High Taper Fade Haircut: What It Is & The Best Styles For 2023
Transform your current haircut with a high taper fade. Less aggressive than a skin fade, a high taper looks contemporary yet professional and works for every hair type.
If you’re looking to switch up your haircut but are put off by extreme, aggressive-looking bald fades, a high taper fade could be the ideal solution. By taking a standard taper cut slightly higher up the back and sides, it creates increased contrast with the hair on top while remaining subtle and professional enough for those that work in more formal offices.
When cutting a high taper fade, your barber should clipper up through the sides from above the ears, then neatly blend into a lengthier section around the rim of the head before reaching the hair on top. A high taper fade can almost be compared to a mohawk when it comes to considering how the overall style should shape and flow from the front to the back of the head, framed by the clean, tight sides.
From a front-on perspective, this template structure should achieve a really boxy, square shape that flows down from the weight on top. The top itself should be kept notably longer than the rest of the cut for the most creative styling potential.
What is a high taper fade?
A high taper fade is considered a bit more thorough and complex than a traditional fade, which creates a blunt contrast between your top and sides. By allowing the area between the top, sides and back to sit with a bit more length and weight, a high taper fade offers the potential to work some really sharp lines through a haircut before blending down and out.
“This style is all about creating contrast from the front to the back,” explains Steven Chapman, founder of The Hoi Polloi barbershop. “The back section of the fade should ideally still have a bit of weight to it before being tapered out or cut right down to the skin. This can influence the start of that mohawk-like shape.”
“It needs to be cut really sharp,” continues Steven. “It should almost appear like a regular fade if you’re looking at someone square-on, but then when you look at them from the side, you should see a bulkier build up of texture coming up through the back of their head.”
This extra allowance of texture is what sets a high taper fade apart and influences the flow and shape of a hairstyle from the back to the fringe. It’s an adaptable detail, whether you’re looking to go quite messy on top with lots of volume, or keep your look neat and precise.
What you need to know before getting a high taper fade
“Before committing to a high taper fade, take the time to establish what it is you’re trying to achieve with your hairstyle,” advises Steven.
This type of fade work can establish more of a burst-out effect with your hairstyle, so if you’re in the market for a masculine, squarer-shaped profile (great for those with round or heart-shaped faces) with a potentially dramatic finish on top, a high taper fade could be for you.
Who does a high taper fade haircut suit?
A high taper fade tends to look best on guys with thicker hair, which has more natural weight and texture that can thrive while the sides remain sharp and more visibly defined by the taper down. Similarly, a high taper works really well with afro-textured hair because it allows the natural curl to stand out against the short, straight fade.
“If you have finer hair, this style is not necessarily going to work as well because you’re going to struggle to achieve such an impactful contrast,” Steven advises. “This can sometimes leave you looking like you’ve just got a bit of an awkward regular fade instead.” If that applies to you, consider going for a clean low fade or low taper fade instead.
18 cool high taper fade haircuts for men
Check out the examples below to see how adaptable and impactful a high taper fade can be across a whole host of hair types and styles.
Slick quiff with hard parting and high taper fade
On darker, straighter hair like this, the contrast created by a high taper fade can be so strong and effective.
The hard parting adds adds further definition between the sides and the top, which is slicked up into a modified quiff-pompadour with plenty of volume. Note how there is more length left at the back to create a more solid, sleek structure – if it was shorter it could quickly become spiky and hard to control.
Messy pompadour with high taper fade
A high taper fade is the perfect base from which to work plenty of volume through the top from the fringe, as seen on this style. With the top swept from front to back, you can blend down into the fade with ease as you approach the shorter back and sides.
This keeps the overall flow looking natural (rather than disjointed or disconnected) while the taper provides a subtle contrast and stops the overall style from becoming too messy.
Natural wavy mop with high taper fade
This curly, tousled style weaves forward with loose volume, eagerly pulling away from the more controlled rear section, which is cut shorter.
Note the bulkier area of texture coming up through the back, which helps balance the overall shape and creates a subtler transition from the curly hair into the fade.
Loose curls with high taper fade
These loose, afro-textured curls are pushed up and forwards, creating a superb contrast against the squarer, straighter profile achieved by the shorter back and side sections.
The high fade here brings more overall depth to the cut and produces an arch-like shape that sits heavier above the tidy, clean fade work below.
Messy quiff with high taper fade
This sharp and impactful look is dominated by the dramatic fringe but refined by the high taper fade. The front carries plenty of layered weight while lifting and falling in a clean graduation to the back.
Here, the high taper neatly ties the heavy top to the shorter sides, avoiding a ‘ledge’ around the perimeter, before the whole style fades down cleanly to skin.
