The Hi-Top Fade = The Negro Mullet

40 steps

Editor’s note: A 40 DAWG homage to the greatest jig hairstyle. Evar.

The hi-top fade hit the black community like everything else in the 80’s – HARD. Seeking a reprieve from the chemically processed curls, and with the shag/ducktail going the way of “The Smurf” dance, young black males sought out a new defining coif. The classic fade cut was nothing new, I got pics of my Uncle Chappie attending a Harlem Rens game with his era’s interpretation of “close on the sides and leave some on top”. For the most part the fade in previous manifestations had been more military than militant. Flash forward to 1986, the year it seemed everything changed.

The lore of the era was that the hi-top was an homage to the way we rocked our wigs in the motherland and with everything based in something African at this cultural crossroads I figured it made some sense. However I think we need to give more credit to the codpiece clad funkonaut Larry Blackmon who’s band became the names sake of this cut. Other early names I knew for the cut bore regional names like “The Philly” or “The Jersey”. Discrepancy of origin aside we all skinned off the sides and let the top run amok. The hi-top fade was my first real foray into “affordable style” for the kid. Moms wasn’t coming off the loot for fashions of the day, and the cautionary tales of friends and relatives caught in the crack game didn’t push me into that form of employ for financial gain. However I had my man Junior Black who was holding it down with the clippers in his mom’s basement. He had all the pics from the legendary Kinapps in Brooklyn which had intricate designs like “Ashanti Warrior” and “The Sudan”, so if my gear was subpar I was gonna keep my wig game proper. J.Black knocked out some classics out of that basement, slopes, Gumbies, bleached out fronts, parts, designs, steps*, etc.

Like everything else that goes mainstream there is the good and the bad. Christopher “Kid” Martin made a whole career largely on that do, on the flip no one singlehandedly did more to destroy the hi-top fade than R&B supergroup TROOP. I’m glad the music industry was not as visual oriented as it is today because their career would have been submarined by letting
LeatherFace be their barber. (Actually I think it caught up to them eventually!). I think we can all say by 1991 the hi-top fade was replaced by brothers who dreaded theirs out or deaded it all together. I think I speak for the masses when we spend the last 15 years of our life ridiculing some of those high school photos and shiver when “House Party” comes on and have to explain to the babies that “Yes I actually had my hair like that.”

“But I don’t party and shake my butt, I leave that to the brothers with the funny haircuts!” – (c)Ice Cube, “Jackin’ 4 Beats”.

Man that line pissed me off when I first heard it, Coming from a cat who was still sleeping with a shower cap on and could make any community pool seem like the Exxon Valdez accident by merely jumping in. But as time has gone on maybe O’Shea Jackson was actually right. White folks had their cut – THE MULLET, and Billy Ray Cyrus got by on his hair as much as Kid did. Plus if you see that Mullet Family pic in the drop Dallas had a little while back you need no more further evidence on its hilarity. Well I’d like to put The Hi-Top Fade into that same pool. Yeah we were all cool as fuck when it we rocked it, but we also gotta let the past stay the past and enjoy the historical humor that it currently provides.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m hella proud of some of the dynamic fades I rocked, (in fact I’m trying to find one to put on my passport pictures) but somethings just need to stay in the past like smallpox and swine flu. I hear hipsters trying to promote the return of the hi-top, and if you ask me all these Williamsburg emigrants can all go somewhere with that. It was great while it lasted and while we lived it, and just because companies have “retroed” all types of nostalgia so people can get a second chance, I think this one just needs to be preserved in the annals of Hip-Hop History…

*Regarding “The Steps” – my mother so hated that haircut in the picture that after having it for that one day she marched me to the barbershop to get me a full fledged scalping. In regards to the level of pain inflicted, it still ranks on the top 10 punishments. EVAR.

30 Responses to “The Hi-Top Fade = The Negro Mullet”

  1. Candice says:

    40 Dawg….I am glad you mentioned Troop. Let’s count how many hairstyles they wore on one head, shall we?

    1. Flat top? check
    2. Jheri Curl? check
    3. The word TROOP carved in the back? Check
    4. Three or more parts cut in to math the eyebrow cuts? Check
    5. Gumby? Check

    I mean really…..five styles on one head is too much for any man…..To Rule Over Oppressed People. (Remember that?)

  2. Candice says:

    math = match

  3. i Fux says:

    Hilarity, I still till this day dont understand parts in the Eyebrows. Yo I always wanted a high-top fade but do to my hair fortunately I wasnt able to rock one.

  4. sasha says:

    TROOP. i remember. (sighs)

    were they always a joke to everybody? i dont ever remember taking those dudes seriously. but i was a baby. the box is making a comeback it seems. the true test will be can the boxtop take out saggin? cause them two do NOT go well together. i’ll take a boxtop over seeing dirty boxers and dudes walking like they have polio trying to keep their britches up.

    we’ll have to see.

