Taper vs Fade vs Taper Fade: What Are The Key Differences?

From consumers to hair stylists, I’ve noticed that many of them carry a vague idea on the concepts between taper vs fade vs taper fade.

That’s why I took it upon myself to elaborate on the concepts and place them side by side so that the differences among these are made apparent.

While there are some major similarities as well between them due to belonging to the similar haircut technique class, identifying where they stray from one another should be the way to learn about them properly.

I’ve given it my best to be thorough on the concepts, provided visual aids to see the differences with your own eyes and included technical aspects so that every area of knowledge is covered.

I truly hope that going through this article will create a meaningful impact in your hairstyling sector and create precisely the one you want to get done.

Taper, Fade & Taper Fade: What Are These?

The three terms I’ve mentioned above are unique haircut techniques that professional barbers like myself often incorporate in different hairstyles, be that short or long. Before we try to distinguish between them, let’s first learn the basics of what they actually are.

What Is A Taper?

By dictionary meaning, a taper generally means to become gradually leaner while proceeding to the edge. The haircut technique starts at the fringes of your head’s sides and trims down an inch of hair with a measured decrease in length.

Taper Meaning

The outermost edge should seem like a bald fade and an inch away from that, toward your hair body should see the length grow back up to match with your existing hair.

Tapers can manifest only on your sides or encompass your entire hair fringe, including the portion over the neck. Seamless cuts are often preferred by modern stylists.

What Is A Fade?

A fade cut generally resides in a much larger area than a taper as it consumes entire side portions that often continues on to the nape. Meaning, a fade cut will leave out only the hair sitting on your crown and deal with the rest.

Fade Meaning

You’ll be needing a clipper with variable comb guards to get the perfect fade of your desire. You may need to alter between these guards in the middle of your fading process.

There are certain clippers that let you get away with fades by not changing the combs as they have adjustable guards. You can switch the length on the go in seconds that’ll save you a significant amount of time.

What Is A Taper Fade?

A taper fade is basically a combination of a fade and a taper. How does that work, you may ask? For this to shape up precisely, you’ll need the kind of fade that doesn’t bald down the edges and leave behind some degree of hair to work with.

Taper Fade Meaning

While you apply any kind of fade from this gradient, you’ll be playing with the fringes with a balding clipper to mix in a taper to the look.

It’s not always easy to distinguish a taper from these fades. But if you’re good at maintaining the length, you’ll be able to notice the one inch aggressive hair length gradient on the fringe line.

Similarities & Differences Of Taper vs Fade vs Taper Fade

If you want, we can argue all night on taper vs fade vs taper fade to assess the major differences, grand similarities and miniscule disparities.

But I reckon it’d be more convenient if I jotted them down into a table and elaborated on them further to equip you with the foundation of knowledge on the matter.

Categories Taper Fade Taper Fade
Technique Used Sudden pull away at fringe Gradual pull away on the sides & back A combination of both
Required Instruments Clipper/Trimmer Clipper Clipper/Trimmer
Comb Guard Lengths 0 to 3 1 to 5 0 to 6
Suitable Cuts Low Taper, High Taper, Skin Taper High Fade, Low Fade, Burst Fade Bald Fade, Faux Hawk
Ideal Face Shapes Rectangular face shape Oval face shape Any face shape

Visual Differences

In terms of visuals, you’ll find significant differences while you investigate the taper vs fade vs taper fade matter. For instance, this case of Taper only works at the fringe of your sideburn and the end of your nape.

As opposed to it, the Fade covers a very large area that goes up to the crown or your hairline. See the variance? That’s the key difference between these two visually.

Now, when you look at the Taper Fade, it contains both of the properties you’ve just seen. It has a trimmed down fringe line along with a gradual hair length decline up to the hairline.

Seeing these should give you a general idea how they look and the ways they are distinct from one another.

Technique Used

Achieving each of these styles demands particular techniques from your end to draw out the finest outcomes. To land a perfect taper, you’ll need to master the sudden pull away method while holding on to your trimming device.

The edges need to be zeroed down using the raw blades without any comb guard. Right above that, a number 1 or 2 guard should smooth out the hair length with the rest around the sides.

Fading requires less of a delicate touch than tapering, but you’ll need sustained patience so that you don’t mess up the length variance. This needs you to pull the clipper away gradually as you climb up so that the hair gradient is polished nicely.

Taper fade requires both of these techniques used one after the other. First, you’ll need to apply the fading procedure that I just mentioned, followed by a tapering operation on the fringes.

So you now know the differentiating techniques between these three fanciable aspects.

Required Instruments

Tapering usually can be done using both a clipper or a trimmer, assuming each of them has the capability to zero gap. Such instruments are necessary to trim down the hair at the minimum length because that’s what tapers relish with. Some even use manual razors for this effect paired with an electric device.

Fading requires a clipper to sketch out the perfect design. Since you’ll be removing a large chunk of your hair, trimmers won’t always suffice in this case. A clipper unit backed up with the necessary comb guards is enough to create any type of fade on all hair textures.

