Buzz cuts and fades are two style options that aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. Combine the two and you’ve got an unstoppable force.
Effortlessly neat but with an unmistakable modern aesthetic.
You’re about to learn everything you need to know about the Number 3 fade and Number 4 fade styles.
The terminology in itself can be confusing, so we’ll be clearing that up first.
After that, we’ll dive into these specific lengths in more detail to give you as full of an understanding of them as possible.
If you were thinking of getting one for yourself, you’ll have a better idea of what to expect and how to communicate what you want to your barber.
Let’s get to it.
What Are “Fade” Styles?
A fade can be incorporated into practically any hairstyle ranging from very short to very long.
Essentially, it refers to the gradual increase in length as you go up the sides and back. It can be done using a pair of scissors or more commonly with a clipper-over-comb technique.
This gradual increase in length creates a blended appearance as these lengths transition into each other smoothly and subtly.
The fade can be “low”, “mid” or “high”. This refers to how high up the sides and back the shortest length reaches.
With “low fades”, the shortest length reaches around an inch above the ear. With “high fades” the shortest length reaches the level of the temple. Finally, with “mid fades” the shortest length reaches a point approximately midway between a low fade and a high fade.
A “taper” is the lowest fade level you can get – even lower than a “low fade”. With tapers, the shortest length only reaches up to around the level of the top of the sideburn.
What about “skin fades”?
The term “skin fade” simply refers to the fact that the shortest length of a fade is essentially shaved down to the level of the skin. The length then gradually increases from this shaved skin as you go up the sides and back, just like any other fade.
Now that we’ve got the terminology out of the way, it’s time to discuss exactly what you came for.
The #3 fade and the #4 fade styles.
The Number 3 Fade
The Number 3 Fade is a style where the top is trimmed down to 3/8 inch. The sides and back are clipped shorter and faded with the length gradually increasing from bottom to top.
Having all of the hair clipped down to a tidy 3/8 inch makes it incredibly easy to maintain.
It’s also a great length for men with receding hairlines. Patchy, thinning hair is also less obvious when all of the hair is trimmed down to a very short and even length like this.
Trimming the hair down this short may not be the best idea for first-time buzz cuts, as it’s often shorter than men usually anticipate.
A #4 may be a better option for first-timers as it’s not too obvious – you can always go down shorter after this if you feel you want to.
What’s the benefit of a #3 with faded sides?
Fading the sides and back essentially makes them look shorter than the top. This can actually have a nice, slimming effect on the face. It often makes the jawline look sharper and more defined.
It also often leads to the buzz cut growing out in a more aesthetically pleasing manner compared to when all of the hair is trimmed down to an even length. This can often lead to a sort of “fuzzball” appearance when the buzz cut grows back out.
Fading the sides and back is a good way to prevent this.
A standard, straightforward induction-style #3 buzz cut is one where the hair at the top, sides, and back is trimmed down to an equal #3.
But a Number 3 fade on the sides is where the top is trimmed down to a #3 length while the sides (and back) are faded.
As I explained earlier, this fade can be a taper, low fade, mid fade, or high fade.
A Number 3 taper fade is where the shortest length of the fade reaches as high as the top of the sideburn.
The Number 3 low fade is where the top is left at 3/8 inch while the shortest length of the fade on the sides and back reaches as high as around an inch above the ear.
Number 3 high fades are where the shortest length of the fade reaches as high up as the temples. It’s the most attention-grabbing and obvious #3 fade style.
Finally, Number 3 mid fades have the top left at 3/8 inch (as always), while the shortest length of the fade on the sides and back reaches around midway between the top of the ear and the temple.
The Number 3 skin fade is where the fade at the sides and back has its shortest length shaved down all the way to the skin before gradually increasing in length as you go up.
The Number 4 Fade
The Number 4 Fade is a style where the top is trimmed down to 1/2 inch. The sides and back are trimmed shorter and faded with the length gradually increasing from the bottom to the top.
The beauty of the #4 buzz cut is that it’s a great “stepping stone” for men looking to dip their toes into buzz cuts.
Clipping the hair down this short can be a daunting experience, especially the first time.
It’s tough to know what to expect. A common issue is that buzz cuts tend to exaggerate face shape, just like baldness does.
Round faces tend to look rounder and short faces tend to look shorter. There’s no hair on top to add height or adjust.
The shorter the buzz cut, the more pronounced this face shape exaggeration will be.
Sure, you could trim a long buzz cut like a #5 or even longer. But when you get to these lengths it gets to a point where you don’t even recognize them as “true” buzz cuts.
The #4 is a good compromise. Not so short that the new look is very obvious or shocking, but also short enough to truly be called a “buzz cut”. It’s also not so short that the face shape is too exaggerated if this is an issue.
But the problem with #4 buzz cuts where all of the hair is trimmed down to an equal #4 length is that it doesn’t grow out very attractively.
After a few weeks, you may well notice a sort of “fuzzball” appearance to the hair as it all grows out from an equal length.
What you want to do is have the sides and back shorter than the top. The Number 4 buzz cut fade is a great way of achieving this.
You can have a Number 4 with a taper, low fade, mid fade, or high fade.
The Number 4 skin fade is where the shortest length of the fade is shaved down all the way to the skin, before increasing length as you go up the sides and back.
The skin fade is a more attention-grabbing and obvious form of the fade, as opposed to 1 fade and 2 fade lengths. Skin fades may be a good option for men who don’t mind this stark contrast between the hair on top and the shaved skin at the sides and back.
There you have it.
Hopefully, everything you could want to know about the number 3 and number 4 fade styles.
The main benefit of understanding this (often confusing) terminology is to help you when instructing your barber.
Proper communication between you and your barber is the key to a good professional relationship and to ensuring you get the result you’re looking for each and every time.
Ready Sleek founder. Obsessed with casual style and the minimalist approach to building a highly functional wardrobe. Also a fan of classic, vintage hairstyles.