Types of Fades: Explaining Different Fade Styles with Visual Aids

Fade cut to the hairstyle world is what iPhone is to the smartphone world, what espresso is to the coffee world and Budweiser is to the beer world. In short, it’s awesome!

I don’t think we thank our U.S military enough for bringing this suave yet low-maintenance hairdo into the mainstream culture.

If you are planning on getting your first fade, don’t rush it. There are a lot of things to take into account. One wrong move and the result would be nothing short of a disaster. But one right move can make your an overnight sensation in your peer group.

You don’t have to spend hours on the internet or read tons of men’s fashion magazines to figure out what fade cut would look good on you. Because I have already done that on your behalf.

Below is a detailed guide to different types of fades followed by a bunch of cool fade hairstyle inspirations to help you get started.

But before that, let me briefly explain what fade exactly is.

What Really Is a Fade?

A fade starts with short hair on top and gradually becomes even shorter around the sides and back. In skin fade, the sides are bald to create maximum contrast with the long hair on top.

What Really Is a Fade

A skilled barber will make the transition seem natural by craftily blending different lengths together. Hair clippers with multiple blade guard sizes are the ideal tool for creating fades. If you are a DIY guy like me, start with the longest guard to tightly crop your manes from the bottom edge.

I know what you are thinking. The approach is strikingly similar to a taper haircut. Well, guess what? Both are not exactly the same.

Taper vs Fade: Difference Explained!

Let me make this easy for you from the get-go: all fades are tapers but not all tapers are fade.

Any haircut that is shorter at the bottom and gradually transitions to longer hair around the crown is a taper. So what’s the real difference?

Taper vs Fade-Difference Explained

Most fade styles blend down to your skin toward the bottom. But taper still leaves clearly visible traces of hair around the sides. Bottom line, tapered hair is longer than fade.

A tapered fade, as obvious from the name, is the perfect blend of taper and fade. When you ask for a tapered fade, your stylist will tightly trim yours side and neckline, keeping the taper short-medium length. This means less exposed scalp and therefore, less contrast.

Tapered fade is as basic as it gets. If you are new to the world of fade and don’t want to try to something super-edgy for now, go for it. This hairstyle is very popular among professionals who are obliged to look office-appropriate to avoid the death stare of HR.

Different Types of Fades: A Comprehensive Visual Guide

Apart from tapered fade, there are 3 other basic fade types we will discuss in the following section. Stay with me. I have categorized them based on two factors:

How High the Fade Should Be

  • How high fade sits on your head or how high the blending starts.
  • How tightly cropped you want you taper to be.

I will also give you useful tips on how to ask the barber for a specific fade style, in the following section. But before that, let’s learn what your styling options are, shall we?

High Fade

High fades are the cleanest and edgiest hairdo a guy can get. As the name suggests, a high fade sits near the crown, maximizing the contrast between your skin complexion and the hair on top. A classic high fade blends abruptly towards the top of the head. Therefore, you should ask your barber to use the lowest clipper guard size available for this.

High Fade

I can see why a lot of people confuse a high fade with an undercut. Sure there are stark similarities between the two. But if you ask your stylist for an undercut only, you won’t get the fading effect. Because in an undercut, there is no gradual blending. It’s just tightly cropped hair on top, and bald on the sides. Take a look at the picture below to get a clear idea:

As you can see, both high fade and undercut use the similar principle of cutting down to the skin.

However, there’s no tapering in an undercut. Meaning, the sides don’t blend to the top. But in high fade, you can clearly observe the tapering process beginning near the crown. An undercut fade is the same as a high fade with a more dramatic blend in near the top of the hair, making the contrast appear more pronounced.

