Chances are, you’ve had several clients requesting a fade haircut lately. While it may seem new and modern, the look debuted in the 40s and 50s during the military while establishing cultural roots in black and Hispanic barber shops. The fade made a comeback in the 90s (we’re looking at you, Fresh Prince of Bel-Air), so it’s safe to say this stylish cut has been interpreted several different ways over the years.
Now that we’re seeing a resurgence of this edgy hairstyle, it’s becoming more widely accepted in the workplace because it can be worn in several ways. There’s never been a better time to up your fade-cut game. Are you in need of a comprehensive fading haircut guide? We’ve got you. Here are some pro tips to help you perfect this versatile cut.
What is a Faded Haircut?
As the name suggests, a fade haircut involves a barbering technique that fades the hair into the skin. You’ll use shears to cut hair at decreasing lengths down the sides and back so that it gradually transitions or tapers until it almost blends in with the skin. It can be paired with nearly any hairstyle on top, making it easy to customize the fade to suit a client’s personality and lifestyle. As a bonus, the fade flatters almost every hair texture and face shape.
Before You Begin
While the technique for a fade cut is consistent, there are different variables. You should clearly understand whether your client wants a low, mid, or high fade because this dictates where the fade line tapers. Knowing how short or gradual they want the back and sides will affect which tools you use to get that precise graduation.
Another vital question is what type of look they want on top. From buzz cut to mohawk, this is the stage in the process where you can work with your client to go conservative, bold, or somewhere in between. As a pro, this is your time to shine!
Here are the differences between low, mid, and high fades as a refresher.
The taper in a low fade cut starts on the lower section of the head, with the long to short taper beginning directly above the ears. It’s desirable for those who want a clean, easygoing appearance.
As the name suggests, a mid-fade starts in the middle of the head. It’s arguably the most versatile fade because it works with many different hairstyles, from short to long.
A high fade taper begins near the temples or the corner of the forehead, depending on the look you’re trying to achieve. It’s the boldest choice of the three fades.
How to Fade Hair
Step 1. Gather Your Supplies
Above anything else, you’ll need a good set of clippers. Dating back to 1919, when Wahl Professional first invented them, clippers remain one of the most fundamental tools for barbering. Choose the correct guard size for the fade you’re executing. Check out the ProStylingTools Collection of Guards and Guides.
Guards #3, #2, #1, and 0 (no clipper guard) are commonly used depending on the desired style. However, If your client prefers the fade to be a little longer, opt for #4, #3, #2, and #1 instead.
Along with clippers and a variety of guards, you’ll also need:
- A Barber Cape, such as the BaByliss PRO
- A Fine-Toothed Comb, such as the Cricket Silkomb Seamless Teeth Cutting Comb
- The Wahl Professional Aluminium Spray Bottle or a similar model
- Hair clips (if applicable)
- Cutting Shears (if applicable) — the model depends upon the haircut you’re executing.
Step 2. Identify the Part
Familiarize yourself with your client’s part. Depending on the style, you may have to blend the shorter side a bit more than the longer side.
Step 3. Spray the Hair Down
Spray down your client’s hair so it’s damp but not soaking wet.
Step 4. Determine Where You Want the Fade Line(s)
The fade line (or lines) determines where the hair transitions from one length to another. Where it’s positioned is a matter of taste and your professional expertise based on your client’s goals. Generally speaking, it’s anywhere from slightly above the top of the ear to two or three inches above that.
While a fade line goes from ear to ear around the back of the head, it doesn’t have to be in a straight line — it can also dip slightly and then return to the original line. Of course, you can create more than one fade line!
Step 5. Create a Top Section
To achieve a classic fade haircut, leave out around 3″ (or more) of hair on top that won’t be cut with clippers.
Speak with your client about the goals for the top section of the hair. Using a comb, trace a rectangle above the crown and back of the head to separate the longer strands from the shorter sides. As a general rule of thumb, the rectangle should align with the outer ends of the eyebrows. Clip it out of the way until you’re ready to work on it after completing your fade.
