Brantford's uncrowned King of fades.
Angel Panag, February 27, 2023 // Brantford, Ontario Barber Dre at his shop Upper Line Barber Shop at 627 Park Road N., in Brantford, Ontario. Photo credit Photohouse Studio.
He's a master of his craft, a genius behind a pair of clippers, and a whiz with a straight razor. Over the years Andre Brown, better known as ‘Barber Dre’, has built a loyal following of clients who swear by his skills. In this feature, we get an inside look at the man behind the barber’s chair, and the passion that drives him to be one of the best around.
For fifteen years, Barber Dre has been turning the city’s rough and unruly into the sleek and stylish. A pioneer in his own right, Dre brought the hair styles seen in large cities, music videos, and popular television to a generation of young men in Brantford.
Barber Dre focused on his craft. Photo credit Photohouse Studio.
Under the shade of a mango tree in Jamaica, Dre got his start cutting the hair of close friends and family. He would go on to hone his skills as an apprentice barber in the nation’s capital, Kingston, before making the move to Canada.
As he settled into his new life in Brantford, Dre was faced with a challenge. "In Jamaica you got Jamaicans," he recalls. "But, when I moved here I would have to cut all different hair types." Despite the uncertainty, Dre was determined to master the trade in his new home. In the early days, he made the trek by bus to Hamilton, learning the ropes at a barbershop there.
When he set up shop in the basement of his Brantwood Park home in 2008, word spread throughout the city’s highschools about the local barber with a big city flair.
While a fresh fade, a sharp lineup and a clean beard trim might seem like the standard nowadays - this wasn’t always the case. “When I first started cutting in Brantford, there were no deep fades or definitional lines or none of that” he recalls.
Some weren’t ready for it either, “Even when I would ask a customer back in the day, ‘Would you like to get a fade?’ They're like, ‘No, no’”, many opting for the familiarity of a buzz cut instead. For others, what Dre offered was exactly what they had been looking for. In no time, his client base would soar into the hundreds - often, keeping the barber’s clippers running well past midnight.
Around Upper Line Barber Shop in Brantford. Photo credit Photohouse Studio.
One word that continuously finds its way into Dre’s vocabulary is “Grateful”. He now runs the popular Upperline Hair and Beauty out of a storefront just a few streets away from the original basement location. Over the years, he has also taken over twenty trainees under his wing, many of whom have gone on to start successful businesses of their own.
Barber Dre creating one of his renowned fades. Photo credit Photohouse Studio.
Dre's secret to success lies in what he describes as his unique "formula", implemented by the five barbers sharing the space at Upperline. At least part of this formula includes staying at the forefront of the latest hair trends and techniques, while fostering a warm and inviting atmosphere for their clients. It's this combination of technical expertise and genuine care for their customers that has given Upperline a reputation as the go-to destination for anyone seeking a fresh trim. Unknown are the number of milestones, from first dates to graduation ceremonies and weddings, that have been marked by their iconic haircuts.
However, Dre's impact on the community reaches far beyond the barbershop. Despite the temporary pause due to COVID-19, his popular annual barbeques at Mohawk Park have become a staple in the city, helping to bring people together and foster connections. Still, as he points out, his true legacy lies in the dozens of barbers he has trained - passing on his skills and knowledge to the next generation.
To book an appointment with Barber Dre or a member of the team at Upperline Hair and Beauty, visit their website HERE.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Brantford’s native son, Angel spent much of his life living in the far reaches of Canada. After graduating from Dalhousie University, he began a career as a public servant and later in human rights. Meanwhile, remaining strongly rooted in the arts - DJing, managing musicians, producing films, and performing on Broadway. Angel strongly believes in the power the arts have to inspire, and transform communities and people. He is currently a final year Law student, and is excited to help tell stories from his hometown.
ABOUT THE PHOTOGRAPHER
Paul Smith has been shooting photos professionally for the past eleven years. After graduating from Applied Photography at Sheridan College in 2008 he returned to Brantford and opened Photohouse Studios with his partner.
Been going to the shop since I moved to Brantford two years ago and the customer service is second to none. I hear they are punching a new booking service on their site https://www.upperlinehairandbeauty.com that’s launching 1st of March 2023. Getting an appointment is now more convenient than ever before!
I am so proud of Dre my class back in the day at Spalding high school a kind and compassionate friend 😊😘🥂🍾