Travis Kelce is the Kansas City Chiefs tight end, heading into his fourth Super Bowl with record-setting numbers at the position. As you may have heard, his girlfriend is pretty famous, too. But recently, a New York Times article focused on his hairstyle, or “hairdo” as the headline read.
Kelce, who hails from Ohio, has, in the past few years, rocked what most Black people recognize as a “fade,” or tapered sides. While not the sole province of Black men or their barbers, it’s a common look for Black men and barbers who can cut it precisely are in high demand.
Based on available footage that has made its way to the internet through various glowing pieces about Kelce and his relationship with his brother Jason, who plays for the Eagles, Travis has had a few haircuts in his public life.
In high school, a fairly unrecognizable Kelce wore what looked like an floppy white-guy ‘do at one point, then a close-shaved head when he played basketball in his hometown of Cleveland Heights. At Cincinnati, where he played college football, he had both a low cut, one with the sides high on top, and another floppy-haired look.
By the time he made his NFL debut, he’d kept the sides low, if not completely faded, and gone with fuller hair on top. On his E! reality TV show, Catching Kelce, he was wearing his hair gelled and styled on top with tapered sides.
Enter Kayla Nicole. In 2017, just seven months after splitting with his Catching Kelce choice, Maya Benberry, Kelce was photographed with Instagram model/host/influencer Nicole, and they went official. At this point, Kelce was still wearing his sides tapered, with maybe some more fading and his poofy-gel-dependent hair longer on top.
By 2018, during a red carpet appearance with Nicole at the ESPYs, Kelce was now wearing his hair close and his sides faded. How that happened, we can only speculate, but this is also the year he became known for his fashion sense, something that we might be able to credit in some part to his then-girlfriend.
However, it should also be noted that Kelce’s business managers are two Black men, so there may have been some influence there.
“I actually didn’t start going to the barber shop until high school,” Kelce, 34, told Channing Crowder on The Pivot podcast a year ago, when asked when he started “pointing to the Black guys,” referencing photos of specific cuts on barbershop walls.
“Honestly, I didn’t get the tight fade until I got to college,” Kelce said. At first, he “kinda had just the two all over and line me up [haircut]. And my mom started that in middle school. I actually didn’t start going to the barber shop until high school. I started to go to the barbershop at the University of Cincinnati. Chrispy Chris, man. UC. You already know. It was one of them [pictures] up there don’t know which one it was, but he asked me if I wanted a fade and he kept that thing right up here (gesturing to his temples). It was a high fade, man. It’s come down a little bit since.”
In the Times, the writer suggests that “The Kelce” is being requested more than ever before, which led people to believe that the bastion of journalism thought that he popularized the style.
From the Times:
“Across the world, not just the country,” the Times breathlessly reports, “men are replicating Mr. Kelce’s hairstyle, claiming it attracts positive attention from friends and love interests and gives them more confidence, though some also say it is hard to maintain — it needs to be re-buzzed every two to four weeks, according to Mr. Dugas — or too airy to keep warm during winter.”
Hmmm. Everyone from Boosie – whose cut has been dubbed the Boosie fade, to just about every other Black man who has worn a hairstyle in the last decade or two that didn’t include braids or locs and even some that did, has worn a fade.
The “Kelce Cut” was discussed on Nightcap, the entertaining podcast with Shannon Sharpe and Ocho Cinco.
“I tried to figure out what Black barbershop you go in and say let me get a Travis Kelce,” Shannon Sharpe said. “A barber will look at you like what, a who? I’ve been getting a fade since 1986.”
Kelce himself weighed in on the comments, saying, “These headlines are wild… the fade has been around long before my life even began.”
After the Times story went viral, he was asked about it again at the pre-Super Bowl interviews in Vegas.
“It’s absolutely ridiculous,” Kelce said. “And to do it on February 1, to throw me to the wolves like that? That was messed up. I don’t want anything to do with that one.”
He shouted out his barber, Patty Cuts, and the specifics of his fade, adding, “I didn’t invent that. I just asked for it.”
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