Low Fade Haircuts Guide: 18 Cool Styles For 2023
This subtle barbering technique can have a huge impact on the look and feel of your haircut. Here's everything you need to know before asking your barber for a low fade.
If you’ve been considering getting a fade haircut but have been put off by images of extreme, aggressive-looking skin fades, a low fade could be the perfect solution.
Although this type of fade is only applied to a small, subtle section of a haircut, the impact it has on the rest of the style can be dramatic. By cutting so finely just above the ears it not only tightens up the sides but also helps create a sharp, clean perimeter from which you can experiment with the weight, texture and styling of the hair above it.
Sound interesting? Read on on to find out everything you need to know before you take the plunge.
What is a low fade?
A low fade is like any other fade in that the hair is gradually cut shorter as you progress down the back and sides, creating a gradient effect. However, with a low fade this graduation starts further down, usually around the temple area.
It’s very similar to a traditional ‘taper’ cut, to the point where the two techniques can actually be combined on certain hairstyles. But there are some key differences says Billy Coles, Senior Barber at Murdock London: “Unlike a taper, a clean low fade will completely wipe out the hairline around the ears. This means there’s no opportunity for longer gradual lines of hair to work down towards the back of the neck.”
So, if you’d prefer the back and sides to appear more graduated and subtle, then an outright low fade probably isn’t for you.
What you need to know
To avoid the risk of a low fade unsettling the balance of your haircut, you’ll need to get it sharpened up frequently. “The thing you have to really bear in mind with a low fade is that it does come with some required maintenance,” confirms Billy. “The shortest section only covers a really small part of the head, but this will usually insist on growing back quickly.” Better get in the habit of booking those biweekly barber appointments.
It’s also important to be clear about what you’re looking to achieve with your barber, before they start cutting. “A low fade can be more controlled in terms of its height placement than a taper fade, which can sometimes distort the actual length you want your hair to be,” says Billy. So, when you sit in the chair, set out exactly how high you ideally want your fade to sit and how long you want to leave the rest of the hair above it.
Who does a low fade haircut suit?
A low fade will make an impact on just about anyone’s hair type and style, giving the overall look a sharper edge.
“A lot of clients ask for this type of fade if they’re happy with the overall length of their haircut, but hate it when the hair becomes hard to control around the ears and hairline,” confirms fellow Murdock Senior Barber, Franky Abbott.
As for guys who aren’t used to clippers going anywhere near their hair, Franky offers some reassurance: “Having a low fade doesn’t necessarily mean you have to go all the way down to the skin with the clippers. But, as with any type of fade, whether it’s low or high, your clipper guard should never be longer than a grade one, otherwise you won’t see the transition in length as effectively.”
So, while a low fade isn’t exclusively achieved by taking off all your hair, you do need to be prepared to go shorter than you might be used to for maximum impact. Don’t forget though that ultimately it only applies a small section of your head, and it will grow back quickly if you don’t like it. On the plus side, the biggest advantage with this type of fade is that it allows you to maintain plenty of length and volume across the rest of your haircut, giving you much more flexibility with your look.
18 cool low fade haircuts for men
Short curly hair with low fade
This short, curly style sits nice and loose across the top as the wavy texture lifts and flows at an even length, before cutting sharply down into the tighter sides edged off by the fade.
It’s a really nice blend of smart and playful.
Quiff with low fade
On a more rugged hairstyle and beard combination like this, a low fade doesn’t have to be cut so sharp and straight in order to make an impact.
With dark and thick hair like this, even a low fade can appear quite dramatic when revealing a section of skin. Here it does a great job separating the sleek quiff above and bushy facial hair below, accommodating plenty of weight and volume either side.
Short hair shape up and low fade
This slightly longer version of a buzz cut fade leaves plenty of skin on show whilst blending smoothly up into the back and sides.
An ideal option for those with straighter and thicker hair, the fade follows a natural curve around the back of the head, while the hair on top is styled down flat to complement the rounded overall shape.
Quiff with hard parting and low fade
The distinct parting straight across from the fringe influences this weighty yet controlled hairstyle, allowing it to sweep over to one side with ease while retaining plenty of volume.
Although the sides are kept longer to balance the length on top, the low fade works to establish a lighter section of hair above the ear, giving it a clean finish and sharper overall silhouette.
Short hair with low skin fade
This low skin fade is barely noticeable as it blends in with the overall cut so naturally, working as a clean section between the sides and beard.
Short, sharp and not too boxy, this style is a viable option for guys with finer hair who still want to showcase plenty of texture.
