Box Fade Haircut

Hairdresser cutting a box fade
Photo: Artem Voropai/Shutterstock
Q: What exactly is a box fade and how do you do one?
A: The box fade haircut is one of several “fade haircut” variants. The fade haircut features closely clipper cut sides and back that taper as the hair progresses downward along the scalp. At the bottom of the haircut, the hair is virtually shaved. The impression created is that the hair “fades” as your eye moves downward.
The “box fade” variant is primarily used for men with very curly or kinky hair. The style was very popular in the late 80s and early 90s among African-American rap music artists and Motown groups of the period. What differentiates the ‘box fade’ from other fade styles is the finish of the hair at the top of the head.
In a box fade haircut, the hair above the parietal ridge is cut in a beveled rectangular shape that has corners at the corners of the head. The length on top is typically around 1 to 1-1/2 inches and the very top of the cut is leveled into a flattop, or cut to follow the curvature of the top of the skull.
To properly execute the box fade, you will need clippers and an edger/trimmer that is adjustable to allow you to cut the hair to a near-shaved length. To cut the hair you can use the clippers with a length guard to cut the hair on the sides and back to approximately 3/16ths of an inch (about 1 cm) keeping the cutting line vertical as you progress upward past the parietal ridge. Repeat the cutting process, switching to a shorter length guard, and stopping approximately ½ inch from the parietal ridge.
Continue in this manner using shorter and shorter lengths as you progress downward. Be sure to blend the lengths so that the changing length of the hair is very gradual. Once the lower portion of the haircut is complete, return to the top of the head and create your “box”.
Cut the top of the head in the desired manner – either following the curve of the scalp or flattened off to a 1-inch length. Use a barbering comb to create the bevels on the sides and back of the head. Leave the hairline at the forehead natural.
The cut can be adjusted to suit an individual’s head shape and/or personal tastes. Some prefer their “fades” to be super short with the “shaved lengths” nearly halfway up the sides of the head, while others prefer a less dramatic look and a more gradual taper.
See also:
Clipper cutting techniques
How to cut hair with clippers
Short back and sides men's cut
How do you fade with clippers?