Getting a haircut you weren’t expecting isn’t a great feeling. Knowing what to expect before you sit in that barber’s chair is crucial. Here’s everything you need to know about the 5 on the sides haircut.
Let’s get to it.
What Does A 5 On The Sides Haircut Look Like?
A 5 on the sides haircut will look like this:
The reason for this is that you don’t get as tapered of a result when you leave a #5 length at the sides.
The most common reason for clipper-cutting the sides and back is to achieve that buzzed, tapered appearance to nicely contrast the top.
That’s not to say that people don’t get the #5 length at the sides and back.
It’s just that when you get to this sort of length, most barbers would prefer to scissor-cut the sides instead of clipping it using a #5 clipper guard.
But if you were to go for a 5 on the sides haircut, the photo above is a good estimate of what to expect.
Here’s another good estimate. As you can see, as the hair on top is still significantly longer than the sides, the overall result is still quite tapered and balanced.
While you won’t get as tapered or slimming of an effect with a #5 on the sides, it’s still short enough to remove fullness and puffiness in this area.
This effect is even more obvious when the hair on top is relatively long in comparison.
It’s why the #5 on the sides generally works better with longer, scissor-cut hair on top.
Long buzz cuts would have a 5 at the sides with a longer clipped length on top, like a #6, #7, or #8.
But it’s important to note that even longer buzz cut lengths like this would look better with a shorter length at the sides. For example, a #6 on top with a #1 or #2 on the sides and back would look a lot better than a 5 at the sides.
In general, the #5 length at the sides usually looks best with longer, scissor-cut hair on top. The contrast is what makes it work.
What Length Is A 5 On The Sides Haircut?
A 5 on the sides haircut is ⅝ inch (16mm) long at the sides and is trimmed using a number 5 clipper guard.
It’s important to remember that while the longest length may be a #5 at the sides, it may also include a fade or taper.
So, the length would gradually increase up to a #5 length as you go up the sides and back.
For example, a #1 could be the shortest length at the bottom of the sides, before gradually increasing up to a #5 length further up.
A barber could transition through a #1 to a #2, #3, and #4 before finally getting to that #5 length. It’s the gradual transition and seamless blending of different lengths that gives it that characteristic “faded” and blurred effect.
This often produces a better and more aesthetically pleasing effect than simply going for a #5 length from the bottom to the top.
It’ll grow out in a more tapered way and it’ll also have a defining effect on the jawline.
Even a subtle low fade would often have this beneficial effect. These would start to transition from the shortest length up to a #5 length around half an inch above the ear.
Higher fades such as mid fades and high fades would have more of the sides trimmed down to the shortest length of the fade, but may eventually start to look less like a “5 on the sides” haircut.
Ultimately, choosing between a #5 everywhere on the sides with no tapers or fades, or going for a taper or fade up to that #5 length further up, is a personal decision.
It’s worth checking out photographs before you go and also worth asking your barber for their opinion. They should take your overall hairstyle (including the top), as well as your face shape into consideration.
Benefits Of The 5 On The Sides Haircut
Here are a few benefits of the 5 on the sides haircut to consider if you were thinking of going for this length.
1. It Suits Longer Face Shapes
By “longer” face shapes I’m mainly referring to oblong, diamond, and rectangle. These face shapes often benefit from having some fullness at the sides.
The trouble with removing too much length at the sides would be that it makes the face look longer or more angular.
While this is a huge benefit for those with rounder or shorter face shapes, people with longer face shapes should try to leave some fullness at the sides to avoid this.
While a #4 at the sides would probably be perfectly fine too, a 5 on the sides would confidently leave enough fullness while still being easy to keep tidy.
As I mentioned, most barbers would choose to scissor-cut down to this length instead of going for a #5 clipper guard.
But if you wanted that length while also getting the clean, even, clipper-cut look, the #5 guard would do the trick.
2. It Suits Longer Hairstyles
When you’re leaving this much length at the sides, you’ll want to make sure the hair on top is long enough to produce a balanced overall look.
For example, while the #6 on top with a #5 on sides would look OK, it won’t look anywhere near as effective as a #6 on top with a #1 or even a #2 on the sides.
Going for a longer, fuller, and more voluminous hairstyle up top will suit the relatively long sides better.
The contrast will prevent the hairstyle from looking too big and produce a more tapered appearance overall.
3. It’s Easy To Maintain
The 5 on the sides haircut is quite easy to maintain.
You could probably get away with going 4 to 6 weeks without getting it redone. The reason for this is that it’s long enough for the growth of a few millimeters here and there to not be too noticeable.
Don’t get me wrong – if you feel as though those sides are getting way too puffy and bushy, it’s probably time to get them clipped down again.
But if the sides still look pretty tidy and the overall style (eg. top, back, and sides) still looks quite balanced, you can usually go for longer periods in between haircuts.
The 5 on the sides is also quite easy to maintain because a #5 length is still short enough to keep strays and flyaways at bay.
It’s still not as easy to keep tidy as a #1 or #2, for instance. But it’s short enough to not be a problem.
However, after a few weeks of growth – that may change. It’s just important to recognize when things are getting a little out of control or difficult to manage so you can go and get them clipped down again.
How To Ask For A 5 On The Sides Haircut
When asking for a 5 on the sides haircut, you’ll need to let the barber know what you want to do with the hair on top, as well as whether you want a taper or fade.
Let’s talk about the hair on top first.
In a way, it’s tough to give advice about this part because the options really are endless.
While going for a longer, scissor-cut style like a comb-over, side-swept quiff, pompadour or something similar would generally look better with a 5 on the sides, you may have different preferences.
Whatever you choose, just be prepared and know exactly what to ask for before you sit in that barber’s chair. Taking a photograph with you can definitely be helpful.
Now, let’s talk about how to ask for a 5 on the sides with a fade. If you don’t want any fade or taper, then ignore this part.
Here, you’ll need to let the barber know how high up the sides you want the fade, as well as how short you want the shortest length of the fade to be.
The shortest length of the fade is the length you’ve got at the bottom of the sides and back before it starts to transition into the #5 further up.
For example, you could have a #1 into a #5, a #2 into a #5, and so on.
The larger the contrast between the shortest length at the bottom and the #5 further up, the more obvious and pronounced the fade will look.
A #5 on the sides with a skin fade will have the shortest length of the fade shaved all the way down with a razor before it starts to increase up to the #5 length.
Once you’ve told them how short you want the shortest length, tell them how high up the sides and back you want the fade to be.
“Low” fades are around half an inch above the ear. “Mid” fades around an inch above the ear. “High” fades around the level of the temples.
There you have it. Hopefully, everything you could ever want to know about the 5 on the sides haircut.
What it looks like, its benefits, and more.