A Guide To Number 2, 3, Or 4 On Top With 1 On The Sides

Sometimes going to the barber can feel like getting a math lesson. There’s a whole bunch of numbers to get your head around, and that’s without even mentioning the glossary of terms that barbers use that sound like a different language. 

Unfortunately, though, you’ve got to get to grips with them in order to come out of the barbershop with your hair looking the way you want it.

A Guide To Number 2, 3, Or 4 On Top With 1 On The Sides (With Photos)

Luckily for you, that’s where we come in. In this article, we’ll help you get a handle on some of that ‘barber speak’. In particular, we’ll be focusing on buzz cuts with a number one on the sides. 

This article will take a structured approach. First of all, we’ll talk about what a number 1 on the sides looks like in terms of length.

Following that, we’ll look at a selection of buzz cut lengths- a 2, a 3, and a 4- and how they might look with a number 1 on the sides.

That way, the next time you go to the barber you’ll have a good idea of what you’re going to get if you ask for any of these lengths. Without any further ado, let’s get started!

What Does A 1 On The Sides Haircut Look Like? 

A 1 on the sides haircut is, as the name suggests, a hairstyle where the back and sides have been trimmed using the number 1 setting on a clipper.

That means that the sides are trimmed to a length of ⅛ of an inch, or 3mm, whilst the top of the hair is left longer. There’s no set way for the top to be styled.

For example, the top of the head could be left long enough for a ponytail or man bun, worn in a fringe, or swept back and styled. 

That being said, we’re focusing on shorter ‘on top’ styles in this article. The hair on the top can still be buzz cut using that same pair of clippers, although we’ll be focusing on settings higher than a number one here.

We’re talking about trimming the top using a number 2, 3, 4, or even a 5- what you would call a good old-fashioned buzz cut. You can get longer buzz cuts, sure, but they’re less popular and not considered by everyone to be a proper buzz cut. 

A No. 2 On The Top With A No. 1 On The Sides

This haircut means the back and sides of the head are cut with a number 1, down to ⅛ of an inch, whilst the top is cut with a number 2, down to ¼ of an inch.

This hairstyle is very short. In fact, it’s about as short as you can get, with only a number 1 on the top as well as being shorter. But therein lies the appeal for a whole bunch of men; your hair will be about as low maintenance as it is possible to be.

No more bedhead in the mornings and washing and drying your hair really is a breeze. No, seriously- this hairstyle dries so quickly a stout breeze would do it in next to no time. 

Having said that, it’s not the style for everyone. A lot of men want a little bit of contrast in length between the hair on the top and the sides, and this hairstyle isn’t going to achieve that look.

The difference in length between the top and the sides here is just ⅛ of an inch. It’s noticeable up close (just about) but from further away looks like a classic number one all-over buzz cut, or a number 2 induction-style buzz cut. 

In truth, opting for a number 2 on the top somewhat defeats the point of getting a number one on the sides.

The point of a number 1 on the sides is to generate contrast between the length of the hair on the sides and the hair on the top, as it can have a slimming effect on the face and create a more masculine and defined jawline.

If you go for a number 2 on top, which is only marginally longer? Well, you get my drift… That being said, if a subtle contrast is what you’re after, then this could be the haircut for you. 

A No. 3 On Top With A No. 1 On The Sides

A number 3 on the top with a number 1 on the sides is a hairstyle where the sides and back are cut down to ⅛ of an inch using the number 1 setting on the clipper, whilst the top is cut down to ⅜ of an inch long with the number 3 setting.

The first thing you’ll notice about this hairstyle compared to the number 2 on the top and 1 on the sides is that the contrast between the sides and the top is much more obvious.

Therefore, this produces a stronger ‘face slimming’ effect than the number 2 and number 1 combination.

Another added bonus is that cutting the top to a significantly longer length than the sides leads to a more balanced and aesthetically pleasing buzz cut as the hair grows out.

One of the most commonly reported complaints with regular one number all-over buzz cuts is that the hair can look a bit unbalanced as the top and the back and sides grow out to the same length, and this style prevents that.

You might even save yourself the odd trip to the barber.

Again, the length of a number 3 on top is pretty easy to maintain, which is a large part of its appeal, although some men will dislike the fact that they cannot do anything in the way of styling it.

Employing some kind of fade on the back and sides would be one option, or you could also opt for a ‘high and tight’ style.

This is where the meeting of the number 3 length top and number 1 length sides is left high on the head, around the temples, a bit like in a high fade. 

All in all, it’s a nice hairstyle. In general, short buzz cuts such as this are a fantastic option for men who are losing their hair, as keeping things short makes it considerably less obvious.

Keeping the sides short, too, is also a great way of making thinning hair on the top of the head look comparatively thick. 

A No. 4 On Top With A No. 1 On The Sides

As with the previous haircuts, this style sees the hair on the back and sides of the head cut down to a length of ⅛ of an inch. On top, the hair is cut using the number 4 setting on the clipper to a length of ½ an inch. 

As a result, the contrast in length between the top and sides is more obvious in this hairstyle than in the previous styles we’ve looked at.

If an attention-grabbing hairstyle is what you’re looking for, this might be the haircut for you, although it’s probably best avoided if you want something a little more low-key. 

As with the other styles listed above, it is a great way of making your face appear more masculine and defined, especially if you’re concerned about having a round face.

You still won’t have enough hair to play with on top to style it, but overall this style looks professional and modern whilst remaining easy to maintain.

It’s also perhaps the best pick for men with naturally thinner hair, as the scalp will show through less at this length. 

A Faded No. 1 On The Sides

As alluded to above, a number 1 on the sides can also be worn as a ‘fade’. This is where the hair is worn at its shortest towards the bottom of the head, and the length gradually increases as you travel up the sides.

As it is a number one fade, the shortest length will be ⅛ of an inch. 

The transition point of the fade, where it blends into the next, longer, length, can be worn low, mid, or high.

A low fade has the transition point roughly an inch above the ear, a high fade has the transition around the temples, and a mid-fade is worn somewhere in between. 

The hair on top can be worn as you wish, either cropped short or worn long enough to style- swept back, top knot, whatever you feel like.

A number 1 fade, though, means that you can rest assured that the hair on the back and sides of your head will be expertly blended with whatever you’ve got on top. 

Final Thoughts

So there we have it- just a few of the possible ways to wear a number one on the sides. After reading this article, hopefully you’ll have a good idea of what you’re getting if you opt for one of these styles the next time you go to the barber. 

Joseph Pais