Comb Over Fade Haircut: What It Is & Why You Should Try It

When it comes to hair, ‘smart’ tends to be a synonym for ‘boring’. This poses a dilemma for those who need to appear polished, but don’t want to look like a tank-top-wearing, Sunday-school teacher.

Thankfully, there is a solution, and it’s known in tonsorial circles as the comb over fade: a razor-sharp cut that blends military tradition with modern barbering techniques to deliver a look that’s both presentable and contemporary. It’s the sort of hairstyle your boss would approve of, but unlike a boring old crew cut it’s got plenty of attitude, and leaves a good amount of room for personalisation and experimentation.

If you’re looking for a hairstyle that can blend into corporate environments without coming across stale or stuffy at the weekend, this is the trim for you. Below you’ll find everything you need to know about the comb over fade, including what exactly it is, and how to pick the right variation for you.

What Is A Comb Over Fade?

There are two key elements to the comb over fade hairstyle: the comb over and the fade. The fade sets the tone for the whole thing, so it’s important to understand exactly what it is before going any further.

In the barbering world, a fade is a technique whereby differing lengths of short hair are blended together with clippers. When executed well, this results in a smooth graduated look, from short stubble (or even no hair at all – a skin fade) at the bottom into slightly longer hair further up the head. It looks sharp, clean and modern, and is an excellent way to breathe new life into more traditional haircuts, just like the classic comb over.

Where the fade deals with the back and sides, the comb over concerns the hair on the top of the head. This is left longer and styled into a neatly defined side parting. The combination of the two creates a cut that mixes the old with the new – smart without straying into stuffy territory, and contemporary while still classic.

Should I Get A Comb Over Fade?

The biggest deciding factor in whether to get a comb over fade or not is face shape. Generally, the comb over fade works for anyone, but those with long, rectangular faces should exercise caution. If the fade is too high up the head it can elongate the face and neck, which is something to be avoided. To combat this, bring the fade further down.

It’s also worth noting that the comb over itself will leave little to the imagination when it comes to your hairline. If you’re thinning or receding, this style will highlight this as opposed to hiding it, so if you’re beginning to lose your hair you may want to consider a different style.

Top 5 Comb Over Fade Hairstyles

Not all comb over fades are created equal. There are lots of different takes on this particular hairstyle, each with slightly different characteristics and styling requirements. Below we’ve picked out five of the key comb over fade variations, including what they are, what to ask the barber for, and how to keep them looking their best at home.

Classic Comb Over Fade

The original and arguably best, the classic comb over fade features short to medium-length hair on top, combed into a prominent side parting, with a clean fade at the back and sides. It’s an updated take on a classic Ivy League style, mixing tradition with modernity.

Ask the barber for a classic comb over fade and they’ll know what to do. You can also specify how low or high you’d like the fade to be, depending on your face shape. For long faces, ask the barber to bring the fade fairly low down.

To style this trim at home, you’ll need a comb and some pomade. Apply a small amount of the product, using the comb to define the side parting and work the hair into place.

Hard Parting Comb Over Fade

For a slightly harsher look, this variation accentuates the side parting by having it cut in. It’s much like the classic comb over fade, but the gap where the hair is parted is defined using unguarded clippers to shave the line in.

Get the look by asking your barber for a classic comb over fade with a hard parting. You can always take a photograph along with you to show them exactly what you mean.

The parting will grow out fairly quickly, so make sure to keep shaving it in regularly, and use pomade and a comb to keep everything else looking neat and tidy.

Slick Comb Over Fade

For a neat finish, this slightly longer-length variation of the comb over fade uses high-shine products to achieve a groomed, polished look. It’s a great option for anyone looking to keep things clean and tidy, and works best with straight hair.

Ask your barber for a classic comb over fade with medium length left on top. Take a picture with you to demonstrate exactly how much you want them to leave and how you plan to style it.

Styling is the most important factor when it comes to getting this version of the comb over fade right. You’ll need to use a high-shine product like a gel or hair polish to sculpt the hair into place and keep it there. Use a comb to work the product through and pay special attention to the side parting.

Quiff Comb Over Fade

With longer length on top, this style has the hair styled up into a quiff rather than combed over to the side. It’s a good option for those with wide or round faces, who will benefit from the additional height created.

First off, make sure the hair is grown out sufficiently to allow it to be styled into a quiff to begin with. Ask the barber for a comb over fade and explain that you want enough length left on top to wear it in a loose quiff.

At home, use a blow dryer and a brush to work the hair into a quiff when damp, using a pomade and a comb to finish the job once dry.

Disconnected Comb Over Fade

This modern variation of the classic comb over fade dials things up by mixing longer-length hair on top with a high fade to create a sharp contrast between lengths.

To pull this style off, you’ll need a good amount of hair to start with. Grow it out to a medium/long length before visiting the barber. Once it’s where it needs to be, ask the barber for an undercut with a side part and a high fade. To really accentuate the disconnected look, ask for the fade to be kept short and subtle. You could even go all out and ask for a skin fade.

Due to the shortness of the back and sides, you’ll need regular touch ups if you want to keep it looking sharp. A trip to the barber every few weeks should do the trick. When it comes to styling, use a comb and a touch of product to keep the hair loosely in place.

Paddy Maddison

Paddy Maddison is Ape's Style Editor. His work has been published in Esquire, Men’s Health, ShortList, The Independent and more. An outerwear and sneaker fanatic, his finger is firmly on the pulse for the latest trends, while always maintaining an interest in classic style.