Likewise, fades are a popular component to many different hairstyles that has existed since the invention of clippers. However, they too can vary in finish, which can have a huge effect on the resulting style.
In the following guide, you will learn about both crew cuts and fade haircuts from their differences and similarities as well as how to style them properly. You will also be able to learn how one may be styled to suit your face shape.
See All Hairstyle Content!
Our full guide to crew cuts and fades is one of the most complete hairstyle overviews on the internet. You will learn about the different variations that exist as well as how to style them both by a professional and at home.
Furthermore, you can read our buying guide to the best styling aids for this haircut as well as how well it will suit your face shape. If you’re looking to learn about either crew cuts, fades or both, you’ve come to the right place!
Classic, practical & smart. The crew cut is a versatile haircut that can be adapted to any man's style!
What Is A Crew Cut?
A Crew Cut is often a generic term applied to most very short hairstyles. And when you ask your barber for “short back and sides,” it’s most likely what he’ll give you. Usually, the difference in length comes to about an inch (2.5 cm).
Varieties of Crew Cuts include the Regulation, where the top is left a bit longer, which allows for a little styling.
There is also the Ivy League, which leaves enough for a side part or bangs. Although the rigid terminology has fallen out of favour, Crew Cuts are a timeless barbershop style.
A notable variation is the High and Tight, a style derived from the US Marines. This is also referred to as a “skin fade” outside the military. The hair on the back and sides is clipped no more than a sixteenth of an inch (1.5 mm) up to just above the temples.
The length at top can vary. Traditionally more than a quarter of an inch (1 cm) is kept to cushion the pressure of a combat helmet. To show just how different hairstyles can overlap, the boundary between the top and sides can sometimes be outlined by a disconnected fade or even an Undercut layer.
Fades and Crew Cuts go hand in hand on a men’s haircut. However, they’re not one and the same. The fade is a fundamental aspect of not just military cuts but a cornerstone in men’s hairstyles. You’ll see a variety of fades in short styles as well as medium styles.
A fade is essentially the way that the hair tapers from down the back and sides. This can be aggressive but can also be quite subtle depending on the cut. A fade isn’t a haircut in itself but a component that accompanies the hairstyle as a whole.
What’s The Difference Between A Crew Cut & Fade?
Overall, crew cuts and fades are terms thrown around interchangeably. However, there are a few key differences. Firstly, a crew cut defines the haircut as a whole.
As mentioned above, these vary somewhat but tend to all share the same “short back and sides” characteristic.
Meanwhile, the fade is a particular component of a haircut. This isn’t only found on crew cuts but many others as we will describe below. Therefore, fades aren’t exclusive to crew cuts despite their association and relationship.
How To Choose Your Haircut’s Fade
The three standard heights for a fade are high, medium and low.
High indicates that the fade begins just above the temples where-as medium is more-or-less where the ears connect the head. Low, on the other hand, will begin just above the nape.
Fades are a very important factor to take in consideration when talking to your barber and their effectiveness varies depending on hairstyle coherence and face shapes. It would be vulgar to suggest that the Fade is the bread and butter of men’s hairstyles. However, it would be an understatement to suggest that it is anything less than fundamental.
At the turn of the 20th Century, young men would get an Undercut because they were unable to afford a barber competent enough to do a proper Fade, which suggests that although it’s very common, it’s far from easy to achieve perfectly.
How To Style A Crew Cut & Fade
Once you’ve had your preferred cut, you may be looking to style it depending on the length you’ve left on top. A few inches on top can allow you to style any of the following:
Simply click on one the guides above to learn more about them. To find out about the best products, read on.
What Are The Best Hair Products For You Crew Cut?
There are two ways in which you can style your hair. You could either opt for a matte finish that can be restyled throughout the day or gel, which will solidify for a rock-hard wet look.
Best Gel For Crew Cut hairstyles
If you’re looking for a wet and rock hard look for a faux hawk or side part, then gels may be your styling aid of choice. Gels are an excellent choice for those wanting a durable hold that won’t need restyling.
