Summer is nearing, which means at least three months of blazing sun and beach days are on their way. The warm months may bring long weekends and barbecues, but there’s one other thing it carries with it: fade haircut season.
There’s no reason to deal with excess hair in the heat. Fade haircuts are just as utilitarian as they are popular, requiring little effort beyond regular touch-ups with your barber or stylist and a bit of styling product.
If you’ve never tried a fade haircut or haven’t considered it, you’re missing out. With the right cut, you’ll look more like an Italian fashion model than some kind of bizarre plucked chicken. Trust us.
To break down the best fade looks on the market, we asked for expert advice from Josh Velazquez, global Baxter of California educator. He’s in the salon on the daily, fielding requests from men who have finally decided to take short hair seriously.
Why try a fade haircut?
Unlike the formulaic cuts you might receive at a discount salon, a true barber’s skill lies in the ability to totally customize a style to fit a client’s hair and face shape. The fade is versatile, available in a range of lengths and shapes that play well in everything from a corporate office to a startup space.
A good barber will work to understand the style and length you desire, creating a final look that plays well with your lifestyle.
According to Velazquez, the rising popularity of the fade has everything to do with an increase in the amount of haircut inspiration available to the modern man.
“Fades have been extremely popular for a very long time,” he says. “Now it’s more noticeable because of social media. Barbers now have the resources and outlets to display their work and take their career to another level.”
Are you sold on the fade yet? Don’t worry, you will be.
The tapered fade is an extremely subtle look, one that will likely leave your friends wondering exactly what you changed about your hair. Something will seem different, but they may not be able to point it out without help.
Instead of buzzing away major portions of your hair, your barber will fade only the nape of the neck and the areas above either temple. It’s a fresh style, one that’s suitable for almost any age—provided you’re working with a solid hairline.
The low fade is a basic style, one that’s flattering and less flashy than its fellows. For this look, your barber will trim the hair just above the ears very short, blending it the longer length hair at the middle of your scalp. It’s a simple, easy transition into fades, one that freshens up your look without creating a lot of drama.
If this look is still too edgy for you, Velazquez recommends leaving the buzzed portion longer.
“For your conservative clients you can still do a fade, but leave the side a bit longer,” he says, recommending a number 2 blade guard. “That will still insure your client [is] in style but yet give him a clean, professional look.”
Even if you have a strict dress code, it’s no excuse for falling behind the times.
Like the low fade, the mid fade is still a fairly conservative style. Here, your barber will transition from buzz to length around eye level. You’ll get the best of both worlds with this look: plenty of hair to run your fingers through, but all the panache of a trendy cut.
If you’d like to take the look a step further, Velazquez recommends taking the top portion of your hair very short. Your barber can show you how to use product to add texture to the section, creating a stylish bedhead look.
The goal here is an undone style, one that looks just messy enough to create a summery vibe.
“This is the newer spring-summer trend,” Velazquez says. "Even if their hair is out of place, so what? Who cares—it’s supposed to look like that.”
Low maintenance men, this is the style for you.
By now, we’ve reached the really dramatic fade haircuts. The high fade transitions around temple height, emphasizing the transition between buzzed hair and longer strands. This is a striking look, one that Velazquez remembers rising to popularity several years ago.
However, he notes that this cut is surprisingly challenging. Make sure you’ve seen similar styles on your barber’s Instagram, because it’s important to keep your style looking balanced and sleek.
Unlike the styles you may have worn up until this point, the skin fade happens to be a sweet spot at the intersection of fashion runways and the everyday man’s life. It’s also a look that takes regular maintenance—keep that in mind before scheduling an appointment to get your own.
Velazquez sees mostly younger men—teenagers and twentysomethings—requesting this “aggressive” look. Because the hair is almost all shaved away, the look is sometimes referred to as the bald fade. According to the professional, skin fades suit slim faces with chiseled profiles. If you’re starting with an oval, square, or triangular face, the bald fade will work wonders for you.
Men with curly or textured hair, don’t panic just yet. There’s a fade style that fits you, too. It just takes a little more of an in-depth process to get it right.
According to Velazquez, a barber with experience cutting curls will be able to create a fade that’s well-balanced and flattering. A good curly fade should also grow out in a natural-looking manner.
“If a client has curly or wiry hair a longer consultation should be done,” Velazquez says. “You want to make sure enough weight and length is distributed in the right areas for the right proportion haircut.”
With enough sculpting, you’ll have a flattering, masculine look that’s different from any cut you’ve had before. And, as the days pass, it will only get better.
“When the haircut grows out, it will fall naturally and still look clean throughout the growing process,” Velazquez explains.
What are you waiting for? The fade is a fit for you.