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Buzz Cut Fade Haircut: What It Is & The Best Examples For 2024

The buzz cut fade takes a traditionally non-nonsense, military hairstyle and gives it a contemporary twist.

Words by: James Uden

Didn’t think you could improve on the timeless buzz cut? Think again.

Offering all the benefits and convenience of a one-grade-all-over haircut, the buzz cut fade takes a traditionally non-nonsense, military hairstyle and gives it a contemporary twist. Consider it an elevated version of a clipper cut – sharper, cleaner and more refined – that’s better suited to Civvy Street than the trenches.

If you want to get the look for yourself, read on to find out everything you need to know before you take the plunge.

What is a buzz cut fade?

Michael B Jordan sporting a buzz cut fade hairstyle

Like a classic buzz cut, the fade version is a distinctly short, punchy and clippered all over trim. However, where a buzz cut is cut using the same grade all over, a buzz cut fade introduces contrast thanks to the intricate fade technique used on the back and sides. By introducing a fade to the back and sides, it not only adds a modern-day feel to the cut, but also helps to create more definition to the overall shape, which you often lose when you stick to the same guard length all over.

This is particularly true if you leave the hair on top of the head slightly longer (a Grade 3, for example) while opting for a high taper or skin fade.

Although a buzz cut fade is one of the sharpest haircuts you can opt for, it still requires an element of bravery for those men who haven’t sported the look before. “After getting a straight-up clipper cut, it’s quite common for gents to panic, regret their decision and think it’s too much too soon before deciding to just grow it all back out again,” says Billy Coles, Senior Barber at Murdock London. “The beauty of introducing a fade is that you’re getting a more complex trim as opposed to just whacking all your hair off.”

Key elements of a buzz cut fade

Drake with a sporting a buzz cut fade hairstyle

In order to achieve the right shape with a buzz cut fade, the hair on the top of the head should always be kept longer than the sides, even if only by one grade. Not only that, the fade itself should particularly cover the lower section, just around and above the ears.

As far as styling guidelines go, due to the super-short nature of this cut, there isn’t much else to consider beyond how the hair naturally sits.

Despite being very much a type of ‘buzz cut’, the fade doesn’t actually have to be as aggressively short as you might think. “If you’re unsure on what length to go on the sides with your fade, it’s always better to have your barber start with a higher clipper guard,” advises Billy. “The idea of cutting down to the skin can feel a bit too extreme for some people, especially if you’ve never had a haircut like this before or you work in a professional environment.”

What you need to know

A man getting a buzz cut fade in a barbershop

It’s important to remember that despite this haircut’s overall simplicity and minimal styling upkeep, maintenance is crucial and should ideally be looked at by a barber as often as weekly in order to maintain the healthiest level of sharpness with the fade work and shaping.

As Billy noted, you don’t have to jump right in to this cut to extreme lengths – especially if you aren’t used to having particularly short hair. But no matter what, you need to ensure you keep the shape balanced. He recommends initially clippering the top to a grade 4, with grade 1 sides for an effective contrast, instead of going for a harsher grade 2 on top with skin faded sides.

By approaching the cut in gradual stages like this, you can still achieve a really strong buzz cut fade while building your comfort and confidence levels up over time. This beats regretfully taking too much hair off too soon and feeling so awkward that you have to become a ‘hat guy’ out of the blue for a few weeks.

Don’t be deceived into thinking that a buzz cut fade is so simple that you can just shave one in yourself at home, either. A good, accurate fade will take your barber some work to refine.

Who does a buzz cut fade suit?

Man with a fresh buzz cut fade haircut

One of the best things about a buzz cut fade is the fact is complements almost every hair type and face shape. It brings angles and structure to rounder faces; is short enough on top to ensure long faces aren’t emphasised; will keep unruly, curly or wavy hair in check; and is an excellent choice for thinning or receding gents, who want to make the best of the cards they’ve been dealt while still having a distinct ‘hairstyle’.

But it’s perhaps best for those who just don’t have the time or energy for daily styling. “You don’t need to get a hairdryer involved and no styling product is required,” says Billy. “So if you want to look sharp, dapper and enjoy longer lie-ins each morning, then this is the haircut for you.”

