Fades Vs. Tapers: What’s the Difference?

Even if you’ve been in the barbering game for a few years, it’s totally normal not to know everything. Actually, let’s say that louder for the people in the back–

It’s totally normal for you to not know everything–no matter how long you’ve been a barber. 

With that in mind, if you’re very uncertain when it comes to all things tapers vs. fades, know that you’re not alone. If someone walks in and asks you for a taper, a fade, or worse, a taper-fade, you don’t need to freak–we’re here to help you determine the difference, give you the answers you need, and above all, give you the tools to create the ultimate look, no matter what your customer asks for.

In other words, that’s exactly what you can expect from this blog. We’re going to dive deep into the taper vs. fade debate to help you settle the differences, distinguish between them, and of course, combine them for an extra awesome look.

You in? We thought you might be. Keep reading to learn a little more about this whole taper vs. fade barbering business. 

Let’s Cover the Basics: What’s a Taper?

We’re not going to pretend that a taper and a fade aren’t similar. The fact is they are–but that doesn’t mean they’re the same. So, let’s break it down by first tackling what these cuts actually are. 

A taper is a more conservative, cleaned-up version of a fade. It’s classic, it rocks a degree of versatility, and it highlights a gradually shortening hair length. In fact, that’s the biggest difference between a taper and a fade–it tapers. Typically, tapers are focused on shortening hair gradually for a more subtle change in hair length. This usually starts with the longest pieces on top and gets subtly shorter as the cut follows the natural hairline down the neck, the sides of the head, and near the ears. 

There’s no right or wrong way to provide a taper cut–you can go super long and shaggy with it or make a close-cropped taper. There’s lots of creative freedom in this cut. 

Tapers tend to lend themselves to things like an easier grow out, a more natural look and a more versatile style that won’t need as much barbering attention ASAP like a fade will when growth starts. 

OK, So, What’s a Fade?

Fades have often been compared to tapers by calling them things like “super short tapers.” Is it true? Well, maybe technically, but the real difference between a fade and a taper is up to the barber’s interpretation. 

A fade, like a taper, is all about taking hair from long to short in a stylish way. Unlike a taper, though, a fade can be dramatic, abrupt, and super short. Tapers are all about a natural decrease in length for a more conservative look–a fade can just disappear before it reaches the natural hairline. 

In other words, there are no rules with fades–they can be as strait-laced or funky as you and your clients want them to be. Fades are mostly about giving your clients’ looks a little extra edge–both literally and stylistically. The linework on a fade needs to be pretty sharp since there’s a less gradual change, and of course, an edgy fade also just looks edgy, giving your clients a little extra vibe on the street. 

So, as you can tell, both cuts are a take on taking hair from short to long in a specific way. Tapers are gradual, whereas fades can be abrupt and sudden. Is one better than the other? No way.

Both are awesome looks, and both are super attainable by skilled barbers (like you); it all depends on the look the client is going for. 

The Pro Tips You Need to Know to Tackle Tapers & Fades

Do you know what both of these looks definitely have in common? They take a skilled barber with a knack for style and a skill for line work. Are you ready to offer the best fade or taper possible? With a few pointers and tips, you’ll be more than good to go, barber friends. Here are a few key ideas below to consider before you start your next fade or taper. 

  • Find the three starting points of the fade or the taper by using your client’s ear and temple. Set your index finger above their ear and dub that spot the beginning for the low fade. For a mid-fade, try using both your index and your middle finger to find the line. For a high-fade, use your index, middle, and ring finger to figure out where to start and follow around your client’s head. 

  • Don’t try to cut without planning or envisioning your lines first. A plan is necessary for a taper or a fade. 

  • Try using clippers at a #3 or a #2 before you go any shorter. A clean canvas can help you envision the fade easier and figure out what the next step of the cut is. 

  • Don’t forget about the corner of your blade for blending. Tilt your blade as needed to only use a few of the outer teeth (a strategy called point cutting–but with clippers and not shears like usual). 

Loving what we’ve got to say about tapers and fades? We thought you might. The good news? There’s plenty more where that came from. Subscribe to the National Association of Barbers to make sure you never miss a beat, a new blog, or a handy little tip for taking your barbering career to totally new heights. 

And of course, don’t forget we offer the best of the best barbering liability insurance–because fades and tapers take practice, and you’re going to want to be covered for that. We’re totally kidding; we’ve got complete confidence in your barbering skills. 

But definitely take a peek at what we can offer in terms of quality, reliable, and affordable liability insurance to ensure you and your career are protected, no matter what happens! 

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