Taper fade requires a clipper in particular as it contains a fade in the look. The fringes can be treated with a clipper too, but a trimmer performs significantly better in this regard. It’s not mandatory since you can get away with a clipper if you’re well-equipped with the device.

Comb Guard Lengths

For these three methods, you must acquaint yourself with the technical aspects if you’re willing to perform them or at least trying to learn the fundamentals behind each.

Comb Guard Lengths

A taper generally requires comb guard lengths between number 0 to number 3 as these four variances suffice perfectly.

Fade cuts are more versatile, thus requiring a wider array of guard numbers. You’ll still need the number 0 for the likes of bald fade or burst fade at the lower range, and guard number up to 5 for the maximum extent.

Taper fades lie in the tricky area between the two – a number 0 guard to begin with and as you move on to the upper section, a number 6 for the highest reach.

Suitable Cuts

There are many haircuts among these broader categories that you can opt for. Tapers don’t have any particular hair design as it’s flexible enough to go with almost all haircuts – be that short or long. Once we get to the type discussion part, you’ll be able to learn the available options for this genre.

Fades are the most relinquished ones in the taper vs fade vs taper fade argument. Styles like buzz cut, crew cut, military cut, Edgar cut etc. rely heavily on different types of fades. Most fades accompany shorter haircuts while some even fit well with longer hair.

Taper fades mostly reside with shorter styles unless you’re going for something edgy like a fohawk. This technique would be the ideal gateway for such a hairdo, or the ones that cater to heavy gradient design all around.

Ideal Face Shapes

It’s not an easy task to find the right hair design for a specific face shape as individuals often struggle to find their strong suit. Tapers here go hand in hand with rectangular face shapes since this method is limited in terms of altering a large bunch of hair.

Fade cuts thus are a prime choice for ones with a more oval shape. As it removes a higher chunk of hair from each side, the face shape is rendered longer which is highly appreciated by many. It’s not mandatory that only oval faces can endorse this look as longer faces as well draw specific benefits from fading.

Taper fades welcome every face shape possible since it’s a dynamic styling technique. Whether you have a long face or a round one, taper fades usually play at your strong suit and make the best out of your look.

Discussion On Taper

If spoken broadly, tapers are divided into three types based on where they occur. It refers to the height of the taper from the end lines and that makes all the difference. Let’s talk about them!

High Taper

High Taper

As the name suggests, the taper takes place at a higher height than usual. Meaning, instead of a one-inch taper region, it’ll consume two or more inches to reach that level. Although it can resemble a low fade, the area behind the ear should tell you it’s a taper and not a fade.

The key thing is, if the side fringes are sharp, it’s a high taper cut as it focuses more on sideburns, temples and nape lines. Rest of your hair body can remain intact or you can trim it down to your liking, there’s no obligation for either.

High tapers usually work well with a neat beard as it highlights that tapered region.

Mid Taper

Mid Taper

Mid tapers contain an extent of around one inch, the typical size for a regular taper. These tapers are basically the ideal variant of this class. If you ask your barber for a tapered look, you’ll probably be the recipient of this length.

Such technique gently kisses around the fringes and zeroes down everything underneath, generating a smooth gradient within a very short distance. That’s why I always say that drawing out a taper is much more challenging than a fade as you need to be more precise and delicate.

Beards aren’t of essence here, although you can add one to the look for enhanced effect.

Low Taper

Low Taper

Low tapers are generally the subtlest of the three types of taper as it only hints at a gradient toward the edge line. It caters more to the minimalists because of its implicit nature. This category of tapers can be paired up with almost every haircut you can imagine.

I recommend applying it with a heavier hair body as the start contrast contributes well to an aesthetically soothing hairdo. Low tapers generally don’t look okay with a beard, so a clean shave should be your ideal way to go about.

This length of taper exists on the sideburns and at the corners of your nape line in most cases.

How To Do It?

Since you’re already familiar with the tapering techniques, the first thing you should do is to assess which extent of taper you want to include in your look.

Once settled, trim the exact length from your fringe using a number 2 guard. Then, remove any guard you may have on to zero gap the absolute ends of your hair all the way around.

Your taper can be confined only to the sideburns or the nape line, in other cases the area around the ears are seen to receive a similar treatment as well.

For the final touch, pull out a comb guard that’s two notches down the length of your actual side hair and smooth out the sharpness in between.

And voila! You’ll have mastered taper fade within 20 minutes of operation!

Discussion On Fades

Information on fades is more common than tapers, but still I’m highlighting the three major fade categories for an easier understanding. Although techniques like bald fade or burst fade exist in the genre, the high, mid and low are the umbrella terms that give birth to the rest.

High Fade

High Fade

A high fade refers to the placement of your fade on the temple of your head. The sides receive a grand clipper treatment with variable lengths to draw this design out with utmost perfection. It starts down from the bottom of your side hair and gradually goes up in hair size.

