Unless you’ve been living under a rock or you are not a part of social media at all, the words ‘taper fade’ have become essential of the culture of hairstyling in the 2010 decade. It can now be described as one of the most popular hairstyles for men of all time simply because it’s such a universal cut. You can see it on teachers as well as rappers, on bankers as well as graffiti artists.
Therefore, it’s time to give it some much-deserved attention. In this article, we’re going to detail the history of the taper fade, how to style it and how to get it. But we’re also going to talk about what face shape it goes best with. What products to use if you want to keep it in good shape, what celebrities have been spotted wearing it and, of course, the many variations in which it comes.
What Is a Taper Fade?
As usual, we need to start right at the beginning, so to say. Let’s find out what a taper fade really is and what sets it apart from other haircuts. The more details you know about it the easier it will be to decide if this is the perfect haircut for you or not. Plus, the more you understand about this hairstyle the better you can explain to your barber what you want.
A fade haircut is a type of hairstyle with a longer and more voluminous strand of hair in the top part which has to decrease as you go down toward the ears and nape. That’s the fade. The tapering means reducing both the volume and length of the hair so that it shows a beautiful and seamless gradient. This needs to blend it perfectly on top with the longer strands and on the bottom with your skin and natural hairline.
Any fade or taper that does not blend in is considered a failed taper fade. As far as the hair on top is concerned, the style allows you to get absolutely any haircut, length or type of hair you want. It will disturb the idea of a taper fade, as you will see from the examples below.
Taper vs Fade – Is There a Difference?
It is true that both of these are cut in a fairly similar fashion. Hence the confusion in everyone’s minds. More often than not, these two hairstyling terms are used incorrectly or even interchangeably. So let’s see what they’re all about.
What is a taper?
As you might have expected, a taper haircut is one in which the hair is left longer at the top but then gets gradually shorter as it descends toward the nape and the sides of the head. When it comes to the traditional taper haircut, the top has to be between two and four inches long. Evidently, the rest of the haircut will be shorter. However, you get to choose how long or short you want it to be. This is just the rule of thumb for barbers to go by with this type of hairstyle.
The hairline that can be found around the perimeter will always be very short and intact. This is one of the main criteria that separates a taper from a fade. Both men and women can wear a taper and you will find that they often do. The reason is that this haircut allows you to keep a lot of your hair on while still looking cool and modern.
What is a fade?
The best way to describe this hairstyle would be to say that it requires to have shorter hair at the nape, backside, and to the sides of the head. Then you need to graduate into a gradation as you move forward up to the crown. In fact, a fade is a way of tapering the hair. The big difference here is that you need to be very dramatic and cut your hair a lot lower than you would do with a regular taper.
A lot of stylists have the habit of actually balding the area around your hairline, nape, and ears. They will then taper the remaining cut as they move up. As they do, it will get thicker and thicker so that it looks natural and blends in organically with the hair on top which is usually longer.
A low fade is the safest option of all with the least amount of fading or tapering going on. It usually happens just around or above the ears and nape and sometimes you can’t even see it at all. The medium fade is a hairstyle in which the fade happens right in the middle section between your ear and the top of the haircut. While the high fade is the most dramatic one of all with the best exposure.
The History of the Taper Fade
It’s clear to see that the taper fade won’t be fading away any time soon, pun intended. But where did it come from?
You will be surprised to find out that, even though it is now a popular hairstyle or what we would call a ‘pop’ haircut, it actually comes from the military. Back in the 40s and 50s American soldiers came back home from Korea and the Second World War wearing very short hair which also had a little length and elevation on top.
However, Hispanic and African-American barbershops kept the fade going. Not only that, but they also modernized it as the decades rolled on, especially since the 70s brought on the birth of hip-hop. Therefore, we got to see the high top fade just like you can observe it in The Fresh Prince of Bel Air on Will Smith or the more infamous mullet fade. Kanye West wore one during his 808s era.
Can I Wear a Taper Fade?
