What is the difference between a Fade & Taper

As a hairdresser, you may cut mens hair. As a Barber, you definitely are. If you have a customer walk in and request a fade or taper, do you know the difference? Does your customer know the difference? We hear the word “fade” so much with mens haircuts. What does it actually mean, and how can you make sure your customer is getting the haircut they want, despite what terms they use?  While this article is geared towards hair stylists who don't cut mens hair as much as a Barber, we hope both groups will benefit.


Put simply, a fade is a graduation of long hair to no hair on the sides and back. A fade is essentially a shorter taper, where you will see skin. There are multiple ways to give give a fade cut, starting from the top and working down, or starting from the bottom and working up. You could even set your guideline in the middle, taper down, and then clean the lines going up. The term fade is named in the fact that the hair “fades” into the skin as it's cut short at the lowest points.



A taper is a graduation of long hair to short hair also. The biggest difference between a taper and a fade is the difference in hair length. With a taper, you'll never cut down to the skin in the graduation from long to short. Almost every short hair cut will involve a taper, with the end of the taper ending at the hairline.

So now you know the difference. But does your customer? How will your client feel if they request a fade, expecting a taper, and have that shocked look when you cut the hair on the sides down to the skin? Probably not very good. That's why it's important to get a true sense of the cut your client may be wanting.  Josh Craig, Mens Hair Stylist and Inochi Shears customer says, "It is important to make sure that you are on the very same page as the client when it comes to consultations.  I think the consultation is the most important part of the cut."

During your consultation, use questions like : “How short do you want the hair on the sides?” or “do you want it skin tight on the sides?”. Using questions like these will help you know your clients wants, despite their use of correct terminology or not.

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