  5. sasha says:

    AND cutting eyebrows hasn’t gone anywhere. the sandy headed liteskinnt boys never let those die. and apparently girls are calling them bestfriend marks and doing matching cuts with their bff’s. yes i socked my little sister when she explained that dumb shit to me. -_-

  6. JewknowhatImsayin says:

    This was the greatest haircut for the chosen people who love hip hop. Cesar is cool but the high top was more dap.

  7. wax says:

    comin up in a small town in texas, I had a really bad case of wigga-itus, and I got a cut like Mc Serch from 3rd Bass.

    the minute I got home from the barber, my old man took a razor to my head and shaved off all the intricate line work I’d just paid for and I walked around lookin like a real doofus.

    I’m still feeling the effects of the laughter at school 15 years later 😛

  8. Redd says:

    Haha remember tha “tails” mofos was rockin with the fades? I remember I got my ass lit on fire for cutting off my cousins tail while he was asleep. Or some dudes just had that little puff of hair instead of a braided tail!

  9. P-Matik says:

    I think the most JACKED-UP version of the “gumby” was that mistake Wesley Snipes had upside his head when he was pouring champagne on broads heads in New Jack City.

  10. P-Matik says:

    Plus the “pump” fade was jive suspect too (no Guliani).

  11. Combat Jack says:

    Just saw a young brother who lives on Nostrand between Dean and Bergen rocking not only the high top fade with a slash pf the bleach, but also rocking a new pair of them nasty ass grey stone wash straight leg jeans. Yewwwwww! Keep that shit back. The best do ever is the classic Ceasar. I ‘member getting my 1st Ceasar when I was like 16 and I went from ugly duckiling to Prince Charming in like 60 seconds. Still rocking it yo!

  12. nerditry says:

    Mullet? Check. Chemically treated hair? Check. Hair that started on someone else’s head? 10-4 good buddy.

  13. Eloheem says:

    As the local unlicensed hood barber for nearly 12 years I’m glad to see fades and designs make a comeback, errbody rocking ceasers is to uniform.

  14. 1980 says:

    You took the words right out of my mouth!! I was just about to do a drop about the fade tomorrow as one of my top 5 favorite trends. Oh and looks like Lil Boosie is tryin to bring the hi top back.

  15. Bare Arms says:

    my mom was a hater…thank the lawd.

  16. P-Matik says:

    You know them gutta ass dudes way down south are late as hell. Still rockin’ bald fades and rocking grills is damn near trifling to me…

  17. Thorsten says:

    Husalah has a massive high top fade revival on his new cd-cover

  18. Thorsten says:

    btw the records is really dope too

  19. Vee says:

    Kinapps?!? I didn’t think anybody remembered that spot. Wow!!
    BK stand up!

    Ok, I was young, but TROOP had some cool slow jams, especially the material Babyface wrote for them.

  20. Candice says:

    add #6 to the list for TROOP…..they also had the rat tail hanging off the back off the haircut….whew…

  21. Amadeo says:

    (raising hand) I had a tail with mine…for real I couldn’t keep mine long. Style cuts did not last with me…Hi-tops with a widows peak were not considered cool. Troop did help to end that by morphing their hair into one style…the Devastator of hair cuts.

  22. 40 says:

    I also wanna remark about the standoffs at the dinner table where in the middle of a fine meal my mother would come in outta leftfield with, “Can’t you just take a few inches off the top?”

    Hi-Top Fade Factoid: Its been said the fellow Temple Alumnus Bill Cosby fired Theo’s best friend Carl “Cockroach” Payne off the show because he wouldn’t take down his fade.

  23. Lion XL says:

    Yeah those Troop fades were sick, but who remembers 3XDope? I think they were first to rock the crooked fades and other weird ish…..

  24. jdotnicholas says:

    Philly STAND UP – 3XD came with the ill haircut variants. They rocked a lotta gumbys, Jeffs and I think EST or Woody Wood had the stairs with the trigonometry cuts in the front. And TatMoney is credited as creating the ‘Halfro’ cut. . .

    Then I think Kwame put it over the top with the Fade/blonde africa dip in the front. . . people front on Kwam, but he set mad trends in hiphop.

  25. sasha says:

    @ thorsten…………

    where that pic come from? aint husalah still locked up? i’m calling shenanigans on a mean case of the photoshops. cant count it if you dont really rock it.

    i heart the jacka. it’s all love either way.

  26. Fao Il Re says:

    Actually that is the boy young Hus’s hair. check the link

  27. K.O says:

    That Cockroach comment is ironic because I always said he looks exactly like Dallas Penn.

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