Move over, man bun. Euro 2016 proves that the fade is the haircut of the season. Military-style buzz meets Elvis pompadour. And everyone – footballers, cricketers, pop stars – is getting it
In school, the trendy kids had longer hair.
It was the late ’90s. Shah Rukh Khan was sporting GAP hoodies and synthetic T-shirts in Kuch Kuch Hota Hai (athleisure, ahead of the times, it now seems) and prancing around the college basketball court with long, gelled hair. The early 2000s brought with it a longer-haired John Abraham, and his cricketing hair twin, MS Dhoni. And then came the haircut that deserves the what-were-we-thinking prize: Salman Khan’s middle parting in Tere Naam.
Naturally, long hair was what all the boys wanted. And a tube of Brylcreem (a tub, if you were rich) was a much-prized possession.
Old Brylcreem commercial with MS Dhoni
But by the mid-2000s, men’s hair started getting shorter. David Beckham chopped his mane off. Dhoni and Abraham, hair twins still, followed soon after. The generation that grew up on rock music had responsibilities now, and was dressing for work. And EDM and Justin Bieber demanded no dramatic head-banging.
Cut to 2016, and athletes, as always, are leading the charge of the dandy army. And while the stray blonde mohawk and Samurai bun still shows up, the one haircut that’s everywhere is the fade. More than half the footballers in Euro 2016 have it. Almost the entire Indian cricket team, led by Virat Kohli, has it. Zayn Malik has it. Idris Elba. Ryan Reynolds. Beckham. You get the drift.
What’s the fade?
Avani Yashwin, who runs the hip salon, Happy in the Head, in Bandra, says Johan Djourou (Swiss footballer) is the new MS Dhoni when it comes to hairstyles. Yashwin calls the fade a new-age take on the pompadour: “Long on top, with the sides buzzed gradually. Lighter near the ears, darker towards the top.” Think old-school Elvis Presley glam meets neat, military crew cut.
But like a lot of things in fashion, the fade isn’t new; it’s reinvented. Brad Pitt, playing sergeant Don ‘Wardaddy’ Collier in the WWII film, Fury (2014), sports a sharp fade. That’s because the style derives from American military from the ’50s-’60s, as do a lot of short hairstyles through human history.
Roman generals, for instance, wore their hair short because it was practical in battles (hard for the enemy to grab you by the hair). The Scots – enemies to the Romans – saw themselves as free men, and wore their hair and beards long. The easiest pop-culture reference is in Game of Thrones. The military-minded Lannisters wear their hair short; the “free folk” wear it long. Evidently, George RR Martin knows a thing or two about hair trends.
That’s great. But should I get it?
Not so long ago, the man bun was what every hipster worth his cold-pressed juice wanted. But Yashwin says it never took off in a big way: “To get to it, you go through a phase when your hair is neither short, nor long. That’s when most men change their minds.” And in India, hairstyles are driven as much by weather as they are by celebrities.
Which is why hairstylists are hailing the fade. It’s practical, and good for our hot, humid climate because the sides and the back are taken care of. It can also be hip while still being work-appropriate. “It’s trendy in a way that tattoos and yellow shoes could never be,” says Yashwin.
Jaykumar Pawar, assistant manager in training, Truefitt & Hill, he’s mostly seeing men between 20 to 30 ask for the fade. But while it may be low-maintenance, Pawar says you need to ideally visit the barber every 20 days to keep it looking sharp.
How to fade with a clipper
The new-look Indian man
It isn’t just the urban Indian male that looks at a hairstyle in Euro 2016 and wants it. Rohit Chawla, founder, CEO, The Man Company, a men’s-only grooming brand, says there’s significant demand for hair and beard products from tier-II cities. And while women still dominate the market, Euromonitor’s India study says men’s grooming sales rose by 18% in just 2015.
We’re living in the heyday of men’s grooming. You can sport a full beard and not look unemployable. You can team a tattoo with a striped shirt. You can have an unabashed discussion on pomades, hair waxes, glue sticks (yes, it’s a thing, for hair, not sticking envelopes). And you can change your haircut every two months if you like. Just promise never to go back to that middle-parting.
TYPES OF FADE
■ Low: The hair maintains its usual shape and length on top, and thins down gradually at the bottom, as the fade meets the beard or the sideburns.
■ High: It’s a more radical version of the low fade. You can notice a distinct difference between the long section of the hair at the top and a deep buzz on the sides.
■ Temple: This kind of a fade is also known as an Afro Blowout. The hairline on the sides and back are cut really short. The hair is faded to about an inch. The length of the hair beyond is maintained and tapered up to two inches or more.
■ Regular: The back of the head and the sides are buzzed. The length of the hair decreases as you go down the scalp. The hair on the sides and back of the head is almost negligible.
WHAT TO KEEP HANDY
■ Hair clipper: If you don’t want to visit the barber every other week, and wish to trim your hair yourself, a hair clipper is a must-buy.
■ Hair wax: If you have a long day ahead, make sure to use the wax to set your hair. The wax will also give you a matte finish sans shine. It will also help you achieve the sharp spikes without a greasy feel.
■ Pomade: The scented, water-soluble paste is a popular alternative to products like gel, wax and hairspray. It is ideal product for styling if you want a shiny look. Add some water to the mix for a wet look.
■ Hair gel: If you have a Mohawk or want hard spikes to stay for hours, a hair gel is a must-buy.