Taper vs Fade vs Taper Fade Haircuts (Learn the Difference)

So, it’s time to change up your ‘do, huh?

There are PLENTY of hairstyles to choose from these days. So many that it can be difficult to make a decision as to what to go for.

If you haven’t been captivated by the spell of the Jon Snow inspired long hair movement, you can’t go too wrong with the tried and trusted fade or taper hairstyle.

Fades and tapers are all the rage these days—and they have been for aeons. Both the fade and taper hairstyles provide a clean, crisp look that can be pulled off well in both the casual or professional setting.

This is arguably the best thing about these hairstyles. Their versatility. You can go from boardroom to bar and not look out of place.

Most guys recognize the names, but not everyone can tell the difference between the taper, fade, or taper fade.

Right off the bat, we’re going to let you in on a little secret.

Technically, there’s no such thing as a taper fade.

Yep, a taper and a fade are two completely different hairstyles. Keep reading and we’ll clear it all up for you.

How are tapers and fades similar?

The Taper:

vs The Fade:

Tapers and fades are quite similar styles and can be easily mistaken for one another.

Both tapers and fades begin with the longest hair at the top of the scalp. This hair gets shorter and shorter as it leads towards the back of your head and down the sides.

Since fades and tapers grow back evenly, they’re quite easy to maintain. On top of this, if you decide you don’t like your new hairstyle, it’s fairly hassle-free to change it up again.

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Last update on 2018-09-12 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

What is a taper haircut?

Low taper:


High taper:

The process of tapering hair involves reducing its length in a manner that forms a gradient.

The gradient starts with longer hair at the top and leads into short hair closer to the hairline. Tapering is used in the majority of men’s haircuts to some degree, particularly near the base. This is where the haircut ends near the hairline.

Tapering allows for easy management and symmetry of different hairstyles. To learn more about men’s hair styling, check out this piece.

To help style and hold the longer hair on top you’ll need a quality pomade.

We’re liking this pomade by Smooth Viking. It’s easy to apply, not too greasy, and most importantly, actually holds your hair in place. Check it out here:

Last update on 2018-09-12 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

A true ‘taper’ leaves quite a fair amount of hair at the top of the head. Typically it’s around two to four inches, but tapers can be longer.

What is a fade haircut?

Low fade:


High fade:

Like tapers, fades are also gradient haircuts. They start with the long hair at the front that leads to short hair down the back and sides.

Fades are different than tapers, firstly, because the hair at the start of the gradient is typically much shorter than that of a taper.

The second reason is due to the nature of a fade itself.

There is a lot more attention to detail used in a fade. Like the name suggests, fade haircuts are supposed to give the impression of hair fading directly into the skin. The hairline is supposed to be minimized.

Fades can be different lengths. “Low fades” end very close to the hairline, and “high fades” come to a stop quite a bit above the ears.

Either way, the fade cut is supposed to blend the tone of the skin with the hair, giving the appearance of – well, a fade.

Fades are meant to be accurate and smooth, whereas tapers can be a bit more artistic or casual.

Fade cuts are also much more difficult to do at home because of this element of precision.

Well then genius, what’s a taper fade?

The taper fade isn’t actually a style of hair. If you ask your barber for a taper fade, you’ll probably end up with a taper—unless you specify.

Taper fade is just a term that many people use to lump together the fade and the taper hairstyles since they’re so similar.

Technically (and somewhat confusingly), a taper is a form of fade, but a fade is not a form of taper, as is outlined in this video:

As mentioned, if you’re going for a taper, you should know what type of taper you want.

If your barber isn’t clarifying if you want a low taper, a mid-taper, or a high taper, he’s probably not communicating properly.

The same applies if you’re requesting a fade haircut.

Should I get a Taper or Fade?

It’s up to you, of course. Both are extremely popular hairstyles, and both can lay the foundation for more intricate hairstyles. Short hair leaves the potential for barbers to shave artistic details into it.

You can add custom designs to your fades, such as having the fade end with triangles or ‘spikes.’ You can leave the top of your hair untouched and fade the sides.

A bald fade tapers down from the top, leading to completely shaved sides and back of your head. While a faux hawk has long hair in the middle of the head, similar to a Mohawk, but it tapers into a fade on the sides and back.

Bald fade:

Faux hawk:

There are a lot of choices. Both tapers and fades are very versatile and can be worn in pretty much any social or work environment.

Let’s be honest, if the military approves of the fade, you can be sure that most employers won’t have a problem with them!

The bottom line – fades are simple, cheap, yet give the appearance of being well-maintained. It’s an easy way to demonstrate that you’re a man who puts effort into your appearance.

And if you’re a long-time reader of this site, you’ll know we think that’s the type of man you should be!

Additional resources:

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