The high top fade: Everything you need to know

Jeanette | 01 April 2016
black mens hairstyle high top fade

Everything you need to know about the return of this cool ‘do…

It’s become frequently more fashionable for men to look back at the hair archives in order to find inspiration. So it’s no wonder that retro ‘dos like the high top fade are back!

With this style having seen a huge resurgence on the runways, it’s time that every stylish fella worth his salt starts rocking this dapper ‘do. Feeling unsure about a high fade is and how to get it? Then keep reading – we’re spilling all.

High top fade: The complete guide


black male model on the runway with a high top fade haircut
Work with different proportions with your high fade haircut. Credit:

What is the high top fade?

The high top fade (AKA ‘hi-top fade’) is a hairstyle that was really popular with black men in the ‘80s and early ‘90s. The cut includes a high fade (a gradual fade on the sides and back of the crown) with – and like the name suggests – most of the height on the top of the head.

Essentially, the high top fade is the cooler cousin of the flattop – without the military background. Instead, its roots are based in contemporary America, during the golden age of hip-hop and rap.

If you need some visual inspiration, take a look back at Will Smith’s hairstyle in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air – the high top fade was his signature ‘do. Christopher Reid, from the hip-hop duo Kid ‘n’ Play, also rocked a pretty great version, while Bobby Brown and Tupac Shakur tapped into the trend with asymmetric styles and graphic partings.

kinky mid high top fade
The high top can look ultra-modern. Credit:

Why should I take notice of it?

The comeback of this haircut is mostly due to its popularity with NBA players. Orlando Magic’s Brandon Jennings and Norris Cole (the point guard for the New Orleans Pelicans) are just a couple of the cool guys bringing this retro hairstyle back into the limelight.

Can anyone rock a high top fade?

Pretty much! However, if you have naturally curly, coily, or kinky hair, it’ll be easier for you to achieve gravity-defying heights. If you have fine or straight hair, you’ll need extra support from firm hold hair products.

Also remember that to successfully rock the high top fade, you’ll need to grow your hair on the crown of your head. So, if you have really short hair, bear this in mind and pencil in some time to let it get longer before you take the plunge.

model on the runway with a curly high top fade haircut
The high top fade even works with looser curls! Credit:

But won’t I look really retro?

No. Hear us out: you don’t have to be worried about looking like you’ve just stepped out of a Public Enemy music video. The classic high top fade can be easily adapted to meet today’s trends. How? Just restrain the height of your high-top (anywhere between 1 and 3 inches is good) and ask for softer edges that will make it less boxy. You can also make it look more modern by showcasing your hair’s natural texture, so the top isn’t just a clean, straight line.

Any modern hair heroes who will inspire me?

As mentioned before, the NBA is mainly responsible for the high top fade’s revival. So take a look at Iman Shumpert from the Cleveland Cavaliers – he’s a real devotee of the haircut. Or just check out Jaden Smith, who has definitely drawn inspiration from The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air days of his father and does a great job of modernising the hairstyle.

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