High Fade Haircuts Guide: 19 Cool Styles For 2023
A high fade requires you to go all-in at the barbershop, but the payoff is a dramatic and memorable look. Here's everything you need to know about high fade haircuts.
So it’s a statement look that you want? It must be if you’re interested in high fade haircuts. Quite literally a razor sharp option, a high fade is clean, modern and a little bit military, but it works with lots of styles and hair types.
Whereas mid or low fades can be subtle – simply because they’re cut only so far up the head – that’s not the case with a high fade. With this style you get a clean section of what is essentially bare skin, before blending into longer lines of hair near the top, which provides a dramatic and memorable look.
By neutralising the back and sides, this type of fade haircut better shows off the style you go for on top. It’s the kind of all-in option that needs repeat trips to the barbershop, but you’re rewarded with a low-effort cut that looks great with very little effort each morning.
What is a high fade haircut?
A fade haircut is when the hair on the back and sides of your head is trimmed in incremental sections that get slightly longer the further up your head you go. The bottom is usually cut at grade zero and, with a barber who knows what they’re doing, the style blends gradually into the longer hair on top.
The defining feature of a high fade is that the hair stays extremely short all around the back and sides before blending in at the top of your head, usually above your temples.
“When cutting a high fade you should be starting the clipper cut from the base of the head and then work your way up to the temple area, just before the head starts to curve,” explains Franky Abbott, senior barber at Murdock London, as he breaks down the process to achieve the strongest looking high fade possible.
“You want a nice transition between shaved skin and hair running up into the curvature of the head. From this section, you can then start to work the fade in higher up than you normally would with others.”
When it comes to cutting a high fade, the appearance can often be referred to as being ‘compressed’. By bringing the bottom line of the fade further up the head, you give more space for the smooth skin fade to sit below but less space for the hair to transition from essentially nothing into some length before reaching the top. A high fade can still achieve a smooth and light blend within this section, it’s just naturally compressed within a tighter space compared to others.
A higher fade circling above the temple should form a clean and neutral template for the rest of your haircut to be styled up from and can also set you up nicely for a more extreme parting, disconnect or undercut from the top – if that’s what you’re in the market for.
Should you get a high fade haircut?
One of the main benefits of getting any kind of fade haircut is the guaranteed cleaning up of the back and side sections. No more irritation from hair growing over the ears just a week after you visit the barber. No uneven shaping caused by unwanted bulkiness around the edges, either.
By blending in much further up the head towards the crown, a high fade enforces a more extreme area of shortness to sit below it. This means that the majority of your head through the back and sides could essentially be cut to fully exposed skin for the sharpest appearance.
You might find that other fades only really impact the lower sections of the back and sides before blending into longer hair working up. If you want these all-important areas to sit as cleanly and tightly as possible and bring the most attention to the top, commit to a high fade. It can also make your haircut much easier to manage in the process.
Who suits a high fade haircut?
High fade haircuts have a tendency to elongate the face by showing more skin. If you have a long or narrow face shape, this might not be the best option for you, but if you have a rounder face, a high fade can give you more definition.
High fades generally work better when they’re blended with shorter styles across the top, however this isn’t an exclusive rule. A longer hairstyle carries more risk being paired with such a notable fade, as the contrast in weights and colour can look drastic or unbalanced in profile. Yet with well-considered and edgier styles this doesn’t look awkward, but full of intention and attitude.
“A high fade can look perfect blended with styles such as flat tops, buzz cuts, textured crops and undercut haircuts,” Abbott says.
Finer hair can also benefit from a high fade cut, as the more extreme sharpness around the sides creates an effective contrast and helps to highlight more weight and depth over the top – even if the hair itself isn’t particularly thick or full. If your hairline is receding, a high fade can also help you disguise the retreat, assuming you keep the hair on top short too.
How to get a high fade haircut
“As a barber trying to achieve this look I would use the ascending technique as the clipper will be travelling further in distance,” says Abbott. By starting from the bottom of the head, you achieve the strongest possible transition between shaved skin and hair, so clearing the biggest section from the bottom of the head with clippers makes sense, before reaching the starting line of the high fade.
