A hi-top fade
is a style of haircut where hair on the sides is cut off or kept very low 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 African-American
youths between 1986 to 1993 and to a lesser extent in the mid-1990s (1994-1995). The style fell out of fashion by 1996.
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. It is also believed that the High-Fade derives from Ancient Egypt as Queen Nefertiti
's famous Empress headpiece resembles the High-Fade form.
In 1986, rappers like Schooly D and Doug E. Fresh managed to wear the first, somewhat developed, styles of the hi-top fade in hip hop. However, their hairstyles lacked the geometric precision that the more modern hi-top fade styles characterized. In the hip hop community, one of the first public appearances of the more modern hi-top fade hairstyles in hip hop was in the 'Tramp' video by Salt-N-Pepa which was released early in 1987. During this time, hi-top fades weren't as prevalent as they were a few years later. 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 to 1987, many young Puerto Ricans, and African-Americans, especially in the New York City 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 at the fall of 1987 to the spring of 1988, such as "I Don't Care" by Audio Two (1988), "Move the Crowd" by Eric B. & Rakim (1987) (a few extras could be seen wearing one), "Paper Thin" by MC Lyte (1988), "Rising to the Top" by Doug E. Fresh (1988), "Do This My Way" by Kid 'N Play (1988) 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. Sing groups like TKA, Coro and other freestyle people wore the hi-top fade.
From late 1988 to 1989, the hi-top fade was the symbol of the urban culture at the time. Rappers such as Kid 'N Play, Big Daddy Kane and Kwamé were internationally famous for helping promote this trend worldwide. In late 1988, hi-top fades even became more developed, more hip-hoppers and people outside the New York area began following this trend. This hairstyle also helped define the New Jack Swing movement in the late 1980s and early 1990s. In the video "Fight the Power" by Public Enemy which was shot in April 1989, shown how much the trend set across the world, highly symbolic of urban style at the time.
The hi-top was still semi-popular through the early 1990s, however, by 1990, many people who sported the hi-top fade style started to move toward braided styles. However, the hi-top still remained common among many groups of young adults and teenagers. As for the braided style of hi-top fades, it characterized an era of 'afrocentricity' of hip hop and embracing the alternative 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. Many back-up dancers in many hip hop, dance, and R&B videos could be seen wearing similar hairstyles from 1990 to 1992. These heavy trend of these styles continued until 1993 and 1994 when urban hair style simplified into low-cut fade hair cuts and cornrow hairstyles. This hairstyle was also a fashion trend of New Jack Swing era. 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 another version of the flattop.
Celebrities known to have worn a hi-top fade
- AAron D'oNofrio, AKA Double F, Frontman of Nexus
- Larry Blackmon, R&B singer and frontman of Cameo, who adapted the style in 1986.
- Donnie Simpson, radio/TV personality (best known as longtime host of the hit BET series Video Soul) also adapted the hi-top fade, as he wore a jheri curl prior to this.)
- Bobby Brown, R&B singer, member of the R&B group New Edition. Known for his 'gumby' style hi-top fade in the late 1980s.
- Grace Jones, singer & actress
- Pete Rock, record producer and DJ.
- Teddy Riley, R&B/Hip-Hop Producer, creator the R&B supergroups Guy (band) and BLACKstreet
- Keith Sweat, R&B Singer and Producer
- Allen Payne, American actor
- Steady B, MC from Philadelphia, PA.
- Ronnie DeVoe and Ricky Bell, members of R&B group New Edition and Bell Biv Devoe
- Kid 'N Play, rap act
- Kid Rock, rapper/rocker
- Malcolm-Jamal Warner, actor and musician, adapted the hi-top fade during the 4th season of The Cosby Show and wore it until Season 7 of "The Cosby Show".
- Big Daddy Kane, rapper
- Will Smith, rapper and actor, he wore a Top Fade in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air's 1st season and last wore it in the 4th season episode, "The Philadelphia Story".(1990-1994)
- Scottie Pippen, former basketball player, wore a fade during the Chicago Bulls first three-peat before wearing a small afro for the remainder of his career
- Patrick Ewing, former basketball player. wore a fade during the first half of the 1990s for the New York Knicks.
- Steve Harvey, comedian and actor
- Jay-Z, wore one along with hip hop artist Jaz-O in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
- Doug E. Fresh, rapper, known for his curly hi-top fade.
- D-Nice, rapper, part of Boogie Down Productions
- Kwamé, rapper
- Al B. Sure, singer-songwriter. Known for his 'pretty tony' curly flattop.
