Taper vs. Fade Haircut: What’s the Difference?

Young man from back with curly taper fade haircut


Have you ever gone to a barbershop and requested a specific haircut only to be disappointed with the outcome? This is a regular occurrence for many men. It frequently happens because your barber is not clear as to what kind of haircut you truly want, causing a misunderstanding and a botched cut. However, it goes without saying that it’s easier to perfect your appearance once you know what you’re looking for.

Tapers and fades are two of the most popular haircuts among males, particularly among those who want a more edgy look. For years, the taper vs fade controversy has raged. In fact, some barbers are unable to distinguish between a fade and a taper since they use the terminology indiscriminately. That is okay in most circumstances since the fundamental principle is the same between the two: hair gradually getting shorter down the sides and back. While faded and tapered haircuts have a lot in common, knowing what each style has to offer is key to getting the right barbershop cut for you. In this article, we’re going to explore everything you need to know about fading, taper cuts, and the key differences between the two. Let’s get started.

What Is a Fade Haircut?

The fade cut was first seen in the US military in the 1940s and 1950s, and then in African-American and Hispanic barbershops. It was only in the 1990s that it became “popular culture” thanks to actors like Will Smith from the Fresh Prince of Bel Air.

The fade haircut was once considered an edgier hairstyle that might not have been acceptable in the workplace, but with its revival in recent years, it has become hugely acceptable for men to rock this style at work. Even more recently, the fade haircut has become extremely popular among men with all kinds of styles and hair lengths.

There are a variety of fades to pick from, all of which may be tailored to your hair texture, length, personality, and style. Fades, which gradually shorten hair into skin on the sides and back of the head while leaving greater length on the top, are versatile and may be worn with any haircut. From the sharp and cool, such as a mohawk fade, to the more subtle, such as a crew cut fade, there are endless possibilities with this cut. Fades give your look some structure while maintaining a professional appearance. Alternatively, they might highlight the hair on top to provide the idea of longer, fuller strands and contrast.

Man in barber chair getting a fade haircut

What Is a Taper Haircut?

A taper is the way to go if you want a clean and thick cut. Your stylist will start by drawing a design line where the hair is thickest, then add movement and a minimal taper to that line. They may use clippers for a cleaner look, but they more commonly resort to using fingers and shears for a more natural, flowing, “lived-in” look.

If you want to improve your game, talk to your stylist about the unique possibilities of a taper cut. This classic cut can be altered to fit any style — it can even be mixed with a fade — so be sure to communicate clearly with your barber about exactly what you want. Taper haircuts can be both elegant and state of the art at the same time, serving as a basis to create more flashy styles. Tapers have the advantage of being as safe — or as extreme — as you want them to be. They are wonderful for eliminating weight and making your mane more manageable, particularly if you have thick, wavy, or curly hair. Longer hair on top with hair on the sides and back of the head getting increasingly shorter as you approach the crown is the hallmark of a taper haircut. Such a cut increases the length of your face, offering your look some much-needed definition. Unless you specifically request otherwise, your barber is likely to complete your haircut with a taper.

Back view of a man's taper fade haircut

Key Differences Between Taper vs. Fades

Now that we’ve gone over a basic introduction to each style, let’s dive into the primary differences between a fade and taper haircut.

  • Tapers are typically significantly longer than fades.
  • Fades feature a sharper contrast in lengths, abruptly transitioning from long to short hair.
  • Tapers always have a consistent gradient.
  • Tapers are a more relaxed style, while fades are more precise and bold.

To the untrained eye, fades and tapers may appear to be identical, but this is not the case.

A fade is a type of taper, even though both forms have varying lengths and are sometimes used interchangeably as buzzwords. The fade, in contrast to the taper, is normally done in shorter lengths, i.e., low fades, as well as bald or skin fades. These involve cutting the hair all the way down to the scalp.

Taper cuts and fades require extremely different processes, despite their similar appearance, so be sure to communicate effectively with your barber about what you want.

Types of Fade Haircuts

While there are many several types of fades, the most popular choice are the drop, bald, high, mid, and low fade haircuts. When requesting your barber for a fade, you should start by stating where you want the cut to begin fading on the side of your head. But what next? You need to familiarize yourself with what these different fade cuts truly entail. Let’s get straight into that.

High Fade

The fading of the hair begins and ends high up on the back and sides of the head in a high fade haircut.

In some cases, hair barely goes around 1 to 1.5 inches down the sides and back of the head. The hair on the top of your head will appear thicker and fuller because of the stark contrast to the faded sides. It is reminiscent of military hairstyles such as the High and Tight.

Strong and striking elements, like a sharp disconnect, are the finest methods to customize a high fade haircut. In a high fade cut, more subtle elements are less likely to be noticed. Make sure you do not mix a high fade haircut with an undercut! The hair at the back and sides of the look is chopped to a uniform length without any gradient in an undercut haircut.

Mid Fade

The mid-fade hairstyle is a great all-around choice. It is a faded cut that terminates midway between a high fade and a low fade, or roughly between your forehead and your ears. When coupled with a mid-fade, old-school gel or side-parted styles offer you a fresh, modern touch. A mid fade with slicked back hair or natural curls, on the other hand, gives you a more professional and elegant look. If you prefer short hairstyles, the mid fade is still your best option. For some popular examples, look no further than some of the biggest celebrities: Jake Gyllenhaal, Justin Bieber, and Tom Hardy all rock the mid fade.

