Top Notes

Top Notes

Award-winning hairdresser Jim Shaw reveals the inspiration behind his new take on the classic high-top

The high-top fade has come a long way since the days of the Fresh Prince, but there’s no doubt that it’s still the height of cool. What was once the go-to style for men in the golden age of hip-hop, the short back and sides with a long, shaped top is making a comeback. But as with all returning trends, the 90s classic has been reimagined for a 2020 audience.

Multi-award-winning hairdresser Jim Shaw, the recently crowned winner of the ‘Best International Men’s Commercial Collection’ at the International Hairdressing Awards 2020 in Madrid, updated the faded look with a modern, edgy twist for his latest collection. “Not only is this haircut on-trend, but it’s also very strong – and strong hairstyles that require a lot of skill were something we wanted to include in our collection imagery,” he explains. “I love the graduation of this cut, how it’s kept shorter at the sides and very long on the top, making sure your attention is drawn towards the hair and its movement.”

While staying true to his signature look of clean, precise styles, Shaw decided to take the famous cut to the next level. “I wanted to give it my own personal touch and a quirky, more contemporary update,” he says. “My aim was to create conversation.”

To achieve the look, it was all about sculpting the perfect silhouette and boosting volume for maximum impact. Shaw started by using a Wahl Super Taper Cordless Clipper to create the initial shape with clean, defined lines. “I always use a cordless clipper, as it allows me to move around the head more easily and achieve a sharper result,” he says. “It should be used carefully at the sides of the head to create a gradual fade, alongside a comb to ensure you can see the direction of the hair properly, and for neatness.”

In fact, a comb is the key to this geometric style; Shaw next used it to enhance the texture and to add more volume, raising the hair upwards to give it extra height. Working alongside his shape-shifting tools were two styling products that helped to create the look: label.m Matt Paste and Deconstructor, which gave additional texture and hold.

The final touch? Making sure there’s not a hair out of place. “When finishing the look, I also like to go round with scissors to give greater precision,” admits Shaw. It’s official – it’s cool to be tidy.

To book a hair appointment with Jim Shaw, contact Toni&Guy Essensuals Billericay on 01277 634000. All products and electricals are available at

  • Words: Judy Johnson

  • Photography: Tony Le-Britton