The Key Differences Between a High and a Low Fade

Every man, woman, or child who has visited a barbershop while playing “Grand Theft Auto” games has become familiar with the low key panache and versatility that encompass the classic “fade”. Choosing to wear the fade involves a little more of a commitment than just choosing it for a pixelated alter-ego, so allow us to introduce you to the ins and outs of CJ’s favorite look: the Fade.

The History of the “Fade”

Nikola Bizumic, a 19th century Serbian barber, introduced the first hair clipper to the world. Feeling a pressing need to flee his life of farming pigs, this revolution in hair cuttery allowed the young entrepreneur not only to kiss his days of early morning pig slopping goodbye, but he managed to revolutionize and streamline how men received haircuts (and how men’s hair would look) forevermore. By 1919, an inventor in Sterling, IL named Leo Wahl was finalizing his patent on an electric hair clipper, and by 1921 the Wahl Clipper Company was introducing the world to what would become the bane of newly recruited soldiers everywhere: hair shears that could shave a head nearly bald in a minute or less. Just ask Konstantinos Koutoupis: the winner of the Guinness Book fastest haircut ever. He sheared one brave Greek who sat in his barber’s chair in Athens in 47.17 seconds in 2017. Now that’s a speedy haircut!

The Fade was a natural invention to come soon afterward. Thought to have been invented by (go figure) the US military, the Fade gained momentum in the 1950’s, becoming a staple style choice by dapper soldiers everywhere. The short fade was the style of choice, allowing for the strict grooming rules of the US military, not impeding sight, and requiring little or no maintenance between trips to the barbershop. The Fade, unlike the High and Tight or the Crew Cut, has made a seamless transition into the new millennium with the same amount of popularity as when it was new.

There are many variations of this haircut, but to learn the differences between high and low fade is the primary learning experience regarding the two popular variations of this frequently copied look.

High Fade Basics

The High Fade (or ‘High Top Fade’) is defined by the fact that the hair on the sides of the head is clipped very short, while the hair on the top of the head is kept longer to allow for various style choices. A high fade is defined by the high part of the head where the fade line begins, and by the sharp angle of the taper into the longer hair on top. Some prefer a high fade that is cut down to the skin (a “high bald fade”), and others opt for a”high taper fade”, which fades more gradually from very short to the longer hair on top. The versatility of this cut can be clearly seen in its multiple incarnations, including but not limited to the high fade pompadour, the side part, the gumby, the German, the Chico, the comb over, the Quiff, and the (infamous?) faux hawk: a subcategory of the high fade that has essentially taken on a life of its own – for better or for worse.

Grace Jones fiercely introduced the world to a punk, female high fade in the early 1980’s. By 1990, the movie “House Party”, became a cult favorite: in no small part due to the almost scary-tall high fade sported by “Kid” (Christopher Reid) of “Kid and Play”. It has since popped up in various forms and on various heads over the years, having been spotted on the likes of Bobby Brown, Kendrick Lamar, both Will and Jaden Smith,, and Usher, and even Miley Cyrus, to name a few.

Low Fade Basics

The Low Fade, aka the Temple Fade, Brooklyn Fade, or Blowout, is defined as following: “The hair is tapered from the scalp to 1 cm (0.4 in) in length from the edge of the hairline up 2 cm (0.8 in). The rest of the hair is left the same length, usually 2–5 cm (0.8–2.0 in), depending on the preference of the client.” The gist is, essentially, not unlike the High Fade: short sides and a longer top, which makes for a high contrast look. A “Low Skin Fade” means that the short cropped sides are essentially, or almost bald. Famous fans of this haircut include Julius Caesar and Henry V of England – so versions of this utilitarian look have been around for quite a while.

Low and High Fades are so popular, in part, because they can be adapted to any hair type or texture, and can be endlessly adapted to interesting new interpretations. Long live the Fade: a haircut that is beloved, far and wide.

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