Let’s face it: sometimes, figuring out what to do with your hair sucks. To start with, there are more options for men’s hairstyles than there are bad Radiohead covers on the internet (let’s be real, they’re all “Creep”). Unless you’re one of those guys who could make a paper bag look sexy, it can be tough to pick a cut that looks great without being a pain to manage. The good news is that the medium fade is the perfect combo of looks, ease, and variety.
What Is a Medium Fade?
A medium fade is a popular haircut for men featuring medium length hair toward the top and tapered short hair on the sides that fades out at the bottom. As a typically mid-fade style, the taper of a medium fade starts just above the ears, striking a nice visual balance. It looks good on everyone from celebrities to average joes. If you’re thinking “but I’m a less-than-average joe,” knock it off. You’ll look good in it, too, ya self-deprecating lug.
The medium fade is a juggernaut of flexibility and freedom. The top can be styled with a variety of shapes and textures, while the fade on the sides can be embellished with details like angular lines, smooth curves, and artistic flourishes. It’s a look that’s both ultra-chic and pretty hard to do wrong. Well, maybe don’t try to cut it yourself. Other than that, styling is pretty fun and easy.
The History of the Medium Fade
While the medium fade undoubtedly has a crisp, modern look, it’s actually a decades-old style with roots that reach as far back as the 1930s. Slicked long hair looks gave way in the ‘30s to simpler styles that tapered down short past the ears and required less overall styling. This taper was often paired with a hard part, but some of the biggest studs of the time also sported wavy, tousled locks up top.
In the ‘40s and ‘50s, the tapered fade style was well known as a military standard. The clean cut practicality of the look combined with the honor and respect afforded to U.S. soldiers at the time made the cut a cultural powerhouse.
In the mid-1980s, hip-hop culture transformed men’s short haircuts yet again. The hi-top or flat-top fade sported by artists like Grace Jones became one of the most iconic looks of the decade. The influence of ‘80s hip-hop and black barbershop artistry was crucial in creating today’s medium fade style, mixing old-school techniques and extreme precision with unique artistic details. Basically, it looked dope.
Medium Fade Hair Care Basics
Like any other style, a medium fade requires some basic hair care to keep it looking sharp. Here are just a few key maintenance tips to make sure your fade doesn’t, you know, fade (we’ll see ourselves out for that one).
- Wash and condition your hair at least once a week to keep it healthy and prevent buildup from weighing it down. A volumizing shampoo can be a big help if you’re going for fuller, taller styles on top.
- Get regular trims to remove dry ends and prevent your mid-length style from getting long and scraggly.
- Different hair types need different care. Talk to your barber about the best ways to maintain your fade for your hair texture. Minimizing heat and brushing gently are always good ideas.
- Remember: though they don’t show quite as much skin as high fade cuts, mid-skin fades still expose a lot of it. Choose hair products that keep your scalp looking and feeling good. This also means protecting it with an SPF, because it’s one of those places you really don’t want to experience sunburn.
Different Ways to Style a Medium Fade
With plenty to work with on top, the medium fade haircut lends itself to all kinds of finished styles. Take a look at a few options and how you can achieve them.
Today’s medium fade is loved in part for how great it looks with very minimal styling. Requiring very little product or effort, the messy top look is one that looks relaxed and free spirited without making you look like that guy. You know exactly which guy.
Here’s how to pull it off:
- Start with clean, dry hair. Air drying can help enhance natural wavy or curly hair texture.
- Finger-comb a small amount of Matte Styling Paste through your hair to define the texture.
- Tousle and lift it gently as needed to achieve the desired messy look.
Slicked and Sleek
Looking for a more polished look with plenty of sex appeal? A medium fade with a smooth, slicked back top creates a streamlined silhouette in just a couple of simple steps. It’ll also make you look like you might drive a hot rod and carry a switchblade, which makes it a go-to for that little bit of old-school “bad boy” flavor.
To get this slick style:
- Ideally, start with unwashed hair to help the products hold.
- Apply a pomade, gel, or cream styling product to create a damp look all over.
- Comb your hair in smooth strokes from front to back on all sides, following the curve of your head.
- To build height or volume, do some teasing or back-combing, then slick the hair over the top.
Deep Side Part
Parting your hair hard to one side is a great way to create a bold shape and add a bit of vintage charm to your look. This was one of the trends that made the early fade cuts of the 1930s so memorable. These days, it says “hey, I’m a classy guy.”
Here’s how to make it happen:
- Brush through the hair and wet it slightly, primarily in the area where you’ll be parting it (far to the left or right).
- Using a comb, draw a straight line from the front hairline to the back of the head to part the hair.
- Comb styling products through the hair away from the part to emphasize it and hold it in place.
- For a semi-permanent part, you can ask your barber to shave a hard part line into your hair.
Few hairstyles make as big an impact as a mohawk, but it’s not always practical. For those who can’t rock a full hawk at work or simply prefer a style that requires less maintenance, the faux hawk is the perfect punk-inspired compromise.
To stick it ever so slightly to the man:
- Start with clean, dry hair. Gentle towel-drying can add helpful fluffiness and texture.
- Apply concrete or extreme hold pomade through your hair to prepare it for shaping.
- For a sharper faux hawk, use your hands and fingers to push the hair together and point it upward.
- For a looser, more voluminous faux hawk, use a hair dryer with a flat nozzle to “push” the hair inward and upward (with the air, not the nozzle tip).
Medium Fade Pompadour
A truly eye-catching look with a vintage vibe, the medium fade pompadour is another gravity-defying style that’s perfect for adding flair and volume. Half military austerity and half rock ‘n’ roll, this throwback looks right at home in 2022.
To sculpt the perfect pompadour:
- Apply a protective, volumizing product to clean, towel-dried hair.
- Using a hair dryer and a brush in combination, gently shape the hair. The hair at the front should be lifted up and pushed back to create the pompadour, and the sides should be pushed back for a sleek shape.
- Comb a small amount of pomade through the finished shape to give it hold and shine.
- For a more relaxed look, finger comb the finished pompadour a bit to loosen it.
For ultimate heat protection, hold and shine, use Reuzel Grooming Tonic and Blue Pomade to style your pompadour. You can learn more about this hairstyle and how to perfect it in our spotlight on the medium fade pompadour.