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What Is a Fade Haircut?

By K. McKinsey
Updated May 17, 2024
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A fade haircut is created by using electric clippers. Clipper guards are employed to cut one length of hair on the back and sides and another on the top. The clippers are used to fashion a graduated transition, or fade, between the longer top hair and the shorter hair on the sides and back of the head. This hairstyle generally is favored by men and can serve as a foundation for a variety of complex, trendy styles.

Fade haircuts have been a staple male hairstyle since the introduction of electric clippers in the early 1930s. Some men use these clippers to embellish their fade haircuts by shaving complex designs into the sides and back. The standard fade haircut, however, leaves the sides and back all one length and has little embellishment.

Although some individuals are capable of creating a fade hairstyle at home, most people should ask a family member or professional barber for help. Thanks to the graduated length of hair in the back and sides, achieving the fade affect takes a certain amount of practice. Employing a barber who specializes in a variety of men's hairstyles is a good idea, because he or she is likely to have extensive experience tailoring fade hairstyles to the wearer's individual needs.

Variations on the fade haircut have proven to be a popular choice among military men. Most nations demand that military men adhere to very strict guidelines regulating hairstyle and overall appearance. A short fade haircut is practical and allows the military man to exercise a small amount of control over his appearance without standing apart from his comrades.

Choosing a fade haircut does not necessarily mean that the hair will have a standard appearance. Over the decades, a wide variety of fade hairstyles have emerged and have enjoyed varying degrees of popularity. Many of these styles are widely divergent. In the 1980s, for example, the hi-top fade consisted of very short or completely shaved sides and back and a very long top. A short fade, by contrast, often removes all of the hair from the sides of the head, leaving a very short patch on the top.

When choosing a fade hairstyle, it's important for the individual to consider his or her unique face shape and styling habits. If he or she doesn't want to spend a great deal of time arranging his or her hair, a short fade might be more desirable than a style requiring the application of hair gel. To achieve better facial symmetry, an individual who has a long face can choose a closer cut fade. Someone with a round face can add height with spiky gelled hair on top.

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Discussion Comments
By serenesurface — On May 20, 2014

Fade haircuts seem to be getting shorter and shorter. Before, I used to see boys with fade haircuts where the top part was left considerably long. But now the top part of the hair is cut fairly short as well. When the top is short, since it fades downward, the hair on the neckline is barely visible. It almost looks like a military haircut.

By donasmrs — On May 19, 2014

@ysmina-- A taper or a tape up haircut is a type of fade haircut. There really isn't much difference between the two. Both hair styles involve keeping the back and sides of hair shorter than the top. The hair shortens gradually or "fades" towards the neckline.

The top of hair is sometimes made into spikes with hair gel in taper haircuts. This type of hair style originated in New York among young African American and Italian American men. This is basically the only difference between a fade haircut and a taper hair cut.

By ysmina — On May 19, 2014

What is the difference between a taper and a fade haircut?

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