Taper vs. Fade Haircut: What is the Difference?

Taper vs. Fade Haircut

Having a bad haircut is not uncommon. We are all familiar with the experience and have received a haircut we disliked at some point in our lives. Unsatisfactory results can happen due to a couple of reasons; when you are experimenting with a new hairstyle, when you are unsure of what you want, or when you are dealing with an inexperienced barber. However, regardless of whatever other factors, it can be agreed that having a bad haircut is a terrible experience. It is an occasion where things do not go the way that you had initially planned it to be. Furthermore, to add insult to injury, a bad haircut is irreversible. There is no undo button for a haircut that is either botched up or does not fit you. Unfortunately, in dealing with one, the only thing you can do is wait - for your hair to grow to look better than it initially was, and up to the point where you can get another haircut again.

The ‘Taper’ and the ‘Fade’ are two popular and common hairstyles mentioned in a barbershop. They are both clean, sleek, and fit regardless of one’s hair type and facial structure. However, despite their popularity, the two are typically used interchangeably with some customers and even some barbers who do not truly know the difference between them.

One of the causes of a bad haircut is not knowing what you want. This is a source of miscommunication and can cause confusion between the customer and the barber, which can lead to a haircut that the customer does not want. Here, we will provide you with information describing the similarities and differences between the taper and the fade, as well as their different styles. For anyone wanting to try out either one of these hairstyles, it is important to know what they are to prevent any more instances of bad haircuts.

What Makes Them So Similar Yet So Different?

What Makes Them So Similar Yet So Different?

While many are confused about what differentiates the taper and the fade haircut, perhaps the biggest and only similarity between the two is that both styles feature a decreasing length of hair from the top portion of the head all the way down to the hairline. With both hairstyles, hair is at its longest near or the top and slowly gets shorter as you go down.

What truly separates the two is the degree to which the hair is shortened and the specific locations in which they do so. 

To taper is to gradually lessen. With this haircut, while hair becomes gradually shortened as you approach the hairline, there is always a small amount of hair that is left. The fade, on the other hand, can be considered as the shorter version of the taper. With the fade, hair is gradually shortened to the skin and essentially ‘fades out’ before reaching the hairline. Regarding the specific locations in which hair is shortened, the taper is typically only located at two spots; the sideburns and the neckline, while the fade is applied to all portions of the head.

The Taper and Styles

The Taper and Styles

Widely considered to be a classic and conservative cut, the taper provides men with a clean look that can match well with either casual or formal settings. Despite the simplicity of the taper, there are a variety of styles available for this haircut that not only looks good but also works well with anyone’s preferences.

Low Taper

The Low Taper is a specific style of the taper haircut where the length of hair only begins to noticeably lessen as it nears the lower level of the head, typically just below the ear. This is a good style for those who would prefer to maintain more length, as well as for those who do not want to expose too much of their skin.

Mid Taper

On the other hand, the Mid Taper has the length of hair beginning to shorten around the midpoint of the head, just above the ear. This serves as a good balance between both low and high tapers.

High Taper

The High Taper, as can be guessed, has the length of hair begin to shorten immediately after the top portion of the head, about 2 inches above the top of the ear. Due to the point in which the hair begins to shorten, the end product would be that of having high contrast with the amount of hair one would have at the top, compared with that of the sides and back.

The taper is a haircut on its own; however, given that it mainly focuses on the bottom half of the hair, the back, and the side – it is oftentimes paired up with other hairstyles, which in turn can result in some very good-looking combinations. Some of our picks for the best hairstyles to be paired with the taper would be the; Low Taper with Slicked Back Hair, Low Taper with French Crop, Tapered Sides with the Crew Cut, and the Low Taper with Comb Over.

The Fade and Styles

The Fade and Styles

Being the trendier look, the fade provides men’s haircuts with the edge and style that is clean, sleek, and yet stands out. Like the taper, the principles of Low Taper, Mid Taper, and High Taper apply with the fade - a Low Fade would have hair begin to shorten at the area below the ear, a Mid Fade would do so at the top of the ear, and a High Fade would do so two inches above ear. The only difference would be that the fade is applied to all sections of the head and that its length can go all the way down to the skin. Aside from these, though, there are still other variations of the fade. These provide their looks and style that plays with what the traditional fades give. Here are some of our picks of the best variations of the fade.

Drop Fade

The Drop Fade is a variation of the typical fade. Rather than the linear gradient that a regular one would do, the Drop Fade would follow the normal line along the sides of the head but would ‘drop’ down behind the ear towards the neckline, mimicking the natural direction of the hairline. This abrupt fade brings a bold and stylish look.

High Skin Fade

With this variation of the fade, the length in which the fade goes down is specified to disappear to skin level. The fade occurs on the upper area of the head and leaves a lot of skin at the sides and back of the head. This creates quite the contrast between the bottom and top portion of the head.

Burst Fade

Fades normally occur across the whole area of the head. Only the sides are given the fade with this variation, while the area behind the ear and down to the neckline is tapered. This creates a look that is quite similar to the Drop Fade.

Again, like the taper, the fade, although also being a haircut of its own, mainly focuses on the bottom half of the hair - which makes it a great complement to other hairstyles. Some of our picks for the best hairstyles to go with the fade would be the; Undercut Fade, Bald Fade, Buzz Cut with Low Fade, and the Pompadour Fade.

The Taper Fade?

The Taper Fade

What is the ‘Taper Fade’? This is another term that is often passed around in the barbershop. Sadly, unlike the two terms that make the ‘Taper Fade,’ it does not refer to any specific style of haircut. It is not a taper or fade or even a combination of the two. Rather, it is a product of lumping the two terms together and the confusion of those who cannot differentiate the two. 

However, it could also mean a middle point between the two, where there is still a small amount of length where the hair would typically fade out. With this, a low taper fade haircut would still follow the principles of the low taper/fade, with the difference being in the amount of hair nearing the hairline, which would be at the middle point between the two styles. The same can be said for a Medium Taper Fade or a High Taper Fade.

Which Suits What?


Both are clean and versatile cuts between the taper and the fade that both look good in a casual or professional setting. Both are also incorporated into various haircuts as they mainly deal with the bottom half of the head. However, there may be instances where it would be better to choose the taper over the fade or vice versa. 

  1. Casual or Formal? While it has been said that both cuts look good regardless of whether or not you are in a casual or formal setting, the taper would fit much better with formal wear during the fade with casual wear. This is due to the taper’s neat finish, which has made it known as a conservative type of haircut. Meanwhile, the edge the fade provides makes it serve well with trendier looks.
  2. Long or Short? If you want to maintain a sizable volume of hair, it would be advisable to go with the taper. Due to the amount of hair it leaves at both the sides and the back, this provides a good balance of volume that works well with having a lot of hair overall. Meanwhile, with the fade, it is best to maintain a shorter amount of hair on the top. The minimized or skin bare sides and back bring contrast with the hair you have on top - which would not match well with having too much. 

The Cherry on Top


A good haircut often serves as a great compliment to any outfit. It can be said that it caps off the look and is usually the first thing that catches the eye. With that in mind, it is important to make sure that you get the best possible haircut to match both your looks and your preferences. Knowing the differences and similarities between the taper and fade is one important step in ensuring that you know what you want. Knowing these allows your barber or your stylist to give you the haircut that works best for you. This, in turn, will give you a haircut that not only catches the eye but also beautifully caps off your entire look.

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