Cutting your own hair is admittedly a tricky task, especially if you’re not an experienced barber. That said, most anyone can do a simple clipper cut, with the fade being a great option. It looks cool, works for most any guy, and is easy to cut without being a professional. Friends often ask me what clippers I recommend to get started, and these are my all-time favorite clippers
for the job, they're cheap and do a fine job for a beginner. I don’t know if it’s just in my circles, but cutting your own hair is something I’ve seen more and more of the past five years. It’s obviously popular for cost-saving reasons, but also saves the hassle of going to a barber (shooting my business in the foot here.) It also allows you to cut more regularly, and have a more consistent, arguably better cut if you’re following the tried and true rules of barbering.
What is a Fade?
Simply, the fade haircut is short at the bottom and gets longer toward the top. And within the fade, there are numerous different options for how to fade your hair.
- Make sure your hair has been washed recently: It doesn’t have to be right before it's cut, but if you make sure it’s been washed in the last 24 hours (using conditioner if you’re most men). That way, you’ll have hair that’s much easier (and nicer) to work with.
- Remember the simplest rule with barbering: be conservative when you’re first getting started. If you cut too short you’ll be waiting for your hair to grow back – if you haven’t cut enough you can always trim down later. That’s a much better place to be in.
- Always remember to keep both sides even. Humans are naturally attracted to symmetry and asymmetrical hair is a quick way to garner attention you probably don’t want.
- Get help. Remember, cutting your own hair is difficult to get started with, especially around the back. Don’t be afraid to ask for some help and guidance with the tricky parts.
- Remember it doesn’t have to be perfect. Every barber I know has a slightly different way of doing things, and you’re not going to get it 100% your first time. Fortunately, you’re trying something easy and a steady hand and patience will almost certainly leave you with a good cut. If you deviate a little, that’s okay.
What you need
- Invest in good equipment: You don’t need a full barbering kit just to get started, but you do need to make sure you’ve got the basics right.
- A good set of clippers and guards (see my full list of recommendations here)
- A handheld mirror (I use one of these and it's fine)
- A comb
- A free-standing or upright mirror
- Dependent on length and style of fade:
You can get by with less and likely already have some of these items, but skimping on quality here isn’t something I’d recommend. You’ll get a much better cut and save money in the long-run. Shoddy stuff breaks more often, is more difficult to work with, and heats up much quicker.
How to Fade Your Hair
Getting The Ideal Length
If required trim your hair down to a better starting length. A fade is generally a short cut. If you’re currently rocking hair down to your shoulders, you’re going to need to trim it down before you get started. You can be pretty rough and imprecise with this process. All you’re looking to do is remove lots of hair very quickly. Simply pull it back and secure it with a clip, then trim it down to the clip length. After that’s all been trimmed down start to grab segments of the hair left over. Trim those segments down to whatever length you’re looking to start with. This should ideally be quite a short length, not more than three or four inches. The only exception is if you're going for an incredibly high fade.
Once you’ve finished this rough cutting process, it’s time to finesse. Begin at the top of your head (known as the crown) and use your comb (or hands) to hold lengths of hair out and trim them down to equal lengths with your scissors. Work your way down to the more rounded part of your head (the area where the clippers are going to be doing most of the work).
Clipper Cutting and Fading
At this point your work with the scissors is pretty much done and you want to bust the clippers out. I usually recommend starting with a lower-numbered guard and working your way up. For some beginners though, working in reverse can help if you're worried about going too short. If you need a run-through on guard sizes, you can read my guide here
. (The next section assumes you’re starting with a lower guard, like a #2 or #3.) Start down the bottom and slowly work your way up cutting the back and sides of your head. Work slowly to get an even cut, this is not the kind of thing you want to rush. Gently sweep upward in a pendulum-like motion and work off the hair in thin strokes. Once this is complete move up a clipper size or two. Cut slightly further up the head, beginning at the top of the last guards cut. This give you the fade effect you’re after and will nicely blend together. Depending on how you want it styled, you can move up again and create another layer with a higher guard. Be careful to check for layer lines when moving between these cuts. If you can see an obvious split between the cuts (layers), cut around the head (and over the line) with the clippers in more circular fashion and blend the two layers together.
After you’ve finished this process you should have a pretty complete cut. It will likely just need a few touchups at this point. So grab a mirror and carefully inspect the cut and make any necessary corrections. If it’s your first time it’ll likely be a little uneven on one side – now is the time to fix that.
After your cut is looking sharp you’re free to style it however you like.
As a good point of reference I found a useful video off of YouTube from creator Beginnercutz which shows some of the fundamentals and a good basic technique to get a feel for it.