Education, First Time Barbers, Wellness / Self-Care

What is the difference between a Taper and Fade Haircut?

Which one would you choose?

words by: Natasha Marsh
Jun 29, 2022

Tapers and fades are the haircuts that many men seek out at barbershops. And, although people use these interchangeably, they are quite different cuts. Moreover, a better understanding of the difference will save you from either not getting the cut you meant to get, looking like you don’t know what you’re talking about, or worse: both.


But you don’t have to worry about that now, because you’ve come to the right place. Here’s the difference between a tapered cut and a fade.


What is a tapered haircut?

A taper cut is evenly cut and not as dramatic as a fade. Traditionally, you’ll see tapers with hair longer on the tops and sides that then gradually gets shorter as you move along with the hairline the shortest part. The nice thing about a tapered cut is that it provides you the chance to change up the style as the hair grows out. Here are some of the most popular tapered cuts.


  • Low taper: With hair short above the ear, the low taper gives the hairline a real clean finish without being too short.


  • High taper: Hair will be a bit above the ear, giving you a better contrast than a low taper. You will generally see a high taper with a high top, comb/swoop over, or afro hair.


  • Skin taper: Although it sounds intense, a skin taper is when you can see the scalp because the shave is close to the skin.


taper haircut


What is a fade haircut?

A fade is a cut that shows hair that goes from long to short. The short part will be towards the bottom of the skin. Ultimately, it changes the hair length around the head. The most popular fade cuts are below.


  • Drop fade: Dropping from the ear and following the shape of the head, drop fades require minimal maintenance.


  • Skin fade: Similar to the skin taper, this is when you can visibly see the scalp. Skin fades stop before the natural hair line and look great on short cuts. Because it is cut so close to the scalp, you don’t really need any daily styling.


  • Undercut fade: Cut quite high above the ears, the style looks great with long hair. If you want to add more dimension or edginess to the traditional style, you can add in some layers.


  • High fade: Starting above your ear and shortening as the eye moves down, you can easily add any design you’d like to high fades.


fade haircut


Can you combine the two? Short answer: Sort of.


Barbers can work in patterns that are typically seen in fades on tapered cuts. Make sure you come in with inspiration photos for your barber to achieve the actual look you want.


Here’s a breakdown of what the numbers on clippers at the barbershop mean.