Getting a haircut can feel like a lottery, especially when you’re trying something new. Not knowing what to expect is the worst thing about it. So, here’s everything you need to know about the 4 on the sides haircut.
Let’s get to it.
What Does A 4 On The Sides Haircut Look Like?
This is what a 4 on the sides haircut looks like:
As you can see, it’s subtle and tidy.
That’s because you aren’t removing as much fullness from the sides.
However, it’s still short enough to remove excess puffiness and fullness from the sides and back.
It works best with scissor-cut, longer hair on top as you’ll soon see.
Ultimately, your options are pretty endless.
The more volume and fullness you’ve got up top, the more tapered the #4 on the sides will look.
Just note that these short, clipped lengths on top usually work better with a shorter grade at the sides – for example, a #1, #2, or even a #3.
What Length Is A 4 On The Sides Haircut?
A 4 on the sides haircut is ½ inch (13mm) at the sides and trimmed using a number 4 clipper guard.
Remember, when people say “4 on the sides” they usually mean “4 at the sides and back”.
The back is usually trimmed to the same or a very similar length at the sides to achieve an even aesthetic overall.
The sides and back are trimmed to a #4 length – 13mm – while the top can be cut to an endless number of lengths and styled in an endless number of ways.
In addition, it’s important to remember that the sides and back can also be faded or tapered.
So, while the longest length at the sides and back would be a #4, they may gradually increase up to a #4 from the bottom. The different lengths seamlessly blend into each other with no harsh lines.
4 On The Sides Haircuts: More Examples
Here are a couple of examples to serve as inspiration.
4 On The Sides Long On Top
Here’s an example of long, textured hair on top with a 4 on the sides.
As you can see, the simple act of trimming the hair at the sides down to a #4 length makes the scissor-cut hair on top look a lot neater and more intentional.
It prevents the style from looking overgrown. In addition, the contrast between the long hair on top and the short hair on the sides can produce a slimming effect on the face.
4 On The Sides Scissors On Top
Here’s an example of scissor-cut, textured hair on top with a 4 on the sides.
It isn’t quite as long as the previous one, but it’s still long enough to produce a significant contrast with the short, #4 length at the sides.
Once again, keeping the sides clipped short relative to the full, thick hair on top is a great way to prevent the overall style from looking untidy and overgrown.
In addition, it’ll make sure the hairstyle grows out in a more tapered and aesthetically pleasing way.
Benefits Of The 4 On The Sides Haircut
If you weren’t sure about whether this length at the sides was the one for you, consider the following benefits when making your final decision.
1. It’s Versatile
The beauty of the 4 on the sides haircut is that it works well on most face shapes.
Broadly splitting face shapes into “rounder” ones and “longer” ones (eg. oblong, diamond), it’s easy to see why.
People with rounder face shapes would benefit from removing fullness at the sides. As I mentioned earlier, this is because it produces a narrowing, slimming effect when looking from front-on.
While the #4 on the sides won’t remove quite as much fullness as a #1, #2, or #3, it still removes enough for the effect to be noticeable.
This is even more obvious when it’s combined with relatively long hair on top. The contrast will exaggerate the tapering effect.
But the great thing about the #4 on the sides is that it doesn’t remove so much fullness that it disadvantages people with longer face shapes.
These people would benefit from having a little more fullness at the sides to avoid making the face look even longer overall.
Keeping the sides at a #4 will leave just enough fullness for them to benefit from this, while also being short enough to look effortlessly neat and sleek.
2. It’s Subtle
4 on the sides haircuts are subtle. They’re great for when you don’t want the sides and back to be a core feature of the overall hairstyle.
Shorter lengths at the sides and back are often more attention-grabbing and become more “important” to the overall aesthetic of the style.
The 4 on the sides haircut is about as long as you’d go at the sides/back with a pair of clippers. Any longer and you might as well just scissor-cut the sides.
Having this much length at the sides is appealing if you want the hair at the top to be the core focus of the overall style, with the sides simply complementing it.
Sure, it’s possible to make a 4 on the sides look more eye-catching. For example, you could fade them so that the hair gradually increases into a #4 length further up.
A 4 at the sides with a skin fade, for instance, would definitely be more attention-grabbing than a simple 4 on the sides from top to bottom.
But assuming you’re keeping things simple, this length is a great one if you’re looking to keep the sides subtle.
3. It Complements Longer Hairstyles
The #4 length at the sides is a great way to complement longer, scissor-cut hair on top.
Having the sides and back clipper-cut with the top left long and scissor-cut produces excellent contrast.
It’s appealing because when hair gets to a certain length up top, going down to a #2 or #3 at the sides can sometimes make the overall look a little top-heavy.
While this may be the look some people are going for, a #4 at the sides usually produces a nice, subtle, middle-ground that looks balanced and tapered at the same time.
How To Ask For A 4 On The Sides Haircut
When asking for a 4 on the sides haircut, you’ll need to specify whether you want it faded, as well as what you want to do with the hair on top.
If you would like the sides (and back) faded, you’ll need to let the barber know how high you want the fade and how short you want the shortest length of the fade to be.
The fade height can be either low, mid, or high.
A “low” fade will have the shortest length of the fade start to gradually transition into the #4 length around half an inch above the ear.
A “mid” fade works the same way but starts to transition around an inch above the ear.
Finally, a “high” fade is also similar but starts to transition much higher up – around the level of the temples.
You’ll also need to let the barber know how short you want the shortest length to be. It could be shaved all the way down (i.e a skin fade) before it starts to transition into a #4 length.
Or it could be a #0, #1, #2 – it doesn’t matter. As long as it’s shorter than the #4 length it’ll eventually transition into further up, it will produce a faded effect of some sort.
The larger the difference between the shortest length at the bottom and the #4 length further up, the more prominent and bold the fade will look.
That’s why skin fades usually look the most eye-catching.
That’s if you wanted a fade – not everyone will.
But everyone needs to let their barber know what sort of hair they want up top to complement the #4 length at the sides.
Do you want it clipped or scissor-cut? Do you want a quiff, comb-over, pompadour, slick back, or anything else?
Remember, you’ve got a huge number of options. Taking a photograph with you will often be helpful. Being prepared like this is a great way to ensure you get the look you were hoping for.
There you have it.
Hopefully, everything you could possibly want to know about this common length at the sides and back.
What it looks like, what length it is, its benefits, and more.