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Taper vs Fade Haircuts: Which Is The One For You

‘Taper’ and ‘fade’ are two of the most common words you’ll hear bandied about barbershops, but the truth is that very few people understand the difference between the two. So, what's the difference between a taper vs fade cut?

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The truth is it’s not just the customers either, there are plenty of barbers who also don’t understand.

The two styles are similar, but with distinct differences. Over the years, however, the terms have come to be used interchangeably.

We'll dispel some of the confusion surrounding these two versatile dos and give some background on the different variations. Read on to discover what sets fades and tapers apart.

man with blue shirt and tapered haircut

So, What’s The Difference?

Both cuts feature descending lengths on the sides and back that get shorter from the top to the bottom. The difference between the taper vs fade lies in the sheerness of the descent and the length. Both tapers and fades are essentially upgraded short back and sides.

The taper is more conservative than the fade, a classic, versatile cut that features a gradually shortening hair length. The hair length should decrease evenly across the back and sides, following your hair’s natural growth. This cut allows for more length on the sides and back.

The main difference in a taper vs fade is that with the latter, the length doesn’t have to reduce gradually. Instead, the length can instantly go from long to short. They also tend to be shorter, going right down to the skin, minimizing the hairline. These cuts are often paired with dramatic hairstyles like mohawks, combovers or undercuts.

Which Is The One For You?

What are you trying to achieve? When you’re deciding between a taper vs fade cut think about your face shape and which haircuts tend to suit someone of your stature.

If you’re looking for a safer, inoffensive cut then taper is more likely to be the one. Whereas if you’re looking for something with a little more edge and bravado, consider a fade.

Our Shortlist for Types of Fades and Tapers

Low Fade

The low fade is the fade that is most like a taper. That’s because it fades low, close to the ear, in the same way as a taper. That said, however, a fade and a taper differ in their evenness. While a low fade will abruptly reduce to the skin, a taper will always gradually and evenly reduce in length.

man outdoors with a fade haircut

Taper Fade Comb Over

This cut suits older men with thinning hair. It involves fading the hair on the back and sides, then leaving the hair long on top and combed over.

Drop Fade

A drop fade is the most abrupt of the fades. They create a bold and stylish look that shows confidence by creating juxtaposition through the top and the sides.

man in a denim jacket with fade haircut

Bald Fade

Most fades leave the hair on top dramatically longer, but not this one. In a bald fade, the top is very short and fades only slightly on the sides and at the back. This cut works very well with kinky hair when you’re considering a taper vs fade cut.

Skin Fade

Whereas other fade styles like the low and high fade’s names refer to where the fade is executed, ‘skin’ fade refers to how it’s done. It’s faded down to skin level, meaning that the hair stops before its natural stopping point.

man with fade haircut

High Fade

As the name suggests, a high fade is when the fade occurs far up the head, close to the top section. It’s perfect for creating a dramatic style when paired with a top-heavy style like a quiff or pompadour.

Undercut Fade

Also known as the ‘disconnect’, this cut adds a blurry fade to the undercut. The hair’s cut from a line extending back from the temple while the top is left medium to long. It’s somewhat similar to a high fade and can be slicked back, worked into a pompadour or a faux mohawk.

man with a black shirt and tapered haircut

Low Taper

A low taper refers to a haircut where the hair is gradually cut down to the hairline, gently reducing the closer it gets to the natural hairline.

High Taper

A high taper features hair that’s cut fairly high on the back and sides at around 2 inches higher than the top of the ear.

Tapered Neckline

This is where the tapered hairline follows the natural hairline at the nape. The taper could be low and applied to the bottom of the hairline, at a medium length, or high, showing a lot of scalp.

Taper Vs Fade Haircuts