For this type of finish, we’re particularly fond of Redkin’s Stand Tough Maximum Control Extreme, which is the hardest hair gel we came across. Sold in a large 5 Oz tube in Amazon, it’ll keep you going for months.
Conversely, the inability to restyle may be inconvenient for some. For instance, if you wear a hat or like to run your fingers through your hair, the gel may flake. Therefore, consider a pomade or wax instead.
Best Wax For Crew Cut Hairstyles
Alternatively, for those looking for a more natural and maleable look, wax or putties are excellent choices. Working between the fingertips, they become a soft clay, which can then be massaged into the hair.
Ideally, wax can be restyled throughout the day. Therefore, if you wear a hat, run your fingers through your hair or find yourself under the rain, you can simply work it again without adding more product.
There are many different waxes available on the market. However, we really like using V76 by Vaughn V Rated Natural Wax, which provides an excellent hold with a mild shine.
Best Pomade For Crew Cut Hairstyles
Finally, if you’re looking for a more traditional hair product that gives both a shine and allows restyling then pomades may be the ultimate choice.
Similar to those used by our grandfathers, pomades offer maximum hold and classic styling.
These give a stronger hold than wax whilst offering the same shine as gel. Although some products aren’t water based (meaning they can be hard to wash out), many have entered the 21st century with more practical ingredients.
For instance, Uppercut offer a premium pomade that is reminiscent of old products in both shine and hold but is water soluble so you can wash it out afterwards. Available on Amazon for a shade over $10, it’s certainly worth adding to your bathroom cabinet.
Maintaining Your Fade At Home
Rather than heading back to the barbershop on a regular basis, you can always touch up your cut at home. This may take a little practice or a helping hand from a friend or partner but can save a few pennies down the line.
In order to achieve this, we recommend a heavy duty and professional trimmer. Although the beard trimmers we review may be capable of the task, professional trimmers are more durable and versatile.
Bespoke Unit founder Paul Anthony is particularly fond of the Andis Professional hair clippers, which he uses for both his head and beard. Unlike most trimmers, these feature interchangeable ceramic blades and the corded option can be upgraded with a battery pack.
Furthermore, a good trimmer can be used from anything from your beard to your hair. These can be an investment, but they will last many years. The Andis Professional clippers themselves cost just under $200 on Amazon but will last you many more years than the cheaper options out there.
Will A Crew Cut Or Fade Suit My Face Shape?
As previously mentioned Crew Cuts have their variants, which means that they can be tailored to a man’s requirements. Fades may only be a component of an entire haircut but their role is significant on a Fade. Although we will be primarily analysing the use of Fades on a haircut for each face shape, the same rules will apply for a Crew Cut.
If you have already read a few of our guides, you may be aware that we use face shapes to determine how well a particular hairstyle will work for different people. If you aren’t yet familiar with yours, refer to our identifying guide to learn more.
Oval Face Shapes
Oval face shapes have very balanced proportions. Therefore, they have a wide range of options to experiment with when trying Crew Cuts or Fades. This means that the top can be different lengths and the sides faded at different heights.
Round Face Shape
Round face shapes greatly benefit from Crew Cuts and Fades, which narrow the face and provide the necessary structure that render the features more angular. Be sure to keep volume on the top with at least an Ivy League length and a chopped or textured finish.
Square Face Shapes
Square face shapes are probably the most adapted to Crew Cuts. Their hardened features go well with military-inspired haircuts. Fades, however, require a little more precision to ensure that they don’t make the fade appear squashed. This means keeping them medium to high and avoiding any tapers below the ears.
Heart Face Shapes
Heart faces, however, best avoid crew cuts and fades that can cause the forehead to widen. This means ensuring that Fades are slight and very low. It’s best to stay close to an Ivy League length rather than anything shorter.
Incompatible Face Shapes
Oblong Face Shapes
Oblong face shapes ought to steer clear from tight sides to avoid elongating their face. Although at an extreme push, a low Fade may work, it’s far from recommended compared to scissor-cut sides.