowl champions. Worn by world-champion boxer (and Philly native) Danny Garcia, and UFC World Welterweight Champion Kamaru Usman.
He even worked with Diddy.
“That was the one where I was actually starstruck,” said Regan, 33, a 2006 graduate of La Salle College High School who grew up across the Northeast Philadelphia line in Rockledge, Montgomery County.
Regan is a traveling barber to the stars, and his client list reads like a fantasy football team.
He’s branded his personalized hair-fading services as Patty Cuts, charging between several hundred and more than $1,000, depending on how far he has to travel from his home near Boca Raton, Fla., which he shares with his girlfriend of 10 years.
He was named one of America’s best barbers in 2018 by his peers. He’s a celebrity at trade shows and haircut competitions, stopped routinely and asked to autograph clipper sets and trimmer boxes. He’s a social media influencer with nearly 130,000 followers. Most recently, Regan was hired by Old Spice as a brand ambassador, and Conair’s BaBylissPRO introduced a limited edition Patty Cuts trimmer.
But what makes Regan’s story stick isn’t a local angle or marquee clientele. It’s how he overcame personal tragedy, drug treatment, and industry challenges, and how he copes with success, defining his character and fueling his brand.
“What makes Patty so loved and respected in the industry,” said Corey Sturkey, a Florida entrepreneur and barber-influencer, “is as good as he is, his humility speaks louder than any of his haircuts.”
Regan’s basement blowouts
Blowouts and fades were the follicle fads of the early aughts, but maintaining fresh cuts and crisp hairlines was expensive and Regan grew tired of waiting hours for his turn at the local barbershop.
So around 2001, the summer before eighth grade at Saint Cecilia School in Fox Chase, Regan started cutting his own hair with pharmacy-brand clippers and a trifold mirror on the bathroom medicine cabinet.
“And that turned into asking my friends if they wanted haircuts,” he said.
Regan converted the unfinished cellar inside his parents’ 150-year-old colonial home into a practice parlor, complete with swiveling office chair and hair-clipping-covered rug.
He later added a Nintendo 64 video game console, an old couch, mismatched folding chairs, and the fifth dining room chair usually reserved for holiday dinners.
“People would be sitting there with the Nintendo 64 controller under the cape playing Mario Kart,” said Colin Barrett, a childhood friend and original test subject.
Word got out, and kids of all ages from across Northeast Philadelphia and Montgomery County started showing up at Maria Regan’s front door.
“I would come home from work on a Friday and there would be, like, eight dudes sitting in my basement,” said Maria, Pat’s mother. “It was like an old man’s barbershop, except I wouldn’t let them smoke.”
He started learning how to craft seamless transitions, the hallmark of the fade-style haircut that would become his signature. It’s a time-consuming process of shaving along the neckline and around the ears before fading toward the close-cropped hair on top. (Think Will Smith in the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.) From there he learned how to transition blowout-style cuts, which was a lower fade with much more hair on top. (Think Toad from Mario Kart.)
This was before YouTube, so Regan would visit local barbershops and observe.
“I was too shy to ask questions,” he said. “I would just watch. And I would take what I saw back to my basement and try it out.”
By his sophomore year at La Salle, he started charging, and hung a duct-taped sign across a ceiling beam: “Regan’s basement blowouts $5”.
Regan wasn’t an engaged student, but he pursued college anyway. Barbering seemed like a hobby. He took his time with each haircut, and making $5 an hour didn’t sound lucrative.
“And I went to a prep school,” he said. “They pound it into your head: You have to go to college. You have to get a degree. You have to get a good job.”
After high school, he enrolled at Temple University as a communications student. In 2010, around the time he decided college wasn’t for him, his 49-year-old father died by suicide.
He got hooked on painkillers after his father’s death, and later moved to Boca Raton, where he spent two stints in rehab. Along the way, he decided to pursue his passion and graduated from Florida Barber Academy. He grew a following on social media by recording his haircuts and posting photos and highlight videos.
The video and photo quality suggested business savvy, and his haircuts showed attention to detail and high standards. What followed was being named a brand ambassador with BaByliss, and newfound celebrity. But he got so wrapped up in the trade-show spotlight and judging high-profile competitions that he relapsed again with prescription pills.
On St. Patrick’s Day 2017, he checked himself into rehab for the third time, and hasn’t gone back. He credits the counseling in rehab for helping him make peace with his father’s death.
“For a long time, I just thought I had something to do with it,” he said. “And once I was able to realize the mental-health side of things, I was able to become OK. And once I became OK, I was going to do my best for him.”
On a rainy day, while living in his last halfway house, Regan spotted an Instagram post featuring former New York Jets superstar Darrelle Revis training in Boca Raton. Regan cold-messaged him. If he ever needed a haircut, Regan wrote, just holler.
About 10 minutes later, the four-time All-Pro cornerback responded, asking if Regan made house calls.
Word spread among the throng of players training in southern Florida. In the NFL, it’s not uncommon for image-conscious players to be particular about their hairstyle.
“Once you experience a cut that is elite,” Ravens running back Mark Ingram said in a phone interview, “you don’t really want to be cut by anybody else and risk getting messed up.”
Same goes for hip-hop moguls. For two years he cut Sean Combs, a.k.a. Diddy. When Diddy’s longtime barber retired, he passed along Regan’s number.
“There’s just some people you can feel their presence,” Regan said.
At one time, Regan cut every top player on the Saints except Drew Brees (who has his own guy). Many players, including the Chiefs’ Travis Kelce, fly Regan out for every game during the season.
In Ingram, Regan earned a close friend. They play golf regularly, attend UFC fights together, and invite each other to family barbecues.
“When you find someone who is genuine and humble and doesn’t want you for what you can do for them, you kind of hold onto that,” Ingram said. “He worked his way up to get to the notoriety he got, and as somebody who worked for everything I got, you appreciate that.”