What’s the difference between a taper and a fade?

With barbering boosted to the forefront of the hair and beauty industry, millions of men are returning to traditional barber shops, actively seeking a fashionable haircut.

Amongst the most popular styles in demand right now are the taper and the fade. If you spend enough of your time in barber shops you’ll certainly see a plethora of these cuts performed.

The popularity of tapers and fades relates to their easy-to-manage nature, alongside their versatility. Both cuts feature cropped tops, sides and backs, and share similarities with modern military cuts – providing the wearer with a short, clean, professional style that’s suitable for both the office and a night on the town.

But while they might look similar, there are in fact a few crucial differences between the two.

What is a taper?

Think tapered jeans – which get skinnier towards the calves and ankles, but remain a little looser up top.

A traditional taper cut sees the length of the hair graduate from the top of the head, down to the sides and nape in a symmetrical fashion that leaves your natural hairline visible.

The top of the head usually features hair that is between two and four inches long, while the sides and back feature clipper grades that gradually get shorter. For example, you may ask to start with a grade three and finish on a grade one at the bottom.

The taper is amongst the most popular styles in men’s fashion right now because it allows the wearer to style their hair with product, while still enjoying the comfort and ease that comes with short hair on the sides and back.

What is a fade?

The fade is a classic cut with plenty of history. In the past it was typically worn by military men and adopted the name ‘high and tight’. Today, it’s a favourite for men that are looking for a low maintenance style that’s still fashionable.

Like a taper cut, a fade graduates the hair from top to bottom. However, there are noticeable differences in how early the fade effect begins and where on the head it finishes.

Unlike a taper, the fade effect happens much more quickly and finishes above the natural hairline; giving the appearance that your hair has blended into your skin. The hair on top of the head is often shorter than a taper too, usually less than two inches.

There are many fade variations and all have slightly different characteristics; skin fade, low fade, hi-top fade, half fade, etc. For the best results, it’s always better to take an example of a fade you like into your barber, so that they know exactly where to start and finish the fade.

Ultimately, no matter what style you are looking to achieve, the entire cut should have a smooth, streamline finish to it.

Which is the right choice for you?

If you’re looking for a low maintenance style that requires little-to-no effort in the mornings, then a fade cut is more suitable for you. The shorter hair on top creates less faff when it comes to styling but the time between each cut is shorter. Of course, you could always go for longer hair on top of a fade for a more daring finish.

Alternatively, if you’re the type of guy that likes to experiment with styling products on a daily basis, then the extra length that comes with a taper cut is perfect for you. The extra length also adds versatility, meaning you can style your hair neatly for the office, and a little more relaxed for the weekends. We’d suggesting running some matt paste through freshly cut locks for a dry finish that looks effortlessly cool.


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