From this point, your barber should look to cut upwards in detailed, gradual grade lines for the best results, as opposed to cutting from the top of the sides down.
A high fade haircut can be the perfect option to go for if you want a sharp, low maintenance haircut – that is, depending on how creative you might want to go with the length and volume on top, which can always amp up the styling admin.
Either way, as with any fade finish, be prepared for more frequent visits to the barbershop than you might be used to. Good fades are cut with well-trained precision and when they start to grow out they inevitably lose that edge and quickly need maintenance in order to stay looking their best.
19 cool high fade haircuts for men
If you still need convincing to go so high with a fade, check out the expansive gallery below which showcases plenty of razor sharp inspiration.
High fringe haircut with a high fade
This style is all about contrast. The high fade works to set up the dramatic sweep of the fringe on top, with a clean horizontal line breaking up the top and sides.
Lots of volume in a fringe like this can be blow dried loosely into shape with the help a texturising primer, which also helps guide the rest of the hair to flow forwards from the crown.
It’s proof that high fades work well with immaculately manicured beards, too.
Shaped afro with high fade
This creative afro-textured style showcases plenty of flair with the volume and shaping through the top. Introducing that high fade up the sides takes the cut a step further to really enhance the curvature bursting out of such a clean section and flowing all the way down the back before rounding off.
High-maintenance, to be sure, but high impact too.
Short quiff with high fade
This short and textured style looks all the better for the faded sides, which keep a tight, square profile and blend up in a smooth gradation before meeting the weightier top.
Work in those forward-flowing waves with a high-hold, matte finish product before flicking up the fringe for a spikier edge.
Messy haircut with high fade
Again, contrast is the star of the show here. A razor sharp fade on the back and sides tees up a textured, messy but contemporary look on top. That clean fade around the edges makes an impact as a transitional section towards the top, defining a rounder overall appearance.
The texture through the top has been cut to a considered length to appear wild in finish but structured in shape, while the crop brushed sideways at the fringe is a neat finishing detail.
Curly high fade haircut
High fades and curly haircuts are a good combo. By cutting to skin and then working a lengthier blended section up through the sides, you can really enhance the thicker natural volume that lifts up through the top.
By graduating the top length all the way down the back towards the neck, you get a more rounded profile. Cleanly separating the shaped beard from the sideburn brings another edge to this subtle, contemporary look.
Crew cut with high skin fade
This Caesar-shaped crew cut benefits from the crisp, clean sides that are cut short and high. The fade blends smoothly up into the top which flows forwards with a hint of texture for a smart, well-maintained finish.
Some fine scissor cutting along the fringe adds a final boost of texture whilst balancing out the rounded overall shape.
Textured crew cut with high fade
This slightly longer take on a French crop brings some lifted texture to the top, which enhances the rounded shape. The high fade adds depth to the overall style and the clean skin section flows nicely around the head from the dropped fringe.
The bald fade also merges seamlessly into the facial hair through the sideburn, connecting the whole look.
Disconnected French crop with high fade
This style shows that high fade haircuts can be blunt instead of blended, with a disconnected finish. The top outweighs and slightly overhangs the sides, and this structure means the top section has to be cut and styled well to avoid things looking clumsy and unbalanced.
It’s not for everyone, but it can make for a strong, experimental finish like this – complete with sharp lines, soft flicks of texture weaving through the top, a loose hanging fringe and bulkier curve around the back for good measure.
High fade buzz cut
No matter how short your hairstyle is, cutting a fade in can improve the overall shape and tone, as this take on the buzz cut fade proves. Such a tight, well-defined top benefits from the impact of a blunt fringe, but it’s the fade that brings the depth and interest to the style, by blending that tonal contrast up the sides.
This one’s a footballer favourite for a reason.
Hard side parting with high fade
A well-defined side parting on a straight, regimented haircut like this draws plenty of attention. The addition of a high fade only makes it more of a stand-out detail.
