Best Men’s Fade Haircuts – Ever wondered how Brad Pitt got his barnet so sleek for Fury? Or how does Zayn Malik’s hairstyle look smoother than the moves he puts on Gigi Hadid in the video for ‘Pillowtalk’? Well, the word’s out: it’s called a fade. Sometimes subtle, sometimes striking, a fade is essentially a next-level short back and sides. “It’s actually a form of tapering the hair, but the hair is cut drastically lower than a regular taper haircut,” says Adam Gore, founder of UK Barbershop of the Year, Barberology. “The hair is gradually tapered into nothing [i.e. an exposed scalp] from the head’s upper recession to the nape of the neck, giving it a spray-painted effect.”
Of course, he doesn’t mean spray-painted in the Sisqó circa 1999 kind of way. Instead, it’s a masterful cut that involves subtly blending hair lengths – with a clipper, scissors, or often both – to give the hair at the back and sides of the head a smoothly graduated or ‘faded’ effect. In short, if you only learn one piece of barbering jargon, make it this (and these).
The Taper Fade
Clean, classic and versatile, the taper fade is a crowd-pleaser. It’s sharp, but not severely so, meaning it’ll work as well at your desk as when you’re off-duty.
“A taper fade goes from nothing into a blended length,” says Gore. “The taper starts from the nape of the neck and extends to the parietal ridge, gradually getting darker as it gets higher (the parietal ridge is the top of the head which is defined as the widest area of the head, where the head starts to curve away).”
Who’s It For?
“A great look for someone who needs a smarter haircut and wants it to look slightly more natural.” Also, because the taper fade lacks any significant scalp exposure, it can be used as the basis for several different styles up top from a neat scissor crop to longer, more dramatic styles.
The Low Fade
Less subtle than a taper fade, a low fade puts a little more skin on show, offering a finish that’s clearly demarcated but is still far from a skinhead.
“The low fade starts extremely low, with the skin at the very bottom, and then blends up from that point, following the natural curvature of the head,” says Gore. “It’s is a great way to showcase hair with more texture, or achieve a wavy look on top, so the hair is often left longer on top for styling.”
Who’s It For?
“It’s a good option for a more oblong, diamond or triangular head shape,” says Gore, who also suggests complementing a low fade with a well-groomed beard, which creates contrast in textures between your fade and your facial hair.
The Mid Fade
More noticeable than a low fade, but not as scalp-exposing as its high variant, the mid fade is unsurprisingly one of the most popular styles men plump for, and ideal for creating a harder skin-hair blend line should you want to take a more old-school approach to your fade.
“The mid fade starts at the point above the ears, making it distinctive, yet still adaptable to different styling approaches,” says Gore. “It comes with a lot more styling options for, say, the pompadour or a longer quiff, where length on the upper sides is needed.”
Who’s It For?
“The mid fade’s a popular style for all ages, and great when accompanied with a longer beard. Just ensure you use a firm-hold wax or gel to keep your cut neat and under control.”
The High Fade
As the Fresh Prince, but bolder, the high fade (also known as a high and tight) is a high-contrast style where most of the hair on the back and sides of your head is shorn back to the skin using a foil shaver.
“For the high fade, the natural shape of the head isn’t taken into account and a new baseline is created around the area from the upper recession to the lower crown,” says Gore. This results in a highly stylised finish that’s anything but subtle but is sure to turn heads.
Who’s It For?
“A popular cut for American flattops and great for Afro hair types. Good for someone who doesn’t mind extremely short hair, and perfect for square or round face shapes.”
The Scissor Fade
Not keen on clippers? Or want a style that will definitely fly in a smart-casual office? Then swap a buzzed fade for a softer, scissor-cut style.
“The scissor fade is a basic fade that doesn’t use clippers, but scissors, cutting around the nape and progressing upwards using a taper comb to get as close to the skin as possible,” says Gore. “This technique is usually used when a more custom shape is needed to suit the specific head shape.”
Who’s It For?
“A failsafe and easy to wear option, this cut requires your barber to gradually cut the sides of your hair with scissors, taking out the elements of the typical fade cut. Rely on a great wax or pomade to keep this hairstyle textured and refined.”
Don’t Go It Alone (Or Cheap)
Resist the urge to save cash by cutting your own hair or opting for a six-quid shearing. Always entrust your fade to a quality barber who has put the time in to learn the art (and it is an art). Although it might seem simple, a fade’s anything but, requiring precise scissor and clipper work and a lot of eyeballing to perfect that graduated look.
Beware Of Bumps
Award season may be a great place to pick up a new hairstyle to try out, but what you ultimately opt for should be informed by more than whatever The Gos is currently sporting. When it comes to a fade, let your scalp play a part in the decision. If you have any conspicuous lumps or bumps in a particular area, then bear that in mind when choosing which style works best for you.