Hairline is the last limit for a high fade. Over the line, you are free to keep any amount of hair you want. The lower half of your head, surrounding all the way to the back, is trimmed down to skin length for the high fade to appear nicely.

A stubble can boost up the high fade if you manage to keep the shape with frequent trimming.

Mid Fade

Mid Fade

As you’ve already recognized the pattern, a mid fade is basically the design where the middle portion of your side hair makes the gradient apparent. This is the generic fade cut. Without any more instruction added to it, this is likely the length at which your barber will alter the length.

This fade line is usually kept at a straight route up till the nape area. Some mid fades go for a more oval approach, holding the ears as the center for the radius. Whichever approach you undertake, you’ll surely end up with a low-maintenance design for the coming weeks.

You don’t always need a beard for mid fades to appear starkly, but long beards don’t hurt if you’re seeing from a stylist’s perspective.

Low Fade

Low Fade

I suggest a low fade to the ones who don’t want to expose a larger portion of their skin. Translating this should mean that this fade takes place at a very low region of your sides. You’ll have a larger hair patch to protect you from sunburn.

This usually demands a lower upkeep than the rest of the fades in the family. Low fades most often team up with larger haircuts on top so that the contrast isn’t very sharp. However, there are many individuals who prefer short hair with this fade which is a minimal approach in this arena.

Beard or no beard, low fades are a subtle way of boosting your look, so don’t hesitate before getting one!

How To Do It?

As per the fade design, the selection of haircut is necessary like the taper. It gives you a path to walk with your clippers and adjust the comb guards accordingly.

For any type of fade you may have in mind, start by removing your side and nape hair in bulks at the higher length. This gives you a room for mistakes and opportunity to trim down the hair as you move your way to the ends.

Identify your fading area and alter your comb guard at that region. A few brushing up from top to the bottom will pave you the way toward achieving the perfect fade that you’ve wished for.

A sharp number 0 cut applied an inch from the fringe usually generates better results. If not, use a line up trimmer to isolate the hair section from the rest of your skin.

Discussion On Taper Fade

Taper fade is a very precise concept without much family tree going on. As easy as it may sound like to discuss, the difficulty arises when you get on to applying it to a haircut. Therefore, precise knowledge is of essence in this regard.

Generic Taper Fade

Generic Taper Fade

I already told you what a taper fade looks like, and from the design I’m suggesting is the most common method of incorporating one to your design. It’s a fohawk with a large volume of hair sitting on top.

Instead of shaving everything around with an undercut, fohawks tend to lean on taper fades as it serves the look justice. Otherwise, it’d comply with the original mohawk properties which is quite edge for many people’s taste.

The nape contains an equally long length of hair like the crown and the fringes are tapered to match with the aesthetics. This is the significant manner in which taper fades isolate themselves from regular fades or tapers.

How To Do It?

Getting a taper fade done is never an easy task as it demands you to be the master of both fading and tapering which is merged up together into one seamless cut.

With a haircut already in place, let’s say a fohawk with voluminous hair sitting idly on the crown, go for the fade first and make sure to keep the fringes above zero length.

This is necessary as the fringes are needed to be zeroed in between half to one inch for the perfect taper fade.

Perform this only on the sideburns and the surrounding area of the nape lines, leaving the area around the ear free from this operation.

Sharpen up the edge lines ONLY over the ear portion while the rest are blended in with the skin.

And that’s it! If done neatly, you’ll be the proud owner of a fabulous taper fade!


Let’s check out some of the confusions that the netizens have regarding the taper vs fade vs taper fade debate and clarify them once and for all!

Q: Is a taper fade professional?

A: Yes! Taper fades aren’t highly radical haircuts and are usually welcomed in most formal spaces. However, if you still have doubt I’d recommend you to have a chat with your HR before getting this done right away.

Q: What lasts longer: taper or fade?

A: A fade generally lasts longer as it covers a broader area of your head and trims down everything there to a very short length. Tapers need to be revitalized every other week but it varies based on your growth level.

Q: How do I tell my barber I want a fade?

A: When my customers ask me for a fade, I usually suggest they show me the style they intend on getting. It could be a google search or selecting one from the catalog I have. Giving a visual cue is the best way to proceed in this matter.


If you’re looking for a verdict on taper vs fade vs taper fade and asking me to tell you which one’s better, there’s no answer to that question.

Because each of them have their individual characteristics that are suitable for precise haircuts from a wide array of choices.

I can categorize them from most dynamic to least dynamic however, with the basis of how many styling genres they can comply with.

Tapers are hands down the most versatile techniques as they are wide enough to accommodate any length and design of hair.

Fades are a little limited than the tapers since the sides demand to be completely trimmed off. Taper fades are least accommodating due to their unique hybrid nature.

As the end note, I’d say that, whether you’re a barber or a styling enthusiast, the information I provided should clear up your basic conception on the matter.

Leave a Comment

DMCA.com Protection Status