- Jodeci, R&B group wore on their debut LP Forever My Lady
- Ralph Tresvant, lead singer of New Edition
- K-Solo, EPMD affiliated rapper
- Kanye West, Rapper wore a hi-top as a child, this can be seen in his video Through the Wire
- Flex Alexander, old school hip hop dancer, actor
- Rakim, MC
- Positive K, MC
- DJ Premier, DJ and record producer. Wore one early in his career with Gangstarr
- R. Kelly, singer-songwriter. Wore one while a member of R&B group Public Announcement
- Tony Terry, singer-songwriter
- Marc Nelson, singer-songwriter, member of AZ Yet. Wore a hi-top fade earlier in his career
- Johnny Gill, R&B Artist and songwriter. Wore a gumby like Bobby Brown but different in style in 1990 during the promotion of his debut album.
- Heavy D and the Boyz, hip hop group, promoted the new-jack swing style of hip hop fades from early on their career.
- Boyz II Men, R&B group.
- Shawn Wayans and Marlon Wayans, entertainers.
- Audio Two, old school hip-hop rap duo he was more known for his excentric solos.
- Def Jef, record producer, DJ, and rapper and father of ten children all of different mothers.
- D'Extra Wiley, R&B group II D Extreme
- Arsenio Hall, talk-show host and comedian a very funny character for the late night entertained
- Gerald Levert, wore it on his LP Private Line
- MC Serch, rapper
- Tupac Shakur, rapper and actor. Wore the style in the movie "Juice".
- Another Bad Creation, former R&B group of youngsters by the name of Chris, Mark, Red, Dave, and Ro Ro back in 1991.
- Emmitt Smith, former American football player from the Dallas Cowboys.
- Jerry Rice, former American football player from the San Francisco 49ers.
- Randall Cunningham, former American football player from the Philadelphia Eagles.
- Bruce Smith, former American football player from the Buffalo Bills.
- Omar Epps, American actor.
- Three Times Dope, hip hop trio from Philadelphia, PA.
- Slick Rick, hip hop artist.
- Usher, American singer, wore on early his career.
- Jaleel White, actor best known for portraying Steve Urkel television character on American sitcom Family Matters.
- Darius McCrary, actor who played Eddie Winslow on the 1980s-1990s sitcom Family Matters on ABC and later CBS
- Lil' Boosie, southern rapper best known for his "hit" single ZOOM ("You Owe Me, I Promoting You Right Now"-Eminem) and his 2006 single "Do the Ratchet"
- Wesley Snipes, Actor, wore a hi-top fade in a few urban films of the era such as New Jack City.
- Richard Brooks, who played Paul Robinette in the first three seasons of Law & Order.
- Walter Emanuel Jones, Actor, who played Zack Taylor, the Black Ranger in the two seasons of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, sported his style in the 1st season until the 2nd season episode, "The Green Dream". He also sported it in Space Cases playing Harlan Band from season 1 until the 2nd season.
- Kenny Ford, actor, sported his style in Kids Incorporated Season 6 until Season 8.
- Maestro Fresh Wes, a Canadian hip hop legend.
- Farley Flex, urban music promoter and Canadian Idol judge.
- Buzz Osborne, guitarist and singer of the Melvins wore the hairstyle on the band's 1990 tour.
- Jamie Foxx, actor, sported his style in In Living Color Season 3 until Season 4.
- Tommy Davidson, actor, sported his style in In Living Color Season 2 until Season 4.
- David Alan Grier, actor, sported his style in In Living Color Season 1 until Season 4.
- TKA, A Puerto Rican freestyle group.
- Shawn Harrison, actor, best known for playing Waldo Geraldo Faldo on Family Matters. Season 2-4.
- George LaMond, A freestyle artist.
- 2 In A Room, a D.R freestyle rap group.
- Tony Moran' a Puerto Rican freestyle singer.
- Felix Trinidad, a Puerto Rican boxer.
- Flavor Flav, MC, Flavor of Love
- Omar Gooding, actor, sported his style in Wild & Crazy Kids.
- Kevin Clash, puppeteer
- Darryl M. Bell, actor, who play on A Different World.
- Chris Rock, comedian & actor
- Devin Ratray, actor, sported the style in Home Alone.
- Juvenile, rapper
- Christopher Dorsey, rapper
- Turk, rapper
- Booker T wore it on his debut in WCW with his brother Stevie Ray
- Brandon Jennings
- Snoop Dogg, rapper
- Rod Daniels, WBAL-TV reporter
- Lindsey Buckingham, singer