Travis Kelce is a lot of things: championship-winning tight end, podcast host, boyfriend to the most famous person in the world. Now, we may be able to add hair influencer to the list. According to the New York Times, there has been a worldwide surge in requests for Travis Kelce hair. The paper seems to (controversially) attribute the popularity of his super-cropped, skin fade to entirely to the athlete himself.
Listen: he may have contributed to the uptick in requests, but Kelce himself will be the first to admit he did not invent the fade. In fact, his haircut is pretty ubiquitous in the world of barbering. Fades are, by far, the most requested men’s cut according to Michael McGraw, artistic director for Supercuts North Texas and Louisiana region. “Seventy-five percent of our customers are men and of those, about three-fourths request a clipper cut,” he says, referring largely to fades. To extrapolate that even more, Supercuts does 63,000 haircuts a day nationally, which boils down to a lot of fades. They’re so popular that in the standard training course for all Supercuts barbers, half the time is spent just doing fades.
Fades in general go back decades before Kelce was even born. They were popularized in the 1940s as men enlisted in the military—and to this day are the standard military haircut. They dipped out of fashion for a while but surged back into popularity in the 1980s and ’90s thanks to hip-hop culture, which interpreted the fade in new ways like the flat top. The cut’s popularity was largely thanks to the creativity of Black barbering culture, which took the fade in new directions and turned it from a utilitarian cut into something more expressive and culturally relevant. And while the fade’s popularity has ebbed and flowed since then, it’s never really gone away, especially among men of color.
This isn’t to say that Kelce doesn’t deserve some praise for his look, because he does. His cropped skin fade is a really damn good one. “The placement of his fade is sitting right where it needs to. It distributes the sides of his head perfectly,” says Alberto Modesto, a master barber at Persons of Interest in Brooklyn, New York. Props to Kelce’s barber Patrick Regan, aka Patty Cuts, a fade master whose client list is a who’s-who of famous dudes from UFC fighters to NFL players to rappers. According to Kelce, he “just asked for a fade” and Regan did the rest.
McGraw does acknowledge that he has seen an uptick in customers asking for cuts like Kelce’s, though he stops short of attributing it to him alone. Modesto had not had anyone ask specifically for the “Travis Kelce haircut” until the day we spoke, when he had two requests. Regardless of Kelce’s relationship to the fade as a whole, there is no denying there is something in the air and fades are having (another) moment. Whatever your inspiration, if you’re thinking of fading, here’s what you need to know.
How To Get a Skin Fade
Let’s start with what Kelce himself says: “A two on top, a nice high to mid fade with a taper in back.” Most barbers experienced with clipper cuts and fades will know exactly what that means. You could also bring in a picture (of Kelce or someone else whose fade you like), which many barbers appreciate because lots of us either don’t know how to articulate the look we want or think we know barberspeak when we really don’t.
A #2 guard is one-fourth of an inch, which is very short. McGraw advises starting with a #3 (three-eighths of an inch) and if you have fine or thin hair, you may want to leave it even longer. The barber will then use his clippers to fade your hair from that length down to a zero (no guard) and then finish off with a foil shaver to achieve the skin fade. He also notes that Kelce has his edged in the front (it creates the crisp lines around the hairline), which is a personal choice; your barber will likely ask if you want it edged up or left natural.
While a fade looks good on pretty much all men, no matter hair type or texture, the thing to keep in mind is your head shape, says McGraw. Men with large or asymmetrical head shapes may want to leave the fade a little longer with more movement to camouflage asymmetries. Your barber will also be able to advise on where to start the fade. Kelce’s is a “high-mid fade” which means the fading starts about halfway down the sides (high fades start higher, low fades start lower). This choice is part of why Modesto says Kelce’s fade is so good—it starts at the exact right place to optimize his head shape. A seasoned barber will be able to advise you on where is ideal on your head to start your fade in order for it to look its best.
Finally, if you have a beard or facial hair (like Kelce), your barber will be able to fade the sides up so they blend with your fade organically. That’s an important step because you want to make sure any facial hair blends just as well as the hair on top of your head.
What To Know About Having a Skin Fade
The biggest thing to understand about a short, cropped skin fade like Kelce’s is that it requires maintenance. “When you want it to look like that all the time, you’re going to have to come in more often,” says Modesto. Kelce gets his hair cut every week to keep it fresh and has the privilege of being able to fly his barber to him whenever he needs a cut. Most of us can’t do that. But if you have a style like this, you really need to have it cut at least every two weeks to keep it looking fresh, says McGraw.
The good news is that good fades grow out well, so you can realistically stretch it a bit longer if you need to, according to Modesto. “The good thing about a well-placed fade is the geometry behind it sits on the head so precisely, it’s going to have a shape growing out,” he says. “You’re not going to see shelves or lines.” But that, of course, depends on how skilled your barber is at a fade.
Finding a barber who is skilled as a fade is, after all, the most important piece of the puzzle (we wouldn’t be talking about Travis Kelce if his fade was bad). Price isn’t always a good indicator of how good a fade will be. Modesto recommends instead looking at a barber’s Instagram to see how experienced they are with fades, how often they do them, and whether their pictures are unfiltered. Fades are hard to master, especially if you’re doing longer fades (Modesto says Kelce’s fade is fairly fundamental since it’s so sort) and even some seasoned barbers have difficulty with them. Working with a skilled fader is the first step.
And once you find a good barber, stick with them. Part of what makes Kelce’s cut stand out, according to Modesto, is that a lot of other players’ fades aren’t as good. “A lot of these guys switch barbers all the time and some of the fades are pretty choppy,” he explains. It just goes to show that, even when we’re looking at the head of one of the most famous people in the world, it really comes down to who’s behind the chair.
Read the full article here