Buzz cuts have long been a popular hairstyle for men. They’re simple and easy to maintain, and yet when worn right they look great.
Recent years, however, have seen the rise of the ‘fade’ or ‘skin fade’ as one of the most popular and fashionable haircuts worn by men.
Fades are typically worn with longer hair on top, but what happens when you combine the classic buzz cut with the modern fade?
Well, you get something totally new. Something recognizably modern and on-trend, and yet with an old-fashioned neat and minimalist look.
In this article, we’re going to talk about two hairstyles that you can wear to achieve this look; the number 3 fade and the number 4 fade hairstyles.
The article will take a structured approach. First of all, we’re going to run through the basics. For example, what exactly is a ‘fade’ in the first place?
Following on from that, we’ll run through both the number 3 and number 4 fades in more detail.
The plan is that by the end of this article, you’ll be able to confidently stroll into your barbers and ask for this hairstyle, and more importantly be able to explain it well. With all that said, let’s get started!
What Is A Fade?
A fade isn’t strictly a hairstyle in and of itself, because a fade can be incorporated into a wide range of different hairstyles, from very short styles all the way to much longer ones.
Instead, a fade is probably best described as a style of haircut that sees a gradual transition of the length of the hair on the back and sides.
Naturally, the hair is worn longer the higher up the back and sides of the head you go, and is shorter at the bottom.
The trick is to blend the lengths of the cut so as to create a smooth and natural appearance. Fades are typically carried out with a clipper and comb, although it is possible to do them with scissors, too.
There are different levels of fade, including taper, low, mid, and high. The level of the fade refers to how high the shortest part of the hair goes up the back and sides of the head and begins to transition into the next, longer, length.
For example, for a low fade, the shortest length is typically around one inch above the ear.
Mid fades are, as the name suggests, somewhere between a low fade and a high fade, with a high fade being a cut where the hair’s shortest length is roughly in line with the temple.
Tapers are worn so low that not everyone considers them a ‘proper’ fade, with the hair’s shortest length being worn around where a person’s sideburns normally start.
What Is A Skin Fade?
You may also have heard of the term ‘Skin Fade’. The clue is in the name. In essence, a skin fade just refers to a fade where the shortest length is cut extremely short, more or less down to the skin.
As with any other fade, the length then gradually increases the further up the back and sides of the head you go.
What Is a Number 3 Fade?
Now that we’ve tackled the terminology, let’s take a look at a number 3 fade first.
To cut to the chase, a number 3 fade is a hairstyle that incorporates a fade on the back and sides, with the length gradually increasing from bottom to top, and pairs it with a ‘number 3’ clipper cut on the top.
That means that the top is trimmed down to a length of ⅜ of an inch.
Essentially, then, the number 3 fade isn’t all that different from your standard buzz cut. Indeed, the number 3 is one of the most popular lengths for buzz cuts as it’s short enough to require little maintenance but also isn’t a complete shearing.
It’s also particularly popular with men whose hair is beginning to recede. After all, thinning hair is much less conspicuous when you wear a buzz cut style and the hair is cut down to a pretty short and even length.
Be careful ordering one for your first time, though. The number 3 often looks and feels considerably shorter than some men expect, even when they’ve seen pictures. This is especially true if you have thin hair generally.
If you’re unsure, remember, you can always cut more off. You can’t glue it back on!
The Benefits Of A Number 3 Fade
So why should you get a number three fade?
One reason is that it can make your face appear more masculine. By wearing the sides of your hair shorter than the top, your face will appear slimmer, but more importantly, it will make your jawline look more defined and angular.
Another reason, we’d argue, is that it improves the shape and appearance of your hair as your buzz cut grows out.
Sometimes, when an all-over buzz cut grows out it can look a bit silly, with the hair on the sides of your head the same length. Fading the sides gives the hair a better shape and definition, and avoids this ‘fuzzball’ look.
So, to clarify, a number 3 buzzcut is worn at the same ⅜ of an inch length all over the head, whilst a number 3 fade sees the top cut to that same length but the back and sides worn shorter, only gradually reaching ⅜ of an inch in length as the hair reaches the top of the head.
Of course, a number 3 fade can be worn in any of the lengths mentioned above- taper, low, mid, and high. A number 3 taper fade sees the hair’s shortest point at around the level of the sideburn.
A number 3 low fade calls for the hair’s shortest length to be worn about an inch above the ears. A number 3 high fade is a fade where the fade is worn high, with the hair’s shortest length around the height of the temple.
Naturally, a number 3 mid fade will see the hair worn anywhere in between an inch above the ear, as in a low fade, and the temple, as in a high fade.
Following the same logic, a number 3 skin fade is a hairstyle worn with a number 3 on the top, but where the sides are worn in a fade that begins at skin level before gradually increasing in length.
Of all the fades here, we would say the skin fade and the high fade are the most striking and make the biggest statement.
What Is A Number 4 Fade?
A number 4 fade hairstyle sees the sides worn in a fade, as the name suggests, with the length of the hair increasing steadily from the bottom to the top of the head.
This is combined with a number 4 on top, which sees the hair cut down to half an inch.
The Benefits Of A Number 4 Fade
The best thing about a number 4 clipper cut is that it’s not too short, and therefore a great starting point for men with no previous experience of buzz cuts.
Contrary to popular belief, plenty of men are actually quite precious about their hair, especially if it is long, and cutting it down to a length like this can be quite daunting, especially for a first-timer.
In fairness, they’re not wrong to be concerned. It’s pretty tough to know what to expect from a first-time buzz cut as everyone has a different hair type and face shape.
As with baldness, very short hair is prone to exaggerating face shape- that means long faces look longer, and round faces look rounder.
If you’re self-conscious about your face shape, this can be quite the hurdle to get over. And, of course, the shorter the cut is, the worse that exaggeration effect will be.
The number 4 clipper cut is the perfect length for people with those concerns. Any longer and you’re venturing out of pure ‘buzz cut’ territory, any shorter and you might inadvertently exaggerate your face shape a little.
Where the number 4 fade comes in is, as with a number 3 fade, preventing the ‘fuzzball’ look of your hair growing out at equal lengths on the back and sides as well as the top.
As with a number 3 fade, number 4 fades can be worn in either taper, low, mid, or high styles, or even with a skin fade-starting with the hair cut down to skin level and increasing in length as you go up the side of the skull.
As we said earlier, skin fades are a statement, but this is particularly true for a number 4 skin fade. Why? The contrast between the length on the top and on the sides of the head is greater.
And that brings us to the end! Hopefully, armed with the knowledge from this article, the next time you visit your barber you’ll be confident asking for a number 4 or number 5 skin fade.