Starting open at the fringe before tightening up towards the crown, it creates a distinctive line curving toward the temple. The fade keeps the sides incredibly tidy while blending up towards the section of length that flows diagonally from the hard parting.
Pompadour with high skin fade
This short pompadour trim is made up of neat sections throughout, guided in different directions away from the razor sharp side parting. It creates an intricate overall effect and the high fade is a big part of it.
Blending in diagonally and working up the sides, the fade reaches its highest point towards the fringe with a more gradual contrast towards the sides and back. Super sharp and super clean, be warned that it’s a style that will require plenty of upkeep.
Comb over with high fade
A high fade works nicely with thick, darker hair. Here, the fade helps to break up the side section building up from the ear and creating a greater sense of depth below the clean parting, which marks a clear distinction between the top and sides.
You could create the same swept-over style with the sides cut entirely to one grade, but it wouldn’t be as balanced or finessed. The fade makes the heavier top section look more in keeping with the sides, with the top line effectively mirroring the same tone before getting drastically shorter.
High and tight with high fade
This high and tight cut is enhanced by the majority of the side sections being cut right down to the skin. This helps in a couple of ways. First, it makes the fade itself narrow and close to the top of the head, leaving a clean, masculine look. Separating the head and facial hair also gives the rugged beard a boost.
As far as styling goes, this one’s simple. You’re looking for a short, textured finish, which is ideal for thicker hair. Just sweep the whole lot over, working back from the fringe with a high-hold matte product and you’re good to go.
Short crop with high fade
This cropped look works well with short, finer hair which can be textured and swept through with a light, dry-finish product. The choppy texture lifts from the back and sweeps across the front to shape a strong, boxy profile.
The fade cut high up the sides establishes a smooth blend above the temple and with lots of clean space left above the ear, this area exaggerates the volume of the hair above. A good option if your hairline has started receding, but you’re not yet ready to go nuclear.
Curly shape-up with high fade
This afro-textured style is a good example of how high fade haircuts help to frame and set up the style on top. Here, the perfectly blended high taper fade works up the sides gradually, drawing the eye to the subtle volume of the natural curls on top.
By cutting a heavier blend along the sides before meeting the top section, you establish a straighter, more rectangular overall shape which then peaks in texture at the top. The line from the side cut to run right the way around the fringe is a neat touch, while the blend from the beard flows seamlessly into the fade higher up.
Flat top with high fade
The flat top is a natural head-turner of a haircut. And the impactful afro-textured style looks all the better when the fade sits high like it does here, helping to square off the edges to the top, which is shaped with great attention to detail.
By cutting a notable amount of the back and sides so short, this makes the style look as if it’s exclusively growing up and out from the top, emphasising the vertical nature of the cut and exaggerating the volume.
Short dreads with high fade
This afro-textured style is tightened up to great effect by the high fade. The clean sides put all the attention on the free-flowing locks that shape upwards and outwards from the back through to the front.
This tight profile also complements the rugged beard shaped to be narrow down the sides and pointed out of the chin.
Curly mohawk with high fade
Odell Beckham Jr does statement hairstyles well, and this high-fade mohawk is no exception. It’s a style that can overwhelm the wearer, looking extreme and unbalanced for the sake of it. Not the case here.
Those natural curls take care of business when it comes to the playful but refined volume shaping all the way from front to back and the whole look is elevated by some excellent fade work cutting up and around the sides.
Even more refinement comes into play with the meticulously shaped beard which finishes off a polished, trend-setting look.
Slick back undercut with high fade
If you have dark, thicker hair and find it sits a little too heavy, then a slicker style is a great option. A sharp, swept finish like this can be shaped through using a medium- to high-hold (and shine) paste, cream or pomade. As for the cut, this is another good example of how a deep side parting can boldly separate the top and side sections without dominating the overall look.
As with all high fade haircuts, this is partly about millimetre-perfect measurements. The clean-cut top maintains a perfect length sweeping from front to back, while the sides benefit from the high fade leaving that slightly longer line coming away from the parting before blending down to skin.