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How To Ask For A Taper Fade Haircut

Everybody (including your barber) pictures a slightly different haircut when you say the words “taper fade.” It’s definitely short-on-bottom, long-on-top, but the similarities end there. That’s why you need to learn how to ask for a taper fade haircut – you’ll want that image in your head to match what your barber cuts.

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What Is A Taper Fade?

A “taper,” a “fade,” and a “taper fade” all refer to that classic haircut that transitions neatly from short-on-bottom to long-on-top. 

Taper fades are distinct from undercuts. When you get an undercut, you buzz the sides and back of your head to an even length, then leave the hair on top long. Taper fades follow their namesake – your hair will taper, a.k.a. fade, smoothly from short-on-bottom to long-on-top.

Taper fades are extremely common among men. There’s a good chance you’ve sported a taper fade at some point in your life, even if you didn’t realize what the haircut was called.

The big reason why a taper fade looks different from guy to guy is because everyone has their own preferences on how short they like the bottom of their hair and how long they like the top. Do you want the bottom so short that skin shows through? How much length do you want along the sides of your head? And how much hair should your barber leave on top?

That’s what you really need to know before you get a taper fade – what lengths will you tell your barber to cut each layer?

What You Need To Know Before Getting A Taper Fade

The trick to getting exactly the taper fade you want is knowing your trimmer guard sizes.

0 GUARD = 1/16 of an inch
#1 GUARD = 1/8 of an inch
#2 GUARD = 1/4 of an inch
#3 GUARD = 3/8 of an inch
#4 GUARD = 1/2 of an inch
#5 GUARD = 5/8 of an inch
#6 GUARD = 3/4 of an inch
#7 GUARD = 7/8 of an inch
#8 GUARD = 1 inch

When your barber cuts your hair, think about how short you want the bottom of your hair and how long you want it on top. Make sure to tell your barber what guards match those lengths. (Most hair stylists will also do a decent job if you gesture with your hands to show them how much you want to cut off.) 

If you’re really confident with what guard sizes match the taper fade that you like best, you might be able to cut your own hair into a taper fade. Use a rolling motion with your hand as you trim from bottom to top so that you fade the shorter hair into the longer hair. Switch between guard sizes so that you layer your hair smoothly.

How To Ask For A Taper Fade Haircut

Asking your barber for a haircut is no easy task. Taper fades come with some specific challenges.

These days, most guys just call it a fade haircut (without the “taper”). You’ll look like you know the lingo if you ask for a fade, and show your barber how much hair you want to take off along the bottom and sides of your head, and how long you want your hair on top.

If you have trouble describing the haircut, bring a picture instead. Find one of your favorite taper fades online, screenshot it or print it off, and show your stylist that photo. 

But above all, be realistic when you ask your barber for a taper fade. He can give you a great haircut, but he can’t make you look like the model in the photo that you printed off. Manage your expectations, and be open to your barber’s suggestions.

How Much Is A Taper Fade Haircut?

Most guys pay $20-40 for a taper fade, depending on how high end your barber is, and what services you request.

If you want those cool patterns shaved into the side of your head, you’ll probably end up spending more (and your barber might suggest an undercut instead of a taper fade). 

Take into account how often most men get their hair cut, and you’ll probably spend $100-200 annually to keep your taper fade looking well-maintained.

Even if you go to the barber less often, one of the biggest benefits of a taper fade is how smoothly it grows out over time. You can avoid the “shaggy” hair look for longer when you have a fade.

Frank Edwards is a men's grooming & style expert who is "internet famous" for being able to simplify complicated grooming routines into easy, yet effective rituals any man can do. As a professional analyst, he has spent years researching the biggest brands, products, experts, best practices, and breaking news in the space. He takes this analysis, tests it out on himself, and then documents everything in his writing. As a result, his experience-based articles are considered by some to be the gold standard in men's grooming and men's style.