The High Top Fade – How to Do It & Style It

This is a tutorial on how to do a High Top Fade (aka Hi Top Fade). Read below for the High Top Fade haircut, how to style it and which famous curly dude has sported this imminently ’80s hairstyle!

The High Top Fade (aka Hi Top Fade or Hi-Top Fade) was a very popular hairstyle among the African-American male community during the ’80s, and it is a hairstyle that greatly suits men with afro-textured hair (aka kinky hair/Type V curly hair). Since kinky curly hair defies gravity at medium lengths, this curl type suits the High Top Fade greatly as this hairstyle needs the hair to stand up evenly. Furthermore, the fact that kinky hair stands up evenly means that one can trim the kinks in order to mold the High Top Fade into different shapes as one desires.

The High Top Fade haircut as sported by a black male.

This is how a High Top Fade looks, including its haircut and styling

Hair Length category


Suitable curly hair type

Type V

High Top Fade Haircut

The hair on the sides and back for the High Top Fade is clipped very short at the hairline and is tapered upwards, the taper typically beginning at ear level; the highest guard length used for the back and sides tends to be a #2 (not any higher); the hair below the beginning of the taper (i.e. below ear level) remains at a near-shaved length, typically a #0.

The hair on the top is either left at a similar length to allow the top to remain flat or at the exact same length to create a top that contours the head; the length of the High Top Fade is usually 2-4 inches (i.e. a medium length) and sometimes even longer. Because Type V/kinky hair will puff out and defy gravity at very long lengths, the top of the head in the High Top Fade hairstyle can reach long lengths of 6+ inches! The horizontal line separating the sides/back from the top of the head is evened out so that the transition from the sides/back to the hair on the top of the head is smooth and contoured.

The actual name High Top Fade indicates that the hair is faded (on the back and sides) by using a very short guard length and thus the illusion of the hair fading onto the skin. The word “High” indicates that the fading of the hair starts above the nape’s hairline and not at the nape’s hairline itself (as opposed to other black men haircuts). The word high also relates to the fact that the hair on the High Top Fade stands “high” (i.e. it defies gravity). Cool story huh?

Haircut difficulty

3 out of 5 (best done by a barber/hairdresser, at least for the initial fade).

Kid Reid with a High Top Fade haircut

Don’t playa hate, brotha!

High Top Fade Style

The styling of the hair on top of the head for a High Top Fade is simple: the hair must be standing up. With kinky hair, the gravity-defying styling is done by taking care of the kinks and keeping them moisturised by using a leave-in conditioner and natural oils, just like you’d do for the Afro hairstyle. In fact, you could say that the High Top Fade is an Afro with the sides and back faded high! Use your fingers to direct the curly hair up and ensure that no locks of hair are breaking the overall shape of the top; the hairs strands bordering the top (i.e. in the area between the blending of the back/sides with the top) tend to be the ones breaking the harmony of the High Top Fade’s shape so pay special attention to lifting up the strands/locks bordering the top. Furthermore, you can use a hair pick to help yourself with keeping the kinks standing up and in place.

You can also use a tiny amount of time with the hair dryer once your curly hair is damp (like I mention in The Men’s Hair Book, never blow dry wet hair!). Blow dry your curls/kinks and ensure that they are all standing up; just use 1-2 seconds per scalp segment. As per The Curly Hair Book (my other uber cool hair book!), there are 6 scalp segments: front, center top, vertex, 2 sides and lower back of the head; keep them in mind when blow drying your curly hair.

Styling difficulty

3 out of 5 (you can do it yourself by you need to put some effort into it).

Which curly celebrity has sported a High Top Fade?

A perfect example of a High Top Fade is that of Will Smith during the first season of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. As the seasons passed, Will Smith had the top done shorter and the fade was lowered, nearing a conventional Fade haircut.

What hair products to use for a High Top Fade?

To get the most awesome High Top Fade, you should use the following products:

So there, get doing your curls into a High Top Fade if you really want to sport an uber cool hairstyle with an ’80s allure; you will gain quite some freshness ala the Fresh Prince!

All the best.

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Rogelio is the go-to guy when it comes to men's hair. Having embraced his natural curly hair for over a decade while living in 5 countries, Rogelio has learnt a thing or two along the way. Rogelio is the author of the two bestselling men's books "The Curly Hair Book" and "The Men's Hair Book", and his motto when it comes to hair is, "Gentlemen, having a good head of hair should not cost us our testosterone".

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2 comments for “The High Top Fade – How to Do It & Style It

  1. Bob
    May 21, 2013 at 9:38 am

    Can a Type 3 or 4 get this hairstyle because when it grows more than 1.5 inches I cant comb my hair because it becomes curly and tangly.

    • Rogelio
      May 21, 2013 at 9:58 pm

      Hi Bob,

      Yes, the High Top Fade is not limited to just Type V (i.e. afro textured hair); both Type III and IV curls will stand up nicely at the sort of lengths you mention, so it’s perfectly doable. I have Type III curls and I have worn a Hihg Top Fade in the past. Simply use some strong hair gel to style the curls up and use a hair dryer to dry the hair fast so the curls don’t hang down.

      Let me know if you got any more Qs.


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