Bearded man in barber chair receiving a mid fade haircut

Low Fade

A low fade haircut is one in which the hair begins to fade significantly lower on the head. The fade will finish 3 inches from the thickest portion of the hairline in this variation. Men can have as much hair on the top of their head as they choose, just as they can with any other fade cut. A low fade style might provide you and your barber with more options to experiment with when it comes to the rest of your look. It is easier to develop unique characteristics and definition in the hair because there is simply more hair involved in the overall style. As part of a low fade style, the barber might produce alternating portions of thicker and thinner hair. This type of look is impossible to achieve with a high fade style because the lack of hair would render it unfeasible.

Bald Fade

Men’s bald fade haircuts, which trim hair all the way down to the skin, are immensely popular. They not only look great, but they also keep you cool and allow you to go longer between trims. A bald fade has chopped sides and back with a longer length on top, like many of today’s fashionable men’s hairstyles. The name ‘Fade‘ refers to the smooth transition between these different lengths. Unlike typical fades, which fade to shorter hair, a bald fade fades all the way down to the skin. As a result, the style is sophisticated yet stunning, with plenty of contrast. This cut, like other hairstyles, comes in a multitude of variations. As a result, it’s key to pick a style that suits and satisfies you.

Back view of a man with a bald fade haircut

Drop Fade

A drop fade is a complex, distinctive hairdo with a youthful vibe. The kind of fade is so named because the “fade drops behind the ear.” This creates a tidy arc to your look. The result is a clean looking haircut with a nice, even appearance.

A drop fade gives the appearance of your hairline ‘falling’ behind your ears. Starting from the front, such a style helps to define the face while also providing greater hair coverage around the crown. It also gives a little drama to the back and sides of a haircut, which are often overlooked in favor of the top style.

Benefits of a Fade Haircut

Now let’s move on to the benefits of the faded haircut. For quite some time, fading haircuts have been popular. This style is something that every barber is worth his weight in gold for and is well-versed in. They are also aware of the popularity of this hairstyle. Therefore, the faded haircut can be found in any hair salon with competent barbers; no worry there.

The faded haircut is also a versatile choice for men with varying hair texture, length, and style. It may be cut on any type of hair — thick, thin, straight, or wavy — and will still look great. It also gives you plenty of flexibility to choose your top-hair length.

Moreover, this hairstyle is suitable for a variety of face shapes. The volume of hair on top balances out the face, which is especially beneficial for those with round or square faces. In addition, unlike some types of hairstyles that suit only young boys, the faded haircut works great for both young and old. Men’s fading haircuts enable elderly people to look polished and professional while aiding young people to look hip and trendy.

Types of Taper Haircuts

Let us move to the type of taper haircuts that you can have. While there are a variety of variations to the taper haircut, the most popular choices are the high, low and classic taper cuts.

High Taper Fade

High taper fade is a men’s haircut with the sides trimmed gradually shorter, starting at the top of the hair, and working down to the sides of the head, keeping it to a maximum of 2 inches. This adaptable fade has been championed by men all around the world because of the great contrast it provides when paired with any hairdo! Just take Adam Levine’s undercut or Tatum’s brushed-back tresses as two instances of how this appealing fade has been effective and stylish. Because most of the sides will be chopped off, dense hair is better for achieving sharp definition and to allow for more styling freedom. To get the most out of this clean and sharp cut, use firm-hold styling tools like gels and pomades.

Back view of a man in a barber chair with a high taper fade

Low Taper Fade

The low taper fade haircut starts low, just above the ears, and gradually gets shorter. This one is best to attempt if you don’t like your sides fading too close to the skin and exposing your scalp. Because of the length you are permitted to have for styling, it is groomed enough but still has a gritty, tough finish, which is exactly what most modern men are looking for. Peek at Justin Bieber, Zac Efron, Nick Jonas, and Cameron Dallas’ low taper fades in some of their most recent photos! Because a low fade creates less contrast, you will need more length on top to balance out the look. The pompadour, comb-over, side part, and undercut are all good choices.

Classic Taper Fade

This variant is the classic taper haircut, and it is a favorite amongst men. The hair is cut short on the sides and back for this style, then blended into three inches of length on top. A styling cream is used to achieve gloss and separation. This style, like other tapered haircuts, may be worn forward or with additional texture to achieve a more relaxed, contemporary look. A light beard, carefully maintained, adds a hint of ruggedness to the look while remaining office appropriate. This haircut‘s length and style would be perfect for any age, lifestyle, or job. The style is also amazingly easy to maintain due to the shorter length all over.

Benefits of a Taper Haircut

Now let’s dive into the variety of benefits that a taper haircut provides you and your look. It remains one of the most fashionable and attractive styles due to its sharp and clear design. This cut is quite flexible, however, making it appealing to men of many ages and occupations. On the sides and back of the head, the sharp and jagged hairlines provide a smart and trendy blend. A clean, crisp, and elegant finish is achieved by using a short taper fade technique. Another nice asset of the conventional short taper fade haircut is that it serves as the foundation for many modern and popular hairstyles, such as the flat top, French crop, blowout, and many more. As a result, men who are looking for a haircut that will be low-maintenance and easy to keep up with should lean on the taper haircut. Men with short, tapered hairstyles appear more manly, attractive, powerful, and professional. In the workplace, a short taper fade hairstyle is consistent with the culture of professionalism. The most effective technique to be instantly identified and gain confidence is to get a taper haircut.

young man with a modern trendy fade haircut fresh from the barbershop


The taper cut and fade cut are two of the most common hairstyle choices that are around today — and they both appear similar! The confusion around their differences even stretches into barbershops, where the pros use the terms indiscriminately. To clear things up, a fade generally grows shorter into skin, while a taper maintains some length of hair even at its shortest length. Both styles come in a variety of different options: the drop, high, low, mid, and bald fade, as well as the high, low, and classic taper fade. Each one of these cuts is unique in its own way, and offers its own set of stylistic nuances to your look. Find the one that’s perfect for you!

Was this article helpful?