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Hi-top fade haircut: It's all business

NBA players like Iman Shumpert have helped bring back the hi-top fade.

Rapper Kid of Kid 'n' Play had a hi-top fade that was 10 inches high

Big Daddy Kane had a very famous hi-top fade

Malkam Dior is a university administrator, who chose the hi-top fade because it had a professional feel.

Even our own Kai Ryssdal has a version of the hi-top fade.

If you watched any basketball this season, you might have noticed a new hairstyle gaining popularity. Well, it’s kind of an old hairstyle, actually: The hi-top fade. It was the ‘do to have back in the '80s, and now it's cropping up on the likes of Iman Shumpert of the New York Knicks, Norris Cole of the Miami Heat and celebrities like Usher.

At Against Da Grain Barbershop in Staten Island, barber Sean White says when he started cutting hair 27 years ago, the hi-top fade was all the rage. "The sides are usually faded very close and then the top is like a pencil eraser," he says. "It goes straight up, and it’s usually flat on the top."

The hi-top fade took the hip-hop community by storm. Big Daddy Kane, Salt-N-Pepa, Will Smith all had one. Rapper Kid of Kid 'n’ Play had a hi-top fade that stood 10 inches high. White says he started noticing kids asking for the cut a few months ago. "I think the mohawk is almost done, and now everybody’s getting the flattop," he says.

Part of the reason is that the style is very workable in the workplace, says New York style guru George Brescia, "If you are in finance or are in business, how do you rock the mohawk?" he says. "I think this has sort of evolved out of the mohawk, and this is a very versatile haircut."

Brescia says subtler versions of the hi-top fade can work on almost anyone. He says Robert Downey, Jr. has a version, and so does Kai Ryssdal. Thirty-year-old university administrator Malkam Dior's high top fade is five inches tall. Dior chose the style because it made a statement and had a professional feel. But the hi-top fade is a job in itself. "There’s gel, there’s mousse, there’s a blow dryer, there’s a hot comb," Dior says. "It’s hard to maintain, and it costs a lot of money and it’s a lot of work."

Dior spends $500 a month on product and weekly shape-ups and 45 minutes styling it every morning. The masses don’t seem fazed by the maintenance. Barber Sean White says he does four or five a week. "I love doing it. That’s my era. I grew up wearing that, and I grew up learning how to cut hair on that type of haircut."

Plus, White says hi-top fades stand out, which is good for business. "Everybody looks at it and asks: 'Who did that?' So, it helps me out." Oh, the importance of buzz…  

About the author

Stacey Vanek Smith is a senior reporter for Marketplace, where she covers banking, consumer finance, housing and advertising.

Rapper Kid of Kid 'n' Play had a hi-top fade that was 10 inches high

Big Daddy Kane had a very famous hi-top fade

Malkam Dior is a university administrator, who chose the hi-top fade because it had a professional feel.

Even our own Kai Ryssdal has a version of the hi-top fade.

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I never knew the official name of the "do." Really fun story! I'll go along with the Brescia analysis: Kai has a "version" of the hi-top fade, at least, it's his best effort.

If y'all saw the live streaming broadcast he did last Spring, the way his top hair looked with headphones making a (big) dent might sway you to give the man credit for the style.

Margaret Thompson -- big fan, "do" or no "do"

I remember those days!...I'm 43 now and balding so I can't wear a hi-top fade...but it was a fun style back in the days...thanks for the story...and NO, Kai's style is not a hi-top fade! LOL

Kewl story...seems like a lot of tado to keep up a look. I respectfully submit the Kai is not rocking the Hi-top Fade.

Norman Brown
Bowie MD

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