“My braids are going to the Super Bowl!”
Gabby “2Soliid” Candys was joyfully showing off a picture of one of her masterpieces: the braids atop San Francisco 49ers cornerback Charvarius Ward's scalp. They’re just one of the stunningly intricate works that Candys and her barbershop colleagues at San Francisco’s Dapper Down Barber Lounge will be looking for when the helmets come off this Sunday.
That’s because the barbers and braiders of Dapper Down, tucked away on the fourth floor of the Varlow Building in the heart of Union Square, are the unofficial hairstylists of the San Francisco 49ers.
Just three years into existence, Dapper Down's list of regulars reads like a who's who of Bay Area sports, news and entertainment. At least eight 49ers coaches and players, including linebacker Fred Warner, wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk and cornerback Ward, are regular clients. So are Gary Payton II and Andrew Wiggins of the Warriors; former Warrior and current Washington Wizard Jordan Poole; Black Panther and Fruitvale Station director Ryan Coogler; former Cal All-American and NFL running back Jahvid Best; and former 49er safety and current broadcaster Donte Whitner.
On a recent visit to the shop, a team of barbers kept the blades spinning and stories flowing while a smooth soundtrack of Lil Baby and Leon Bridges played from a big-screen television mounted on a wall alongside colorful paintings.
“I’m a die-hard 49er fan,” said Jerrel Brown, owner of Dapper Down, as he pivoted purposefully around the leather club chairs, a picture of Joe Montana and Jerry Rice staring down at him from the wall. Brown can’t believe he now gets to cut the hair of this generation’s possible Super Bowl heroes. “It’s been amazing, man.”
“Some of these guys have huge endorsements, commercial deals,” Brown continued. “Looking your best when you're on camera is actually really important to the brands that they serve. Watching Fred Warner get his hair done and then go out winning the playoff game against Green Bay, taking his helmet off. Now he’s presentable. Same thing with Brandon Aiyuk.”
‘We’re a cornerstone of San Francisco’
While many players come into the shop for their hair needs, Brown said he often makes house calls to players wherever they live.
“For some of them, it just makes sense. It’s a lot easier to depend on their schedule. So, Fred Warner down in San Jose, being able to go to his house and then do our style with our barbers, do their hair. It’s a huge convenience for them,” Brown said.
The barbers have formed bonds that extend far past the barber chair, taking pleasure not just in the work they do but also in showing pride in the city around them—even as downtown struggles to come back from the pandemic.
“I love working here,” Brown said. “We feel like we’re a cornerstone of San Francisco. When people come to this city, they hear the news and the noise about all the other things going on. … We play a part in changing that narrative.”
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In a nearby chair, Bryce Ward reflected on some of his regular clients, including several Golden State Warriors players.
“I've been cutting hair for 19 years,” he said. “For these guys to reach out to me, because of the work that they see on social media, it's really uplifting and exhilarating. It makes me feel like I'm doing something right.”
“It makes a big difference when Gary Payton Jr. comes in and Andrew Wiggins comes in the day before a long road trip,” Brown said. “We're not professional athletes ourselves, but just to be a part of that circle and to help them look their best, help them do what they do, this is a really good feeling.”
The barbers are not just San Francisco mainstays, either. Dapper Down barber Fernando Ruiz told The Standard of weekly visits to meet with Oakland A’s players and team staff.
“I would be finishing up five, 10 minutes before the game starts and, you know, send them out, you know, fresh cut, you know, looking nice and clean,” he said. “You look good, you play good, you know what I mean?”
Ruiz said there’s no athlete hairstyle that intimidates him: “long hair, fades, kind of mohawks and mullets, [which] started coming back on the trend. I've seen it all.”
‘It’s like a family’
For clients, a trip to Dapper Down offers more than a precision haircut or fresh line-up—it's an experience akin to catching up with old friends over laughs and conversation.
“It’s like a family when I come here. They know me,” says prominent civil rights lawyer Adanté Pointer while relaxing in barber Bryce Ward’s chair for his regular appointment.
“I make the trek over here from Oakland across the bridge to San Francisco, with the traffic and insane prices to park, because it's that special,” said Pointer, who made his name representing Oscar Grant’s family after Grant was shot dead by a BART police officer in 2009. “I can count and bank on that, just like I think my clients can bank on me.”
On a Tuesday when The Standard paid a visit, Pointer was getting a fresh cut from Ward, aka Bryce Tha Barber on Instagram.
“If I need some flexibility in a cut, or if I’m just maybe trying to explore a little bit, different length, different this or that, you know he's willing to accommodate it,” said Pointer. “He’s almost like an image consultant of sorts.”
‘I’m just predicting a win’
After playing college football and experimenting with cuts for teammates, Brown recognized his true passion and eventually opened Dapper Down Barber Lounge in early 2021.
“I know a lot of players and friends that are in the NFL, and I got to see firsthand what it's like to be on the road, what it’s like to be on a game day,” Brown said. “Their schedule is tight from the moment they get up.
“When the player comes in here, we instantly automatically hang their coat, ask them if they want water. They appreciate all those things because it mirrors what they’re used to.”
That closeness extends to the Varlow Building's owners as well, whom Brown said he appreciates for giving Dapper Down a chance to start. “Some owners that own a piece of a city, go live off somewhere else, and they never understand the climate,” he said. “They’re here weekly checking up on different things. They’re very involved.”
On San Francisco’s Super Bowl prospects, Brown was unequivocal: “Sunday, we’re going with the 49ers, man. We’re wishing Deebo, Fred Warner and all those guys, we’re wishing them a win. You know, Christian McCaffrey went to Stanford; he’s a Bay Area guy. Bring that championship home. I’m not a betting man. I don’t have a score prediction. I”m just predicting a win.”