Fade lingo continues to confuse even the sharpest and most style-conscious of men. The problem is that people use different terms to refer to the same styles.
Let’s clear up the confusion.
You’re about to learn everything you need to know about half-inch, 1-inch, 2-inch, and 4-inch fades.
But before we do that, it’s important to briefly discuss what a “fade” really is.
What Is A Fade?
The term “fade” refers to the blended, blurred effect that results from the gradual transition in hair length from short to long. Fades are done at the sides and back and are a very common feature of modern styles.
While the “fade” may consist of various different lengths of hair as you go up the sides and back, the technique used by the barber removes any harsh lines.
This produces a graded and blended appearance.
When asking for a fade, it’s important to let the barber know how high you want the fade to be and how short you want the shortest length of the fade to be.
How high you want the fade to be can be called the “transition point” or the “fade height”.
This refers to the height at which the shortest length of the fade starts to transition into longer lengths at the sides and back.
The most common way of letting the barber know what you want would be to ask for a “low”, “mid”, or “high” fade.
But some people also label fade heights in terms of inches above the top of the ear. That’s what this article will explain in more detail later on.
I’ll talk about how fade heights can be labeled in terms of inches and how this relates to the more commonly used terminology such as “low”, “mid”, and “high”.
Once you’ve told the barber what fade height you want, you’ll also need to let them know how short you want the fade to be at its shortest.
The shortest length could literally be shaved all the way down to the skin – i.e a “skin fade” – before it transitions into longer lengths as you go upward.
Now that we’ve got all of that out of the way, let’s discuss some common fade heights.
Common Fade Heights
Here are the common examples of fade heights in inches.
Before we start, although it may sound obvious, it’s important to note that people have different-sized heads. As a result, half an inch, one inch, and two inches can appear higher or lower on different men, depending on the size of the head.
Because of this, no matter what you ask for, always ask the barber to let you know how high he’s going to go with the fade before he does it. Literally, ask them to point it out.
That way, there can really be no misunderstanding and you won’t be left with a fade that’s higher or lower than what you’d hoped for.
Half Inch Fade
The half inch fade is a style where the shortest length of the fade starts to gradually transition and blend into longer lengths approximately half an inch above the top of the ear. The half inch fade can be labeled a low fade.
Although the terminology can get confusing, especially when trying to explain what you want to barbers, using inches to define your fades does have its benefits.
The reason for this is that the term “low fade” could mean different things to different barbers.
This could lead to a higher or lower fade than what you actually wanted.
One way around this would be to show the barber a photograph of what you actually wanted. This is probably the best option.
But, another pretty solid way of letting the barber know what you want would be to let them know how high up you want the fade in inches.
The “half-inch” fade is a low fade – the transition point is low on the sides and back.
In other words, the shortest length of the fade only extends half an inch above the top of the ear.
It’s subtle – very subtle.
But calling it a “half inch fade” instead of just a “low fade” gives the barber a much better idea of what you actually want. There’s less opportunity for misunderstanding.
So, who is the half inch fade best for?
The half inch fade is best for people who want a subtle fade, with only a very small area of the sides and back clipped down to the shortest length.
Fades are eye-catching, but the higher up the sides they are, the more eye-catching they’ll be.
For men who’d prefer something a little less in your face – a half-inch fade may be the way to go.
1 Inch Fade
The 1 inch fade is a style where the shortest length of the fade starts to gradually blend into longer lengths approximately 1 inch above the top of the ear. The 1 inch fade is a form of a mid fade.
Calling it a 1-inch fade instead of mid fade may not be as common, but it makes it crystal clear how high up you want the transition point of the fade to be.
It’s probably what most barbers would think you meant when you ask for a “mid fade”. But specifying the number of inches above the ear leaves no room for error.
While having the fade start an inch above the ear is still pretty subtle, it’s definitely noticeable and a great option for people going for their first-time fade.
Much like any other fade, you’ll need to let them know how short you want the 1-inch fade to be at its shortest.
For example, a 1-inch skin fade would have the shortest length shaved down to the skin. A 1-inch #2 fade would have the shortest length clipped down to a #2.
What they have in common is simply the fact that the shortest length of the fade will start to transition into a longer length an inch above the ear.
It’s worth mentioning that any of these fades can essentially be combined with whatever style you want up top.
The point at which a “mid fade” becomes a “high fade” is also debatable. Both clients and barbers can have differing opinions on what it means.
That’s why labeling the height in terms of inches is useful – it solves this problem.
2 Inch Fade
The 2 inch fade is a style where the shortest length of the fade starts to gradually transition into longer lengths around 2 inches above the top of the ear. The 2 inch fade is a form of a high fade.
Asking for a 2-inch fade is a great way to ask for a high fade. However, as people obviously have different-sized heads, it’s still worth physically pointing out how high up you want the fade using your hands.
Leave no room for error.
On average, however, 2 inches above the ear will usually reach around the level of the temples.
As I mentioned, simply asking for a “high fade” is descriptive, but not descriptive enough.
It could mean different things to different people.
Making it clear that you don’t want the shortest length to extend higher than 2 inches above the ear makes it clear what you want.
The 2 inch fade is more attention-grabbing than low fades and mid fades.
More of the sides and back are clipped down to the shortest length. As a result, there’s a more striking contrast with the hair on top.
When deciding what fade height you want, you need to factor in how obvious it’ll look. The higher the fade and the shorter the shortest length of the fade, the bolder and more in-your-face it’ll look.
A 2-inch fade will be high enough for some men to find it a little too much. Most of the sides and back will be clipped down to the shortest length.
This does have its benefits. For one, having the sides/back so short does have a slimming effect on the face and jawline.
If you aren’t sure whether it’s for you but want to try out a 2-inch fade, don’t go too short with it.
Go for a 2-inch, #2 fade – the shortest length is a #2 (6mm) and it starts to transition into longer lengths (eg. #3 or #4 and beyond) around 2-inches above the ear.
Keeping it a little longer like this makes it less obvious your first time around. If you then decide that you’re a fan and want to go shorter, that’s great.
Go for the 2-inch fade again, but this time you can have the shortest length at a #1 or even shaved instead (i.e a skin fade).
What Is A 4 Inch Fade?
The 4 inch fade where the shortest length of the fade starts to transition into longer lengths around 4 inches above the top of the ear. It’s generally considered higher than any fade should be, usually reaching far beyond the temples. It should never be done.
Be very careful about asking for a 4 inch fade.
In general, you shouldn’t ever really need or want a fade this high. It’s so high that it would probably be even higher than your average high and tight.
To sum that up, never ask for a 4 inch fade. I only included it here because it’s something that people ask for sometimes without really realizing how high up 4 inches really is.
When it comes to the sides of your head, an inch is actually a lot longer than you might think at first.
There you have it.
Hopefully, your understanding of fade heights should be a lot clearer now.
Ready Sleek founder. Obsessed with casual style and the minimalist approach to building a highly functional wardrobe. Also a fan of classic, vintage hairstyles.