Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce (87) leaves the field against the Cincinnati Bengals after the game at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium. Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Few people would accuse the New York Times of having a good grasp on the pulse of American culture. A recent article about Travis Kelce’s haircut isn’t going to do them many favors in that regard.

On Monday, Jan. 29, the Times published an article by Alyson Krueger titled “They’ll Take the Travis Kelce — Hairdo, That Is.” The gist is that a lot of men are taking to their local barbershops and asking for a haircut similar to that of the Kansas City Chief star tight end. The article cites a TikTok video from barber Jeff Dugas saying that his brother came in with photos of Kelce for reference. It also cites a different TikTok video from barber Nigel Miller, who said his client was going for “that Travis Kelce look.”

It’s a pretty normal phenomenon for people to emulate the haircuts of famous people (see: The Rachel) and wanting to emulate Kelce, who is currently dating megastar Taylor Swift and has become a household name, is a pretty obvious conclusion for a lot of young men.

The article doesn’t delve into the fade haircut or its history, but if it had, it would have noted how the haircut, which originated in the 1930s and was a common U.S. military look in the 1940s, really blew up in the 1980s when Black barbers elevated the look, setting the stage for it to become intertwined in hip-hop culture. Like music, hairstyles evolve and change, but the intrinsic link between the two things remains.

Black people are accustomed to seeing their cultural footprint diminished or erased by American media. There are myriad examples, including rock and roll, various dances, and hipster culture. Historically, media related to these topics play down or outright erase Black people’s roles surrounding them, either purposefully or out of a lack of awareness about the historical context.

That’s how a lot of Black people saw the NY Times piece about the “Travis Kelce haircut,” which seemed to frame something popular in Black culture for decades as an entirely new look originated by a famous white dude. It also didn’t help that the article was published right before Black History Month.

Many Black media members in the sports realm took notice and shared their disappointment over the messaging.

“So that’s how you start Black History [Month]?,” asked Shannon Sharpe on a recent episode of Nightcap. “Giving Trav, and that’s my nephew, giving him credit for the fade.”

“We’ve been seeing the fade for years, Unc,” added Chad “Ochocinco” Johnson.

“Ocho, I’ve been getting a fade since ’86,” added Sharpe. “What Black barbershop you go in and say ‘Let me get a Travis Kelce?'”

You can try to push back on the criticism by saying the article doesn’t explicitly give Kelce credit for inventing the haircut, but that’s beside the point. After a lifetime of seeing their contributions cast aside, Black people can pretty quickly suss out when a writer or outlet doesn’t have the understanding necessary to talk fully about a topic that involves their cultural contributions. To be fair, the predictability of centering the story on a popular white guy and implicitly giving him credit certainly makes it easy to spot.

[New York Times]

About Sean Keeley

Along with writing for Awful Announcing and The Comeback, Sean is the Editorial Strategy Director for Comeback Media. Previously, he created the Syracuse blog Troy Nunes Is An Absolute Magician and wrote 'How To Grow An Orange: The Right Way to Brainwash Your Child Into Rooting for Syracuse.' He has also written non-Syracuse-related things for SB Nation, Curbed, and other outlets. He currently lives in Seattle where he is complaining about bagels. Send tips/comments/complaints to sean@thecomeback.com.