Depending on how close the sides cut to the skin and how you style the top, I have a few high fade haircut ideas to give you a head start:

  • High and Tight: For years, this particular haircut has been a symbol of uber manliness and fine taste. The name itself is quite self-explanatory. Buzzed hair on top paired with even shorter hair below the crown blending with the skin above the ear. That’s a signature military haircut with a dash of creativity for you.
  • Hard Part Fade: The perfect midpoint between a harsh crew cut and a soft mid fade look. This hairstyle is for all those true blue gentlemen out there who doesn’t shy away from showing his edgy side to the world. A hard part fade is nothing but a simple hair part sporting a shaved parting line to maximize the contrast.
  • High Bald Fade: If you like to keep long beard and have a round-shaped face, nobody can pull off this style better than you. Pepper it up with a pair of slashes on the side or back and you are all set to rock!
  • Mohawk Fade: A rebellious haircut for a rebellious soul. Mohawk and fades go hand in hand because in both cases, the sides cut very close to the skin. To take your punk quotient up a notch, pair your mohawk fade with a shaved line on both sides of your head.
  • Pompadour Fade: Talking of upping the punk quotient, how can I not mention the pomp fade? This haircut oozes elegance. The neatly styled pompadour with a sleek edgy high fade is the ultimate hairstyle for men with a flair for aesthetics.

Mid Fade

I love how self-explanatory all these names are.

A mid fade is a type of haircut where the tapering takes most effect around the midpoint between your ear and temple. A classic mid fade would begin ideally right above your eyebrow height. This convenient positioning of the fade really helps to bring out your eyes.

Mid Fade

It’s the perfect style for men who don’t want to seem too flashy but also want to avoid a boring, regular look. Another great advantage of mid fade is that it gives you barber plenty of room for experimenting with different lengths and textures.

Remember that a mid fade vibes best with short to medium length hair, perhaps a quiff or pompadour if you are feeling fancy. This is mainly because with a shorter top, the gradual transition appears more clearly marked.

Mid fade hits the sweet spot between too harsh and too typical. Whether you want a conservative haircut or something totally out of the box, anything is possible as long as your barber knows his business. Below I have listed down the most trending mid fade haircuts of all time to help you get started:

  • Drop Fade: This particular type of haircut is ideal for gents blessed with textured hair. A low or mid drop fade has tightly cropped or bald hair that “drops” a few inches above the ear, curving down to the hairline at the back.
  • Skin Fade: The edgiest hairstyle for the unapologetically rebellious souls out there. Balded sides with long or short buzzed hair on top is the most defined fade style you can possibly have. If you don’t want to completely expose your scalp, you can ask your barber to start with size 0 clip guard for the bottom edge with gradual increments of 0.5, 2 or even 3 towards the top.
  • Mid Taper Fade: This style chimes in well with long and bushy beard and long hairstyles. The biggest advantage of this style is that it works on just about any hair texture and length under the sky. Want to play safe but also don’t want to seem too boring? Blindly go for this one.
  • Burst Fade: So you really want to up your hair game without any inhibitions, don’t you? Well, here’s a dynamic haircut to match your punk level. A burst fade is similar to drop fade, with the hair tapering around the ears and following the hairline down the neck.

The only major difference is that a burst fade makes the edge of your fade the focal point of your style.

Low Fade

Business professionals love this fresh, clean and elegant hairstyle. Because of the conservative look, low fades are becoming more acceptable office setups these days.

Low Fade

A typical low fade starts an inch or to above the ears and goes all the way around the neckline. This means less contrast but more texture around the sides. I’d highly recommend this to folks who don’t want to sacrifice too much hair but still want an edgy look.

Since the blending starts quite a few inches far from your crown, this type of fade goes best with longer hair on top. Go with a long fringe, comb over, spikes, pompadour or perhaps a quiff to highlight the tapering.

If you are a low fade kind of guy like me, here are a bunch of haircut ideas you cannot go wrong with:

  • Temple Fade: Temple fades, also known as box fades, can dramatically improve your hairline. This style is insanely popular in the black as well as the Hispanic community. A sleek buzz cut+line up is a clean-cut style that beautifully accentuates your features.
  • Low Razor Fade: Also known as straight razor fade, this hairstyle requires you to close shave the sides and back with a straight razor. This results in a dramatic and super-edgy taper that’s sure to draw a lot of attention.
  • Neck Fade: Sometimes even a small change can make a big difference. A neck fade is the perfect example of this. Unlike regular fade styles that focus both on the sides and back of your hair, a neck fade only shapes the back of your head.