Afro hair with low skin fade
The focus of this hairstyle is all about the lifted top section and letting the natural curl of the afro dictate the direction.
The minimal low fade above the ear only helps to further exaggerate the height of the hair on top, giving it a clean line along the sides to grow from while also blending neatly into the crisp hairline shape up.
Waves with low fade
This low fade cuts a horizontal line above the ear, leaving a small but purposeful section free of hair that creates a super-clean and straight edge for the bottom of the sides.
Meanwhile on top, the naturally textured waves are cut at an even length for a smart, balanced, easy-going finish.
Textured pompadour with low fade
A modern, texturised take on a pompadour like this is crafted with three distinct sections: a longer top with good weight, mid-length sides and a low fade.
With a decent amount of length left on the sides, the low fade doesn’t contrast with the bulkier top section as much as a high fade would. Instead, the fluffy, matte texture bridges the gap nicely for a more balanced overall cut that still has plenty of volume and character.
Blunt fringe with low fade
The blunt cropped fringe demands attention on this cut, while the ruffled top works great for a contrast in textures.
Once again, we see the low fade bring that extra element of refinement and impact by exaggerating more lift from the sides and helping to keep the overall shape of the style incredibly tight and square.
Grown out afro with low fade
This is an extremely low fade, but it makes a huge impact on the overall look and feel of the cut.
By introducing that sleek curve around the tip of the ear, you create extra definition and contrast against the beautifully rounded, heavily textured afro, which would traditionally be left the same length all over.
Such a subtle tweak, but one that takes this cut to another level.
Ivy League haircut with low fade
This smart and sleek hairstyle is perfect for guys with finer, straight hair. Instead of going for a harsh skin fade, a distinct side parting is cut in to separate the sides and allow the natural straightness of the hair to flow down cleanly in gradual shorter sections.
By not taking the hair down to the skin, the low fade blends nicely with the rest of the cut instead of creating a disconnect.
Sleek pompadour with low fade
A big, bulky section at the front of a hairstyle can quickly go wrong, leaving the overall shape unbalanced and dominated by a heavy fringe. But here the notable weight up front is blended in and directed in smooth waves right the way back, creating some healthy height and shine.
Cut in a neat curve, the low fade does its job in both lifting the sides and giving the beard more impact.
Mid-length wavy haircut with low fade
By separating this free-flowing, lifted texture into its own section on the top, the sides can be cut much shorter to create a cleaner, sharper overall appearance.
The low fade does a great job influencing the back and sides to flow diagonally instead of a single short and straight section. In the process it also gives the beard more distinction as the sideburn works into the fade instead of curving upwards as one solid strip of hair.
Soft curls with low fade
A low fade like this works perfectly as a foundation for curlier hair to thrive on top. At this length, the naturally thicker and wavier texture can be lifted all over to great effect. It flows cleanly at an even length from the fringe right over to the back, before blending down into the fade just above the ear.
The clean fade line only helps to enhance the natural character and shaping of the hair.
Sweep back with low fade
In this style the low fade works well as a clean notch above the ear, blending into the sideburn then down into the curved beard, while in the opposite direction it creates a subtle curve around the ear.
The amount of lift on top here would look way more exaggerated and potentially unbalanced with a higher fade. However, with bulkier sides sweeping above this low fade, the top is able to sit nice and high while blending cleanly back into the rest of the cut.
Hard parting and low fade
One of the most appealing elements of a low fade is that you can still be really playful with the shaping and length of the rest of your hair. The top section here has been cleanly separated from the sides using a hard parting to achieve ultimate contrast. Meanwhile the low fade does its job to perfection by providing a crisp, clean section above the ears for the sides to meet.
Wavy height built up on the top like this is a perfect option for guys with slim and square face profiles.
Blow out with low fade
This look showcases a fine overall balance between neatness and ruggedness. With the fringe lifted back in a clean, textured sweep, it flows into the sides that have been left more natural and looser around the edges before meeting the low fade, which does a brilliant job tying together the volumised haircut and thriving beard.
Cutting a tight sideburn below the fade is a neat touch that helps put even more emphasis on the explosion of facial hair below.
Extreme pompadour with low fade
Why not just go all out? Here the hair transitions from one extreme to the other in terms of length from top to bottom. It highlights just how effective a low fade can be to help refine a haircut that’s otherwise styled on the wilder side.
The top should in theory command all the attention with this look, however you still find yourself drawn to the impact of that simple, clean curve cut in above the ears.