Side sweep with hard parting and high taper fade
This sharp and tight side-swept look can be achieved with or without a high taper. However, this additional element provides a cleaner finish and more structure to the cut.
Taking the fade high enables you to leave a lot of weight around the top of the sides, helping create such a distinctive parting, while also allowing plenty of room to transition the fade all the way down to skin for a clean break before the facial hair begins. Compare this to if you simply cut out the entire side section at a one-grade length – it would look like an undercut gone wrong.
Short wavy hair with high taper fade
With plenty of wavy volume at the forefront of this style, the shorter, more controlled texture at the back proves invaluable in maintaining balance to the overall shape.
The high taper fade meanwhile does its job in enhancing the contrast between the much livelier and expressive style on top and the short, tight sides.
Short messy hair with highlights and high taper fade
This straighter, volumised style is balanced perfectly by the high taper fade, which enhances the top section while easing down into the shorter sides. Again, if you cut this one length you run the risk of making the top appear less square and more like a mushroom.
Such strong volume and natural, matte texture can be achieved by using a pre-styling product such as a root booster or salt spray, before finishing with a texturising clay or paste.
High pompadour with taper fade
Talk about contrast from front to back. This exaggerated pompadour has been ruffled up high and mighty, using the fingers to roughly style into place with plenty of texturising product.
A clean diagonal outline sets the shape as the length drops down drastically towards the rear of the cut. Plenty of natural texture has been left at the back to help square things off before the tapered section drops into tight, faded sides. It’s a statement, but a controlled one.
French crop with high taper fade
This modified French crop would still look really strong with faded sides at a single length all the way up, but the taper helps to lift that back section and give a more healthy weight and shape to the overall style.
The front section also achieves the goal of bursting out of the fade with lots of flowing natural texture and lift in the middle, before dropping forwards over the fringe to complete the precise, rounded profile.
Spiky hair with high taper fade
Going messy and spiky on top with harshly faded sides can often look incredibly awkward and unbalanced. However, as shown here, a taper fade leaves additional weight where the top and side sections meet, creating a more ‘complete’ haircut that flows with more depth, precision and natural contrast.
The subtle skin fade above the ears is a nice detail that ups the sharpness while blending cleanly into the beard.
Short afro with high taper fade
This high and tight military cut on afro-textured hair maintains a subtle amount of volume on top, lifting from front to back then cleanly tapering the flow down the sides.
Instead of having a harsh fade wipe the sides out completely, a sharp line is taken right through this area of texture and cut across the fringe to create additional shaping and detail.
Soft pompadour with high taper fade
This modern, clean and easy to maintain style really exemplifies the concept of exaggerating weight in the top and contrasting to the back. In one clean sweep of solid length, a long fringe like this can be styled to flow all the way back to almost half way down the neck.
This level of volume and disconnection between the top and the sides won’t be for everybody, but the high taper fade does a fantastic job of introducing a sense of depth to the cut before graduating down to skin.
Messy, wavy mop with high taper fade
These textured waves have been volumised to the max with a strong, malleable styling product. But with such weight and length left up top, the shaping needs to be spot on to stop everything getting out of control.
Here the barber gets it just right by leaving plenty of weight up front, before cutting gradually shorter through the back and transitioning into the tapered sides. The rear texture sits relatively flat, allowing the front of the cut to take centre stage.
Textured hair with high taper fade
It would be a shame to waste so much playful, high-impact volume at the top of a hairstyle like this by letting the back and sides sit longer and more natural.
By tapering these sections instead, you achieve a tighter, square profile that drastically smartens everything up, while exaggerating the burst-out effect of the lifted, textured hair above.
French crop with high taper fade
If quiffed fringes aren’t for you, you can still add some real definition to the front of your haircut with a blunt crop like this. The weight of this shorter, unassuming style has been so well balanced through the top, flowing forwards from the crown.
By introducing a high taper fade, you still achieve an extra sharp contrast between the top and sides, but can work in a more rounded, natural shape than with a straight up skin fade.
Short quiff with high taper fade
This short, no-nonsense quiff benefits greatly from the sharp sides. It keeps the profile nice and tight, blending down into the thicker beard, while the taper fade balances out the back section and helps maintain that square, masculine shape.
Hair with this amount of natural weight and thickness can sometimes restrict creativity, but here it offers enough freedom for a subtle amount of lift at the fringe, before sitting neater and flatter towards the back.
High and tight with high taper fade
This impeccable afro-textured hairstyle proves you don’t need to rely on drastic levels of volume to achieve a stand-out look.
A modified buzz cut fade, the short, even length flows from front to back, allowing the hair’s natural curl to create texture all over the cut – which looks even better contrasted against those high faded edges.
Simple yet so very effective.