Beauden Barrett’s style game
His childhood was spent climbing trees and roaming far and wide around the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it Taranaki coastal town of Pungarehu, population in the low hundreds. It’s an unlikely breeding ground for the stylish All Black first-five, even if he’s quick to deny the label, firmly proclaiming: “I’m not sure I would call myself stylish.” And yet, when it comes to choosing from the clothes we’ve assembled for him to wear, he has an unerring eye for quality, gravitating naturally to the likes of the Prada and Louis Vuitton garments.
And when he turns up to the shoot, he’s all urban cool in drop-crotch cargo pants, teamed with a simple crewneck black knit and box-fresh, stark white Adidas trainers. He credits girlfriend Hannah Laity as his style adviser: “I’m not one to worry too much about it, so long as it’s clean,” he professes. “And Adidas are a great sponsor. I also enjoy New Zealand brands. Other than that I don’t have to branch out too much.”
It’s a far cry from his earliest years, when he was one of just 50 pupils at the local primary school.
“We’d rock up to school in our bare feet and farm clothes,” he recalls, “and just used to look forward to playing cops and robbers or rugby at playtime.” In fact, if you wore shoes to school you were likely to come in for some merrciless teasing.
“I couldn’t imagine a better place to be brought up,” says Beauden. “Acres of land to run around on, so much freedom and occasionally you had to help on the farm, milking
cows or helping Mum cook dinner for a large family.”
Beauden is one of eight children, and the family have always been local legends in their own quiet way. Dad Kevin – who everyone knows as Smiley – played for Taranaki and was an All Black triallist. Mum Robyn represented the province in netball and was in the under-19 New Zealand basketball team. “I think I get my running from her,” says Beauden. The senior Barretts are farmers who still do their own milking and have always been involved in community activities.
The family recently found themselves in the national spotlight when two of Beauden’s brothers were named to join the All Blacks – Scott at lock and Jordie, who plays at fullback, as a non-playing apprentice.
Although there have been sets of brothers previously in the team, if the three ever take the field at the same time it will be a first.
It’s not surprising the trio have reached the top of the rugby tree. The junior Barretts were raised with the philosophy that if you did anything you aimed for the top, although Beauden makes his upbringing sound laid back.
“I’m the second oldest of eight kids, so working in a team has always been something I’ve enjoyed,” he explains. “All of us kids, pulling our weight, doing our chores and then carrying that on into rugby teams and going right through to reps. We had two bamboo stumps for goal posts and a massive lawn we used to play cricket and rugby on.”
At other times the pressure definitely went on: “When cross-country was coming up, Mum would pick up our bags from school and say, ‘Run home.’ Four kilometres down a tar-seal track in bare feet.”
With the boys playing for various teams around the country it’s been an organisational challenge for their parents and the rest of the family to support them all.
“At least these days it can all be watched on TV,” says Beauden, “whether it’s my brothers down in Canterbury or me up in Wellington.”
“We had two bamboo stumps for goal posts and a massive lawn we used to play cricket and rugby on”
It’s a long way from Pungarehu Primary to the international sporting spotlight, but Beauden says that his childhood was the perfect preparation for handling the demands.
“You get caught up in the heat of it all and the limelight and the amazingness of the All Black brand and that team. But nothing much fazes us on the farm. You’re pretty chilled out and that does rub off on the rugby field. People tell me that I look so composed and so calm, so maybe I do get that from the farm.”
Beauden’s big break came when he made the New Zealand Sevens side.
“I was playing sevens out of school for Taranaki over summer to keep fit. Then Sir Gordon Tietjens picked me out of that. And it was just unbelievable the first time I played against men. That was when I thought I could make something out of it. I was okay at school but I never really had that belief. So that gave me a lot of confidence.”
At 18, he put university and vague plans for a business career on hold and got a part-time job in order to concentrate on honing his fitness and skills.
Off the field, he and Hannah like to travel, “whether it’s over the hill to Martinborough or a road trip up to Taranaki or going back to Auckland to Hannah’s family. In the summer, shooting over to Fiji or somewhere else overseas is also nice.” Back home, he relaxes by catching up with family and friends or playing golf on the tiny Pungarehu golf course, which is actually on a local farm.
Now, at 25, he’s one of the most acclaimed and popular players to join the juggernaut that is the current national team, and he has nearly 73,000 Twitter and 172,000 Instagram followers to show for it.
Grizzled old sports writers are reaching for superlatives to describe his performance, with many predicting that the best is yet to come. And as our photos show, when it comes to fashion, he’s already ahead of the field.
Barkers jumper, $89.95. OPPOSITE: Gubb & Mackie jacket, $395. Barkers T-shirt, $29.99. Barkers jeans, $129.99.
Hair: Michael Beel. Grooming: Kendyl from MAC.