What is a taper fade and how many ways can you wear it?

You asked: what is a taper fade? We answered.  

When you aren’t barber-lingual, you actually miss out on the opportunity to try out one of the coolest classic men’s hairstyles around: the taper fade. For those of you in the dark asking “what is a taper fade and why are most of Hollywood’s leading men sporting it?”, rest assured that we’re about to shine a light on this essential hair query.

Ahead, we’ve put together a comprehensive guide that’ll help you learn more about the cut that’s dominating the male grooming scene, plus how you should be rocking it for ultra-modern results.

What is a taper fade?

front shot of man with taper fade hairstyle
Wondering what is a taper fade? Here’s what to know! Credit: indigitalimages.com

You’ll likely have heard the word “taper” thrown around quite a bit, and it’s important to know what it is in order to get the correct style you want.

Essentially, a taper fade is a cut that goes from one length to another (from the top of the head, down to the sides and to the nape of the neck). It also usually starts off long and gets shorter towards the ends.

Now, while hair merges and disappears in a regular fade, with a taper fade hairstyle, hair is left shorter and subtly blended for a more groomed effect (as demonstrated by this gent, above). Cool, right?

Who is the tapered fade cut for and how can you style it?

So now you know all about the taper fade haircut, you might be wondering if it will work with your hair type. And guess what? It will.

Most shorter haircuts for men can be livened up with a taper fade, you simply have to ask your barber to use different clipper lengths on the back and sides of your head. Yes, that’s it really!

Editor’s tip: Since a tapered fade is naturally clean-cut, you’ll want make sure that you use either a gel or a pomade, like the VO5 Groomed Extreme Style Grooming Pomadeto make your cut look extra sharp and slick.


1. Side-part with a bald taper fade

what is a taper fade guide: street style shot of man with bald taper cut wearing bow tie and jacket
Go bold with a bald taper fade cut. Credit: Allyson Alapont

Who said you can’t go bold (or should we say bald?!) with a taper fade? Add a modern touch to a classic side-part hairstyle by opting for a bald taper fade and you’ll instantly give your ‘do an on-trend edge.

It’s a stand-out look, but not severely so, meaning it’s suitable for the office and wherever else you might venture. Now go forth and flaunt your new style!

2. Curly taper fade

close up shot of male model with curly hair and taper fade hairstyle on the street
Bedhead curls and a taper cut work, too! Credit: Verity Jane Smith

Falling on the subtle side of the taper fade spectrum, this curly number is another example of how versatile the cut is.

Just because you’re rocking a classic taper, doesn’t mean you have to keep your style looking put together 24/7. In fact, bedhead curls can work with a tapered fade and will also have you out of the door in seconds. You can’t argue with that, can you?

Editor’s tip: Sea salt spray is the key product behind this look, so if you want to make the most out of your curls or waves, activate them with the help of the TONI&GUY Messy Salt Spray.

3. Taper + dreadlocks combo

close up shot of man with dreadlock taper fade hairstyle on the streets wearing blue shirt and glasses
As we said before, the taper fade works with all hair types. Credit: Dvora

Are you a style-conscious hipster who doesn’t mind drawing attention to your mane? Just take a look at this taper + dreadlocks combo, for example: the tapered sides create a cool contrast to the textured lengths on top, which work a treat for this gent’s black hair texture.

4. Taper fade + quiff combo

close up shot of man with taper fade haircut with quiff
Have a quiff? Make it modern with a taper fade. Credit: Allyson Alapont

Already rocking an Elvis-inspired quiff hairstyle? For this season, the look is getting an edgier upgrade and being paired with a tapered fade.

As this gentleman with thick locks demonstrates, this look adds a charming modern touch to this otherwise retro style, resulting in a look that’s undeniably on-point. #Swag.

5. Wet-look taper fade

what is a taper fade haircut
Sleek strands are the name of the game. Credit: indigitalimages.com

Whether you’re attending a wedding, have an important meeting at work or just need a style that will ensure your strands are styled to perfection, a wet-look taper fade will do you proud.

Seen on the heads of A-list stars and runway models alike, this slick ‘do exudes a suave and sophisticated vibe that can work for either dressed-up or dressed-down events! Honestly, there’s no excuse not to try this universally sleek style this season.