Hi-top Fade

Kid 'n Play

A hi-top fade is a style of haircut where hair on the sides is cut off or kept very short and hair on the top of the head is very long (in contrast, a low fade is when hair on the top is kept shorter). The hi-top has been a trend symbolizing the Golden Era of hip hop and urban contemporary music during the late 1980s and the early 1990s. The hi-top fade was common among young African Americans between 1986 to 1993 and to a lesser extent in the mid-1990s (1994-1996).

The style fell completely out of fashion by 1997, though it has slowly made a return in the public eye in the late 2000s. In the hip hop community throughout the mid-1980s, young African-Americans leaned towards Jheri curls or simple haircuts without tapers or fades of any sort.

In 1986, rappers like Schooly D and Doug E. Fresh had the first, somewhat developed, styles of the hi-top fade in hip hop. However, their hairstyles lacked the geometric precision that characterized the more modern hi-top fade styles. In the hip-hop community, one of the first public appearances of the more modern hi-top fade hairstyles was in the ‘Tramp’ video by Salt-N-Pepa, released early in 1987. In this video, the dancers could be seen with this hairstyle. They can be also seen dancing in a ‘New Jack Swing’ style form based on their wardrobe and choreography, which was not seen in other hip hop and R&B videos at the time.

However, by 1986, many young Puerto Ricans and African-Americans, especially in the New York City, Washington, DC, and Philadelphia area, began to follow the hi-top fade trend. At this time, hi-top fades became more geometrically defined, becoming more massive and ‘higher’ along with differences in shape as well as more designs. More music videos released from the fall of 1987 to the spring of 1988, such as ‘I Don’t Care’ by Audio Two (1988), ‘Aint gonna hurt nobody’ by Kid ‘N Play, ‘Move the Crowd’ by Eric B. & Rakim (1987), and ‘Ain’t No Half Steppin” by Big Daddy Kane (1988), shows examples of early trends of the more developed hi-top fade. Different substyles emerged around the same time such as the ‘gumby’ (slanted hi-top that had a shape similar to the Gumby cartoon character) or ‘reagan’ (similar to the gumby but with more ‘parts’ and designs). Many of the teenage castmembers on the films ‘Lean On Me’ (1989) with Morgan Freeman and Spike Lee’s ‘Do The Right Thing’ (1989) could be seen wearing these Gumby-shaped hairstyles. Recording artists such as Bobby Brown, TKA and Coro also wore the hi-top fade.

The conventional hi-top began to fall out of fashion early 1990s and was changed by revolutionary RnB groups like jodeci whose unique take on the fade by adding slits and unique designs which are still imitated till this day was the staple design set by the group who were the self-imposed ‘bad boys of RnB.’The turning point was between 1995-97 many people who had sported the hi-top fade started to move toward other men’s styles. Still, the hi-top remained common among many groups of young adults and teenagers for a few years longer. As for the braided style of hi-top fades, it characterized an era of ‘afrocentricity’ of hip hop and embracing the rap culture. Golden age MCs like Def Jef and the hip hop group De La Soul are known for their braided hi-top fade styles in 1989 and 1990. This trend continued until 1994 when urban hair style simplified into low-cut fade hair cuts and cornrow hairstyles. The Hi-top fade was and still is commonly called just a flattop, due to the great likeness of the two styles. In fact the Hi-top fade could qualify as a variation on the flattop.

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