Whether you want a pronounced V-shaped fade or a subtle progression totally depends on how bold you want to go.

Important Life Hack: How to Ask a Barber for a Fade Haircut?

A barber or hairstylist can give you a lot of inputs. But unfortunately, the end results could still vary from how you pictured it in your mind. Trust me, this happened to me uncountable times. So it’s best to learn the skill of explaining your specific requirements to your barber beforehand.

It’s actually not that difficult. Here, let me tell you how it’s done.

  • Specify the Clipper Guard Size

It’s a tried and tested formula that works like a charm (most of the time, at least). The clip guard size defines the length of your trim. I’d advise you not to pull off a stunt on your hair if you are a first-timer. Ask your barber for a guard size 2 which is neither too short, nor too long.

Starting with the long and gradually switching to shorter blades leaves a bigger margin of error. If you are still not sure, request the stylist to do a test run on your head. That should give you a clear picture.

Having said that, determining the length of the taper is only half the job done, which brings me to my next point:

  • How High the Fade Should Be?

If you have read everything I have written so far, I’m sure you already know the answer. You can’t go wrong with a mid or low fade if you prefer your hairstyle on the longer and thicker side. Most stylists will tell you that both styles are best suited for people with sharp jawlines and large heads.

A high fade requires less upkeep, buys you a little more time between haircuts and makes your features look sharper.

  • Styling the Top

Both short buzzed and long hair can be molded in multiple ways to suit your fade. Do you want tightly cropped hair on top, a timeless classic comb-over, or a bold spiky hair to complement your fade? Totally up to you.

But what I can tell you from the stylist’s perspective is that blending becomes increasingly difficult if you want long hair on top. So if you are really keen on keeping the top long, go for either low or medium skin fade.

Longer hair on the crown gives you a bigger canvas for styling. Spikes, faux haws, comb-over, quiff, or perhaps a pompadour? You name it.

On the other hand, shorter tops are low-maintenance and give a clean-cut and chic look.

Considering everyone has a different taste, there’s no one-size-fits-all formula here.

  • Show a Picture

Feeling too much pressure, already? Okay, we’ll take it easy then. Just take a picture of your favorite fade haircut and show it to your stylist. Let him figure out the rest. Just scroll above, choose a style, take a screenshot and head to the salon. Easy breezy!

Styling Tools and Products You’ll Need to Style Your Fade Haircut

I’m sure some of you are passionate DIY-ers who love to style their hair at home. And you should. It not only saves a lot of money but also makes you feel great about yourself. I have been doing this for some time now and I have to tell you, I’m enjoying it more than I thought I would.

Styling Tools and Products You’ll Need to Style Your Fade Haircut

You don’t need any complex tool to do a fade. Below I have listed down all the things you will ever need to style your fade like a pro:

  • A quality fade hair clipper with adjustable guards or comb guides.
  • A pair of scissors to trim the sides if you are going for a mid or low taper fade.
  • A straight razor for balding if you are opting for a skin fade. You can also use it for creating shaved line patterns on your fade to jazz up your look.
  • A wide and a narrow tooth comb.
  • Pomade/gel/wax/hair cream depending on how you want to style the top.
  • A blow dryer to set your style in place.


Apart from the ones I mentioned above, there are probably a million other fade hairstyles out there. My goal was to help you figure out the basics. You can always mix and match low, mid and high fades together with different hairlines shapes and other elements to suit your style.

The only rule of thumb here is that there’s no rule at all. Just get any haircut you want to. It doesn’t matter if a popular magazine says that it doesn’t go with your face structure. To hell with them.

My only advice to you would be to take it slow at the beginning. If you start with a longer fade, you can easily go shorter later on. But not vice versa. That’s all for today. Have a great hair day!

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