What Is a Tape up Haircut?

Andrea Cross

A tape up haircut is usually worn by men, and the length of the hair decreases gradually over the head from the top down. Initially called a taper or fade haircut, this style was originally worn by young, urban African-American men. It is a look that has become more progressively mainstream, resulting in a haircut with many variations worn by men, and more uncommonly women, of many different backgrounds. The phrase tape up was coined by men of Italian-American backgrounds and tends to indicate a particular style of this haircut.

A tape up haircut leaves the hair long on top and shorter as it goes down.
A tape up haircut leaves the hair long on top and shorter as it goes down.

A tape up haircut consists of a fade that ends directly above the ear and two to three inches (five to seven centimeters) above the neckline in the back. The hair is left longer on top then is cut progressively shorter in a "fade" until the hair appears barely visible. The fade consists of a layered cut that is so gradual that the hair appears to fade as it continues downward, without any visible graduation lines. As the bottom of the tape up haircut is so short, it is a style that requires frequent upkeep.

Electronic clippers are used to cut a tape up hairstyle.
Electronic clippers are used to cut a tape up hairstyle.

There are many versions of the tape up, as it is very versatile and can be customized. This form of haircut is often viewed by the wearer as a form of artistic expression, and many communities have styles that associate them as belonging to a particular social group. Examples of variations of this haircut include the hi-top, the low-top, and the half fade.

The tape up haircut, as a particular style, is also referred to as the Brooklyn fade, a cut popularized by young Italian-American men. This style has the normal taper or fade on the sides and back of the hair; however, the top is left quite long. In the Brooklyn fade style, a large amount hair product such as mousse or gel is applied to the long portion of the hair, which is then slicked back. A blow-out is a popular variation of this, where the hair is formed into chunky spikes.

To cut a tape up haircut, electronic clippers with multiple guards are used. After determining where the fade or taper will start, the stylist begins at the side of the head, at the sideburns, and works toward the back. Following the contours of the head to get an even cut, the guards on the clippers are changed in stages and used in their various settings to achieve the gradation of hair lengths without any visible lines. The hair left on top is then cut to the desired length and styled.

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Discussion Comments


@SteamLouis-- I think there was a lot of stereotyping about people who wore this haircut but not anymore. It has become very popular now and lots of men wear it outside of the New York area. In fact, I think some New Yorkers are upset about their hair style being copied.


I think tape up haircut looks really good on men, but I don't like it when men use hair gel to make spikes on the top. I like it when they leave the top alone or when the top of the haircut is cut shorter than usual. Then it looks very neat and stylish.

I also don't think that all hair stylist can do this haircut well. I have seen quite a few boys with a badly done tape up. The fading wasn't done right so there are literally lines when the hair is getting shorter. If it's done well, it shouldn't be overly visible that the hair is getting shorter. It's a good idea to go to a hair stylist that has a lot of experience with this hair style.


The tape up haircut seems to be a part of a stereotype. I mentioned to a friend that I like this type of haircut and might get it and received strange looks. According to him, only Italian Americans get the haircut so it wouldn't be a good idea for me. This haircut seems to be almost entirely attributed to men with Italian heritage, at least in the New York area.

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