Fade or taper? The ultimate guide to popular men’s haircuts

Looking to switch up your hairstyle but don’t know your taper cuts from your fades? Barbers reveal some of the most popular men’s haircuts.

Fade haircuts for men have been a popular choice for a long time, particularly with the rise of taper fades.

But it’s no secret that finding the right hairstyle can be a struggle for all of us, including for men.

If you can’t decide between a fade or a taper, find out what our experts have to say before scheduling your next haircut appointment.

What is a fade haircut?

A fade is a haircut that gets noticeably shorter on the sides so it “fades” away from longer to shorter, UNOIT Barber co-founder and principal barber Costa Zacharia says.

It’s been popular since the 1940s, especially among celebrities such as Will Smith, Justin TImberlake and Ryan Reynolds.


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How long do fade haircuts last?

Barber and Esquire Male Grooming owner Mark Rabone says how long a fade lasts depends on a few factors.

“We have some clients come back weekly, and some monthly, but most people return for fades on an average of two to three weeks,” Mark says.

“In general, hair of high texture can remain tidier in appearance for longer as tight curls grow closer to the skin, and can get longer than coarse or straight hair types.

“Meanwhile, finer hair tends to grow slower, so this will allow for additional time in between haircuts.”

Fade v taper fade haircut: what is the difference?

A traditional fade goes around the head while a taper focuses on tiny fades for your sideburns and nape area, Costa explains.

“Taper fades are perfect for those who want to keep some length in the back and (on the) sides but still feel fresh and tidy,” he says.

“They are really wearable, so they have become super popular.”


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How long do taper fades last?

Taper fades can last for a longer period of time before clients have to book their next haircut, with hairlines growing back far more seamlessly around the nape compared to a simple fade cut, Mark says.

“We use tapering to get more longevity out of the short or medium length haircuts,” he says.

“Unless the client is prepared to get his edges done every week, tapers are far more aesthetically pleasing than a boxed edge on most haircuts.”

Does a taper fade haircut suit everyone?

According to Mark, taper fades are a great option for medium or shorter length hair, but it may not be a favourable choice for men with a heart-shaped face.

“When we think of men’s haircuts, we should be seeing squarer shapes and creating height and lift where necessary,” Mark explains.

“So, men with a narrower jaw and wider top of the head may find that a taper exaggerates the width at the top and, therefore, takes away the square masculine shape.”

Costa adds hair colour might also come into play when deciding whether or not a taper fade may look good on you.

“We find fades and tapers are typically suited to darker, thicker hair types because you get that really great shape and definition,” Costa says.

“That’s not to say you can’t have one if you have lighter or finer hair, it just means the fade may look less obvious, especially with a taper fade.

“But if it makes you feel good, forget the rules and just do it as your barber can play around with styles to create something unique for you!”

How to pick between a fade and taper fade haircut

Know your hair type

Mark says before choosing between a fade and taper, it’s worth factoring in your current hairstyle, style goal and hair type – including hair density, texture, tone and length.

“For example, coarser hair types can look amazing after a fresh cut but will grow back a lot quicker and take more maintenance than fine hair,” he explains.

“Naturally blonde or fairer hair types will get more longevity from both a fade and a taper.”

Consider the look

“A fade will feel more fresh and clean,” Costa says.

“Compared with a taper fade, it lasts longer and is surprisingly wearable for most hair types, even though it is more dramatic.

“The thicker the hair, the more dramatic the transition.”

Different fade haircuts and how to get them

Low taper fade

To achieve a low taper haircut, Costa says the focus should be on the sideburn and nape areas for a subtle fade.


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Mid taper fade

To get a mid taper, Costa says the fade should be somewhere between the temple, sideburn and the halfway point up the curve of your neck.


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High taper fade

Also known as a burst fade, Mark says this cut creates an arch around the area from below the temple around the back of the head.

“This creates a pronounced hairline at the front and nape, leaving weight to graduate around their neck and … centre back of the haircut.”

Buzz fade

A buzz fade is high and tight to the widest part of the head, with a buzz cut to a number four (leaving the hair half an inch long) through the top, Mark explains.

“For me, anything longer than a number four guard is a better choice, using scissors,” he says.

Our expert barbers:

Costa Zacharia is the principal barber and co-founder of UNOIT Barber in Sydney.

Mark Rabone is the owner of Esquire Male Grooming in Brisbane.

More on stylish hair trends: 

Written by Melissa Hong