Step 6. Start to Create Your Fade
- Start by inserting the shortest guard — typically #1 or #2 — into your clippers.
- Begin approximately 1 to 1 ½ inches from the bottom of the hairline.
- Use a “C” shape motion when gliding the clippers briefly upwards against the head when cutting a horizontal strip of hair. This technique leaves the hair slightly longer at the top of this section, so it naturally fades into the next length.
PST Tip 1: Clippers with a taper lever (more on this topic later) are an excellent way to achieve a seamless, customized fade cut. After inserting your clipper guard, check that the lever is open before making your first pass. It’s a simple step that ensures you’ll have the most extended length. Close the lever halfway to achieve a medium range for pass number two. For the third and final pass, close the lever to get the shortest length on the guard.
PST Tip 2: Use upward-controlled flicks with your razor on the bottom of the section of hair you’re working on. This pro technique gradually transitions the hair more subtly than using the raw guard length for the entire area.
Step 7. Adjust Your Guards As Needed
The mid-length guard (or guards) you’ll use will blend into the short bottom section you’ve just cut. Again, remember to start with the taper lever open for the first pass.
- If you started with a #1 guard, you’d now snap on a #2. If you started with a #2 on the bottom, grab your #3 guard and snap it into place. You will do the same thing here as you did in the last step.
- By the time you reach the final phase, the bottom and mid-sections of your fade should be halfway completed. To finish things off, attach your #3 or #4 guard — one size up from the last guard used.
Step 8. Clean Up the Fade Line(s)
Grab a comb and hold it at a 45-degree angle to the fade line and about an inch or two into the length of the hair. Run your clippers over the comb upward to cut the hair above the teeth. Repeat this exact process for all fade lines for a consistent look. The goal is to have a nice uniform fade that gradually becomes shorter the closer it is to the scalp.
Step 9. Cleanup the Neckline
Use a straight razor and shaving cream or a trimmer to clean up the neck and ensure the edges are clean. Like clippers, trimmers are constructed with a blade and a motor. The difference is that the blades are thinner, making getting a close cut on short hair easier. Some models, such as the Andis Pivot Pro T-Blade Trimmer, have pivoting heads to make it easier to trim hard-to-reach areas.
Step 10. Cut and Style the Top
Now it’s time to give the fade a little extra personality by cutting and styling the top section. Use scissors if your client wants a longer style, such as a pompadour or quiff. Clippers are better for shorter looks like a crew cut or Ceasar. Need some inspiration? Check out our Barbershop Hairstyles Guide!
Step 11. Apply Product
Complete your client’s fade cut and style with the correct styling product to help maintain the look. ProStylingTools carries a variety of gels, pomades, waxes, sprays, shine serums, oils, and other styling aids to help you put the finishing touches on every style imaginable.
The Perfect Fade Haircut: Tricks of the Trade
Sure, you’re concentrating on executing the perfect fade haircut, but don’t overlook a few of these accompanying tricks of the trade.
Invest in the Best Professional-Grade Clippers
Robust and reliable clippers can make or break your fade. If you want to achieve a wide variety of hair lengths with a single tool, then adjustable clippers like the Andis Fade Master Adjustable Blade Clipper with Metal Finish are for you. They’re perfect for extra-close cutting, tapering, and fading. The magnetic high-speed yet quiet motor works at 14,000 strokes per minute for fast, smooth cutting. The single lever adjusts the blade from 00000 to 000.
Oil Clipper Blades Before Use
Oiling your clipper blades reduces friction, which can shorten their lifespan while preventing overheating. Get in the habit of lubricating your blades every two uses.
Keep Your Clipper Blades Clean
Make sure to clean your clippers before each use — even if they’re new — before oiling them. Check out our Tips on How to Properly Clean Your Styling Tools, clipper blades included!Whether your client prefers a subtle low, a bold high, or somewhere in between, this fade is a style that isn’t going away anytime too soon. No cut is complete without the best tools and products to get the job done. ProStylingTools has an entire Haircare Collection to ensure you give each look a Midas touch to keep your clients returning to your chair.