Since it’s one of the most versatile hairstyles you will ever come across, yes, you can totally wear a taper fade. However, it’s not the taper fade in itself that you should be wondering about, as much as what you will be pairing it with on top. The taper fade will surely make you look cool and badass because it’s such an awesome and cool haircut. But the top half is a completely other discussion.
In order to establish what type of hairstyle you’ll be mixing the taper fade with, you need to start by figuring out what kind of face type you have. You may be in love with a certain haircut that’s trending right now, but it may not look so good on you. Or it may simply not highlight your best features.
Therefore, there are a few simple rules once you’ve made up your mind about what kind of face shape you have. For example, if you have an elongated face, you shouldn’t go for a box top or a man bun. The reason is that you won’t need any more height on top or a hairstyle that will elongate your face even more. Just the fact that this hairstyle is so closed-cut and already has a longer top is length enough. You don’t need to add any more artificial length.
On the other hand, the taper fade is perfect if you have a triangular face. Think Ryan Gosling when we say this. His face is considered to be triangular because it’s wider at the top, where his forehead or eye line is and narrow at the bottom in the area of the chin. Therefore you could benefit from a taper fade. Because it narrows down your forehead length-wise and makes it seem more balanced with your jaw line.
The same goes for a diamond face shape. Your forehead will become narrow and your cheekbones will stand out in a pleasant way. Try to match your taper fade with a beard or a goatee in this case so that you can add a bit of equilibrium to your face.
If you have an oval face, you’ve hit the jackpot. Oval is considered to be the most perfect shape of all. Therefore, you can wear any kind of haircut you want. And a taper fade is definitely one of them. Pair it with a man bun, an afro, a set of man braids, cornrows or anything else that you want to get.
How to Style a Taper Fade
Evidently, your styling game will depend a lot on the haircut you have on top. So let’s take a look at some examples and what tips and products we have to share with you!
Tips for a short crop
If you have a simple, short crop on top, all you need to do is apply a little sea salt spray. It will add some texture and definition to your hair and even make it a little crunchy. But be careful. Sea salt spray can dry your hair, so it’s best to stay away from it if you have fine locks. Otherwise go for some mate clay. It will give a superb layer of definition and separation of the strands, even at that short length.
Tips for a pompadour
Guys who are rocking a pompadour on top of their amazing taper fade will definitely need some pomade. After all, let’s not forget that the pompadour is the quintessential greaser hairstyle. And that is, in fact what the word itself stands for. The grease men in the 40s and 50s used to style their hair with. Luckily for everyone, hair products have evolved. Now pomades are water-based which is much easier to shampoo out of your hair.
Tips for man braids and short dreads
When it comes to braids or short dreads, you’re in luck because they don’t need much in terms of styling. However, you will have to keep your locks moisturized with coconut oil. Rub it in cold or hot if you’re looking for more of a treatment type of deal. However, be careful not to apply it to your scalp because it could leave residue or cause dandruff.
Tips for a side-sweep
A side-swept hairstyle can be achieved with the help of some volume spray and a blow dryer. Make sure to spray the product when your hair is still damp after the shower. Then proceed to blow dry it and arrange it with a comb as you wish. Finish it all off with some matte clay.
Celebrities Wearing the Taper Fade
We have arrived at everyone’s favorite thing to talk about – celebrities. On today’s agenda – famous men and their taper fades. Let’s take a look and see who’s rocking them and how, and who can be our inspiration.
Is there any haircut that this former One Direction member could not wear? Actually, according to the scientists who analyzed his face, he could wear any haircut he wants. That’s because he has a beautiful oval face and his features and incredibly symmetrical. Not only that, he is very close to the golden ratio, which means he would look good in anything. But Zayn has been very partial to a taper fade with gelled spikes over the years.
Magic Mike is magic indeed because he makes the taper fade look even better if such a thing was possible. Channing surely loves to pair his taper fade with a brush up. This essentially means that the top half of your haircut should literally be brushed up. You can hold it in place using matte clay if you like this type of finish or some gel for a wetter look. Don’t forget about a layer of hairspray to make sure it won’t go floppy throughout the day.
