Fashion: FALL ISSUE : HAIR : Coming Up With a Fast Fade


You don’t have to be an extremist to have style. That seems to be the current thinking on black men’s grooming.

Romantic leading actors Wesley Snipes and Mario Van Peeples, talk-show host Arsenio Hall, and athlete Carl Lewis are influencing the latest look. They wear a somewhat conservative version of the fade, a cut that is long on top, short on the sides and was first made popular by track star Lewis about four years ago.

“A few years ago it was considered extreme, now the fade is a standard hairstyle for men,” explains Harriette Cole, fashion editor for Essence magazine.

Cole says there are other options closer to the cutting edge. Short, “dread-like twists” and etched cuts, or “tribal carvings,” top that list. But the toned-down options have merit too. Of these, most trend-conscious career men prefer the modified fade.


“It’s refreshing for corporate-level black men to see celebrities wearing a look that they would like to wear too,” she says.

“Wesley Snipes is the trendsetter right now,” says Glenroy Baird, artistic director for the John Atchison salon. “Mario Van Peebles has pretty much the same look. They’re wearing their hair faded on the side. The top that was higher and more square last year is now lower and rounder.” (Film director Melvin Van Peebles cuts his son’s hair, says Mario’s manager, Tobie Haggerty.)

Baird says the look is great for 9-to-5ers. “When they leave the office, they can be versatile,” he says. “It can be smooth during the week and unkept on the weekend.”

“A lot of men come in and say, ‘I’d like my hair like Arsenio Hall.’ That’s a flattop style--conservative, but makes a statement,” says Nikki Woods, co-owner of Mo Better Hair, a small neighborhood salon in Los Angeles. “Some ask for a rounded top. A younger version would be wilder, with dreadlocks or curls on top.”


She says members of the rap group De La Soul are the role models for the wilder look.

Janet Zeitoun, an Umberto stylist who specializes in African-American hair, says a man’s hairstyle choices are limited by his work environment.

Extreme versions of the fade, for example, are marked by a shaved line that looks like a part. “An executive can’t walk into a meeting with a line around his head,” Zeitoun says. “Not even in the music business. He needs to be conservative, though not too. It’s halfway hip.”

Zeitoun tailors fades by using “texturizers” to add body to the hair, by shaving the hairline for a more extreme look or by adding subtle chestnut-brown or black color to accent the fade line.


For one client, model and singer Leteef Long, she created a texturized fade that she says is forward, yet simple, clean and basic.

Long likes the change. “I’ve had lines, a Gumby look like Bobby Brown, all bald on the side, initials carved in the back,” he says, ticking off past styles. “This is sporty rather than hip-hop.”

And absolutely conservative in comparison.