11 modern buzz cut fade haircuts for men

Longer length buzz cut fade

Men's longer length buzz cut with faded sides

This buzz cut fade combines sharp cutting with raw texture. A good amount of length has been left on the top, which flows right down the back and top of the sides thanks to the use of a high taper fade, bringing more overall weight to the shape.

The fluffier hair on top showcases its natural character, which is subtly exaggerated by the dipped edge cut over the centre of the fringe.

Afro hair buzz cut with waves and a fade

Black man with a tight buzz cut and fade

This is a great example of how a fade elevates what would otherwise be an ordinary buzz cut.

Smart and subtle, the low fade here has been worked in around the temple area but it makes all the difference to cleanly disconnect this section from the super-tight, even texture above.

Buzz cut skin fade with faded beard

Black man with a buzz cut and faded sides and beard

When cut this short, your hair will generally style itself. The flair of this buzz cut fade really comes through the clipper work.

The short and tightly cropped skin fade separates the beard and brings attention to those sharp edges and clean curve. The latter also adds balance to the overall shape by following the natural line down and around the back of the head.

Buzz cut with a burst fade

Black man with a buzz cut and burst fade

Cutting a burst fade above the ears shows off even greater technique when levelling up a standard buzz cut.

This shaping really complements the afro textured hair, which sits heavy from the fringe right the way back to the bottom of the neckline. The flow is maintained by the tidy, precise clipper work through the fringe and temple area.

Buzz cut with high skin fade

Buzz cut with high skin fade

Opting for a slightly longer grade on this buzz cut gives the top a thickness and structure, which is only emphasised by the blunt fringe and tight shape up.

The sides are then cut in with a high skin fade, creating a dramatic finish that can’t fail to garner attention.

This is the kind of fade cut that will demand regular maintenance from a barber to maintain such sharpness, but the dedication will be more than worthwhile if the end result is going to look as good as this.

David Beckham modified buzz cut fade

David Beckham sporting a modified buzz cut fade

Trust Becks to take a buzz cut fade template and level it up by going all in on the sides but leaving that extra bit more length on top for a much greater contrast.

If you are generally used to having longer hair and applying product to style it, this is a really great example of a ‘safer’ length to try for your first buzz cut fade. Taking this approach isn’t going too extreme (at least on the top) and allows you to showcase a bit more lift and texture than you might expect.

Buzz cut with line up and skin fade

Black man with a buzz cut fade, sharp line up and skin fade

This short and blunt take on a buzz cut fade shows the benefits of keeping things simple. The subtle texture and natural thickness of the hair really complements the head shape over the top, while blending down to the skin over the ears and cutting clean edges up and along the fringe makes all the difference.

Buzz cut fade with waves

Black man with a buzz cut skin fade and waves

By flowing so neatly at the same length all-over, this buzz cut complements the head shape perfectly. The fade only emphasises this, starting above the ear and following a diagonal line across the sides, instead of the head’s natural curve.

Taking the sides down to the skin also creates a clean gap that allows the longer, more voluminous facial hair to thrive below.

Buzz cut with low taper fade

Black man with buzz cut and low skin fade

This buzz cut leans on the natural thickness of the hair to help shape the overall look, direction and finish.

With the hair flowing in tidy straight lines down from the top, it allows a subtle low taper fade to blend effortlessly from the neck and above the ears into the sides. Overall, it’s an understated and refined example of modernising a classic buzz cut.

Military buzz cut with faded sides

Men's tight military buzz cut with a fade

Short, sharp and aggressive looking, this is how you bring the classic military buzz cut into the 21st century. By introducing a high fade and cutting down to the skin on the sides, the top is left just that fraction longer and cut as tight to the head shape as possible.

You won’t need to touch a thing with a cut like this, but you’ll need to book regular appointment with your barber in order to maintain it.

Butch cut with fade

Men's butch cut with a fade

This cut highlights how important the shaping of a buzz cut fade is in terms of keeping those sides fundamentally shorter than the top. When you’re retaining more length on top like this, you can soon lose sight of the fade if those sides aren’t tucked in tight and regularly maintained to avoid any hint of bulking out.

At this length you could actually start to consider applying a matte product to bring a bit more definition to the top, but ultimately it’s still the template set by the cut itself that’s going to dictate the direction of the style.