Much could be said about Cristiano Ronaldo. He is an absolute god on the soccer pitch and a perfect athlete. But we are here to talk about his exquisite and numerous we might add haircuts. One in particular drew our attention. It’s a comb over with a hard part and, of course, a taper fade. It complimented his rugged good looks in a mixture of classic and cool like we’ve never seen before. Plus, he got away with using a ton of pomade!
Even though he is a complete sweetheart and has a heart of gold, Tom Hardy looks like an absolute bad boy. That’s the reason why he was able to pull off a buzz cut combined with a taper fade. It suited his personality and made him look even more handsome than before. Even though that’s not really possible!
Even though he loves to wear his hair long now, there was a time when Justin was super partial to a taper fade and a quiff with a brush up. You can still wear it yourself, especially since it’s a perfect haircut for teenage boys. But be prepared because you will need to spend quite a lot of time in front of the mirror every morning getting ready.
Now that we’ve delved a little bit into the world of hairstyles you can mix and match with the wonderful taper fade, let’s take a look at some of the coolest versions of this haircut.
Taper Fade with Man Braids
This has got to be one of the coolest haircuts ever invented. It combines the modernism and coolness factor of the taper fade with the timeless beauty of the man braids. Did you know that men have been wearing braids since Antiquity in battle and to show their social status? We’ve written a whole piece on braids for men it if you’re interested in learning more.
Box Top with Taper Fade
This is the famous box top of the 70s and 80s which we’ve mentioned above. And which we’re sure you’ve already seen on Will Smith in The Fresh Prince of Bel Air. Of course, this is a more modernized version that includes a superb taper fade. Plus a gorgeous hair design in the shape of a small, elongated cross. Which is not mandatory, evidently. It’s a choice and you can get any design you want.
Taper Fade with Dreads
Everything changed in the world of hair styling for men when Michael B. Jordan starred in Black Panther as Killmonger. He wore a short haircut with small and messy dreads that reintroduced them to the public at large. Suddenly, dreadlocks became cool to the big masses once again. And the madness started, Michael B Jordan’s haircut being copied by thousands and thousands of men. And being mixed withe the taper fade, of course.
Taper Fade with Comb Over
Mixing a comb over with a taper fade is a great way to breathe some new life into this elegant and classic hairstyle. On its one, the comb over might seem a little too ‘black tie’ for every day wear. Plus, it might even make you look a little too formal, somewhat like a teacher. However, when you pair it with a taper fade, you suddenly become the cool hipster who listens to good, old music and has great taste in clothes.
Taper Fade with Messy Top
This might be one of the easiest ways in which you can wear a taper fade. It simply involves a short to medium top half which you need to wear as messy as possible. But be careful because there is an art to all this messiness. As we all know, there is a lot of work which goes behind the ‘I woke up like this look.’
Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that you can actually wake up and leave the house, imagining your hair will look this good. What you actually need is a good shampoo and conditioner combo that will moisturize your hair. The softer your hair gets, the easier it will be to ‘mess’ it up so to say.
You will also need some sea salt spray which is perfect for this kind of look. It gives it natural texture and crunchiness without leaving it feeling too heavy or oily. You can substitute the sea salt spray for matte clay if you need more definition.
Taper Fade with Man Bun
We have arrived at the infamous man bun. Of course, it became super notorious around 2015 but, to be honest, men have been wearing man buns since Antiquity. The whole debate simply sparked out of the fact that modern society just doesn’t have a place for it within its idea of the contemporary man and how he should look and wear his hair.
Check out our extensive article on man buns for more info!
Other than that, man buns are a perfect way to style your hair if it’s medium length or long. If you already have a man bun and wish to upgrade it, don’t hesitate to get a taper fade as well. The whole combination will look super cool. It works well with low buns, ponytails, and top knots as well.
What about you?
Let us know in the comment section below what type of tape fade haircut you would like to get. Are you a fan of the 50s pompadour or are you more of a man bun type of guy? If you have dreadlocks or man braids write to us and tell us how you take care of them and you have questions about a high top or a buzz cut, we’re here for that as well!