The high and tight fade or tapered cut is among the popular hairstyles for men. Tapered hair can provide low-maintenance hair without resorting to a bald look. A tapered haircut, however, must be done step by step. This includes having good knowledge of the clipper guards, tapering in increments and maintaining the clippers.


The guards are your first step to performing a tapered hair cut with clippers. Understand the guard numbers and their sizes. For example, “# 4” is a 1/2-inch guard, meaning that the hair will be cut to a 1/2-inch length when you pass the clippers over the head. As the guard numbers go down, so do the cutting lengths. Since a tapered cut means that the hair will gradually get smaller from the top down, start with the highest guard after combing your hair. Use a scooping motion as you cut to ensure that the hairs are properly lifted before the clipper blades chop them off.


Once you have cut all the hair to the starting length, switch guards to the next shortest length. Make sure you get a visual as to where you want that length to begin. For example, if you start at a 1/2-inch thick (#4 guard), the next level should begin at the imaginary line around the temple starting at 3/8-inch thick, or the #3 guard. Use the same scooping motion along the imaginary line to ensure the cut resembles a gradual progression to the scalp. Then, move to the #2 guard starting about a 1/2-inch below the 3/8-inch cut. You can secure the layers of hair using hairclips. Continue this progression until you have reached the desired taper. For a more intricate taper, consider using the taper adjuster level on the side of the clippers, if available. This allows you to cut at lengths between the guards, making for a smoother look.

Clipper Maintenance

Part of giving a tapered haircut is to ensure your blades and guards are in optimal shape. By not doing so, you could damage hairs, get the clippers stuck on the scalp and cause you or your customer unnecessary pain. Start by regularly cleaning the clipper blades using the clipper brush or a fingernail brush. You may also need to unscrew the blades to reach unseen hairs caught between the blades.
You will also need to regularly oil the blades to keep them sharp. Apply two or three drops of clipper oil to the blade tips and turn the clippers on. If you have a taper adjuster lever, slowly move it up and down for 30 seconds after applying the oil.