Getting a faded haircut is simple: any barber in the country will go straight to work if you sit in the chair and ask for one. Getting a flattering fade you love that doesn’t need a week to look good? It’s much more complicated. There are certain rules regarding fades and all sorts of terms. Moreover, no man will wear the same style in the same way.
“Fades generally depend on two factors: the overall style desired and the shape of the face,” says barber Herson Rodriguez, who keeps guys lined up at Blind Barber Chicago. For example, he says low fades are better for medium to long styles, while being more flattering for round faces. “A low fade allows the length of the top to blend naturally with the fade, and in terms of face shape, it visually slims and lengthens the face.”
If your eyes are just glassy, that’s cool – and that’s why it’s worth seeking out a good barber like Rodriguez: they’ll be doing calculations in their heads as they analyze your face and hair, s ensuring you get something flatters you. (And they smartly edit the style of the celebrity haircut photo you brought.)
For all faded cuts, your hairdresser gradually reduces the length of your hair on the side and back of your head to a given length. But there are many variables in this basic model. Here are some questions to ask in order to determine what type of fade you’re getting, according to Rodriguez.
How much hair is left at the end of the fade?
A common way to request a fade is to specify which clipper guard your stylist should use at the end of the fade. So a fade #1 will end in ¼ inch hair.
In this case, the fade tapers down to the skin and is usually finished with a razor blade by your hairdresser. You’ll want to talk to your hairstylist about how high this bald section should go.
“Skin fades are a popular choice for higher contrast and a more defined haircut,” Rodriguez adds. They are also ideal for men who want to show off tattoos on the sides or back of their dome. This faded section of hair will grow out after about a week, so regular cleanings will be needed to maintain the contrast.
At what height of your head does the fade start?
Low fades quickly transition to fuller, scissor-cut height. They work best for medium or long styles because they blend more naturally with the fade instead of sharper disconnects. However, the degree of difficulty is slightly higher for barbers here, as it forces the professional to do a lot with a bit of real estate. So make sure you have a trusted hand working on your head.
Fades that are blended halfway up the sides of your head, say an inch or more above the ear, are the most versatile of the fades, Rodriguez says. “Mid fades are great for short, medium, or long styles,” he says. There are fewer rules around face shape with these because you have a lot more hair on top to help determine how the style plays with your face shape instead of putting that weight on the fade.