The big bushy beard thing. We get it. A lustrous chin wig has long been a symbol of masculinity, virility and even wisdom; a hairy badge of honour, if you will. All the best people have them too: Jason Momoa, Brian Blessed, Zeus, Gandalf…the list goes on.
As manly as they may be, massive beards don’t exactly scream ‘excellent grooming habits’. Which is why, as well as being a hallmark of badassery, they’re also heavily associated with chronic shower dodging. If only there was a beard style that made its wearer look more polished, not less.
Enter: the faded beard. This finely tuned flavour saver straddles the line between masculine and manicured. It’s the sort of facial hair that says, “Yeah, I iron my T-shirts. That doesn’t mean I couldn’t get a grizzly bear in a chokehold should the situation call for it”. And quite frankly, if that’s not the kind of message you want your chin to convey, you’re beyond help.
What Is A Faded Beard?
The fade has become an important element in modern barbering. It involves creating a smooth transition between hair of differing lengths. On the head, that means blending long hair on the top with short hair on the back and sides. Beard-wise, it’s about fading chin hair into cheek hair and cheek hair into sideburns.
When done right, it’s a precision look that pairs nicely with similarly just-so haircuts, like a slick back or pompadour. A good fade makes a beard look intentional. Like a conscious style decision as opposed to just something that grew out of your face while you were sitting in a darkened room playing Xbox.
Is A Faded Beard Right For Me?
Despite all the plus points, faded beards aren’t without their drawbacks. Yes, you’ll look sharper, but that requires time, money and maintenance. If you want to keep your fade looking fresh, you’ll need regular trips to the barber as well as a few of your own tools at home for upkeep. If you’re the kind of guy who favours Call of Duty binges to… well, anything else, the fade might not be for you.
It’s also a style that requires pretty consistent growth across your face. If you have patchy facial hair, there’s not a barber in the world who will be able to fade it for you.
Can I Do It Myself?
In short, yes you can, but you’ll need a steady hand and the right tools to trim your beard this well. Even so, don’t expect it to be quite as sharp as it could be if you paid your local barbershop a visit.
Adjustable clippers or trimmer
First and foremost, you’ll want to ensure your beard is clean, fresh and free of Cornflakes. To do this, simply give it a wash with some beard shampoo, apply a small amount of beard oil and blow dry while combing through to get rid of any knots or nasties.
“Next, use your clippers with no grade, starting under your chin to decide the length and create the perimeter parallel to your jawline,” explains Tom Chapman, founder of the Lions Barber Collective and an official ambassador for The Bluebeards Revenge.
“Using grade 2 (6mm) on your clippers, work down your face from ears to chin to remove any excess hair, making sure you move away from the face as you approach the jawline. Do this all around the edges of your beard removing the excess fuzz.”
Now it’s time to get faded. “Using your clippers with a 0 (no grade) create your shortest guide about 10 mm from where the ear connects to the head to the middle of the ear,” explains Chapman. Then repeat this on the opposite side of the head.
“Then create second and third guides above and below 0 with a grade 1 (3mm) about 10mm each side,” he says. “Now open the blades up on the clipper to 1.5 (4.5mm) to blend the lines between grades 1 and 2 on both sides. Take the guard off and open the blades to 0.5 (1.5mm) and blend between 0 and 1 on both sides.”
Once that’s done it’s just a case of using your razor to neaten up the edges.
The Best Faded Beard Styles For Men
No one could blame you for reading the above instructions and deciding you’d rather let an experienced barber handle your fade than have a crack at it yourself. If that’s the case, here’s what you need to know.
Long Faded Beard
You can still go full Gandalf without looking unkempt. And pairing a precision fade with a long beard is the best way to do it.
“Ask your barber to fade your beard into your hair but maintain the length and thickness,” says Chapman. “A picture of what you want is always the best way to get the right result and avoid any confusion.”
Then it’s simply a case of keeping things in check at home. “You can keep your beard looking sharp easily by giving your cheeks a little touch up each day,” says Chapman. “Also, never underestimate the power of a good beard oil, round brush and a hairdryer.”
Mid-Length Faded Beard
Mid-length beards have a tendency to look a little scruffy if they’re not kept in immaculate shape. This is where a clean fade and a little scissor work can come to the rescue.
“You’re looking for clean lines and a fade from your hair into your beard,” explains Joe Mills, owner of Joe and Co. in London’s Soho. “Make sure your barber really works the beard shape into the hair and there are no hard lines.” Again, Mills also recommends taking a picture along with you, just to ensure you get exactly the beard you desire.
Next comes the small matter of maintenance. “Get it trimmed regularly, don’t think this is a once a month thing!” says Mills. “You can leave it but it won’t hold its shape so every couple of weeks would be ideal. If you have invested in a decent clipper then you can maintain it between trims but go easy. Remember, once it’s cut it’s cut.”
Short Faded Beard
Big beards aren’t for everyone. If you prefer to keep things short, cropped and neat, a short faded beard will work, blending from a skin fade to longer stubble.
“Ask your barber for a heavy fade, taking the 0 down to the bottom of the ear and blending from there, maintaining enough hair for a strong line up,” advises Chapman. “This is great for those who don’t have a strong amount of hair growth on their cheeks. Once again a picture of what you want is always the best way to get the result you want.”
Being a shorter style, this one can take a little more work to keep it sharp. “I would suggest letting it grow out through the sides but use your beard trimmer and a razor to keep your neckline and your cheeks nice and clean,” says Chapman. Aside from that, you should be aiming to visit your barber every week or so for a touch up.