The Athlete’s Taper


This haircut is a classic haircut that you will see athletes of all ages wearing. The haircut is very versatile can be cut to many different lengths just by adjusting the blade length up or down a few sizes. It is also very low maintenance. It just needs to be cut every few weeks.  A sharp outline up will show off the different dimensions to the haircut which make it a timeless classic.

LEARNING OBJECTIVES
  • Understand what a taper is.
  • Identify the correct tools to use for textured hair.
  • Understand the concept of cutting a taper without making a line of demarcation first.
  • Identify when it is necessary to outline the front hairline and temple area instead of leaving it natural.
  • Demonstrate a tapered haircut.
Step by Step Guide
  1. Comb through the top to remove any snarls and get the hair moving in the same direction. Use the appropriate comb for the density of the hair or the coarse teeth of a fade brush.
  2. Cut the top. Determine the length the client would like the top cut. Determine if you are going to cut with grain against it. (Cutting with the grain will leave the hair longer while cutting into it will cut it shorter usually removing any wave or texture.) Use the 1 ½ (1/8”) blade on the detachable blade clipper and cut with the grain from the crown to the fore head. Move the clipper slowly to make sure no hair is missed. Start with a center section and work on the side sections to the round of the head.
  3. Cut the hair on the round of the head and the crown. Make sure to cut with the grain in the crown area. If you cut against it the hair will look uneven or even worse a hole will be left. Move on to the round of the head and continue to cut the hair from back to front in the direction it grows.
  4. Move on to the sides and back section. Start on the right hand side and cut from top to bottom with the growth pattern of the hair. (For the first part of the haircut we want to make sure it is all the same length.) Follow through to the opposite temple area.
  5. Start the taper in the temple areas. The taper will be on a diagonal from the temple to the top/front of the ear. Work from the longest length to the shortest for ease of blending. Start out with the ¼” attachment on the adjustable clipper in the closed/shortest position and cut in an upward motion on a diagonal from the temple to the top of the ear. As the head starts to round take an imaginary line very slowly away from the head. This will allow the clipper to cut as you move the clipper away from the head leaving a smooth blend.
  6. Repeat step 5 with the 1/8” attachment on the adjustable clipper with the lever in the open position. Start to pull the clipper away from the head slightly below where you left off with the clipper in step 5.
  7. Repeat step 6 with the 1/8” attachment on the adjustable clipper with the lever in the closed position. Start to pull the clipper away from the head slightly below where you left off with the clipper in step 6.
  8. Repeat step 7 with the 1/16” attachment on the adjustable clipper with the lever in the open position. Start to pull the clipper away from the head slightly below where you left off with the clipper in step 7.
  9. Repeat step 8 with the 1/16 attachment on the adjustable clipper with the lever in the closed position. Start to pull the clipper away from the head slightly below where you left off with the clipper in step 8.
  10. Repeat step 9 with the adjustable clipper’s lever in the open position and no attachment. Start to pull the clipper away from the head slightly below where you left off with the clipper in step 9.
  11. Put the 1/8” attachment back on the adjustable in the closed position and run it over the fade/taper from top to bottom and front to back. This will take any of the remaining curl or wave off for the final blend.
  12. Taper the back and hairline. Use the ¼” attachment on the adjustable in the closed position and run the clipper up to the occipital area or to the middle portion of the ear and slowly pull the clipper away from the head. This will be the first blend and your guide not to go higher than for the rest of the taper.
  13. Repeat step 12 with the 1/8” attachment on the adjustable clipper in the open position and start to slowly pull the clipper away from the head just below where you left off in step 12.
  14. Repeat step 13 with the 1/8” attachment on the adjustable clipper in the closed position and start to slowly pull the clipper away from the head just below where you left off in step 13.
  15. Repeat step 14 with the 1/16” attachment on the adjustable clipper in the open position and start to slowly pull the clipper away from the head just below where you left off in step 14.  After that take the clipper at a 45 degree angle and run the clipper around each ear to further lighten up the outline.
  16. Repeat step 15 with the 1/16” attachment on the adjustable clipper in the closed position and start to slowly pull the clipper away from the head just below where you left off in step 15. After that take the clipper at a 45 degree angle and run the clipper around each ear to further lighten up the outline.
  17. Repeat step 16 with the adjustable clipper in the open position without an attachment. Start to slowly pull the clipper away from the head just below where you left off in step 16.
  18. Repeat step 17 with the adjustable clipper in the half way closed position without an attachment. Start to slowly pull the clipper away from the head just below where you left off in step 17.
  19. Repeat step 18 with the adjustable clipper in the closed position without an attachment. Start to slowly pull the clipper away from the head just below where you left off in step 18.
  20. Use the 1/8” attachment on the adjustable clipper in the open position and run it over the transition from the sides and the back to the taper. This will complete the blend in that area and is the final step to the taper.
  21. Repeat steps 5-11 on the opposite temple area.
  22. Complete the outline of the haircut. Face the client toward you and make the center cut on the forehead. Do not go too far off the hairline. Gently press the clipper into the hairline creating the center guide (pressing too hard can break the skin). Make a straight line to each temple area off of the center guide.
  23. Line off the temple area. Make sure to leave a distinct corner connecting the front to the temple area. Slightly push the clipper into the hairline to create a sharper line.
  24. Create an arc from the corner of the temple area down to the side burn area into the desired width of the side burn.
  25. Pull the ear down and draw the outline around the ear with the corner of the blade.
  26. Cut the diagonal line behind the ear. Do not go off of the natural hairline. Leave the line as far out as possible.
  27. Trim the beard or fuzz off the back of the neck. Cut in an upward motion toward the taper and stop about an inch below so you do not cut into the taper.
  28. Repeat steps 23-26 on the opposite side of the haircut.
  29. Shave the outline with the straight razor. Make sure to ask the client first if it irritates the skin before beginning. Apply the pre-shave oil to the outline of the haircut and then the hot lather. Stand behind the client and wipe off the shaving cream from the front hairline. Lightly shave into the hairline to create a sharp line. Next, shave toward the temple area lightly touching the line. Follow the arc from the temple to the side burn area. Shave the side of the neck getting as close to the line as you can without cutting into it. Shave the bottom of the neck without getting anywhere near the hairline in order to preserve the taper. Repeat on the opposite side.
  30. Style the hair with pomade by rubbing the product into the hair and scalp. Use the appropriate comb or brush depending on the density of the hair and comb/brush it forward.
REVIEW QUESTIONS
  1. What section does the haircut start in?
  2. What tool is best used to cut the top section?
  3. Should the top section be cut with the grain or against it?
  4. Is the hair tapered from longer to shorter or shorter to longer?
  5. What clipper is best used for the tapered areas?
  6. Why is the adjustable clipper better to use for the taper than the detachable blade clipper?
  7. What is the final step to complete the taper in the transition area before you move on to the finish?
  8. What tool is used for the finish to create the outline of the haircut?
  9. Why is only a small pressure needed to create a sharp outline?

AUTHOR’S COMMENTARY
This is a very long lesson plan and it may seem overwhelming but a lot of it is repetitive. As you can tell from the video there are a lot of steps in a small area that can be done quickly. We are as thorough as possible with the instructions because with any short haircut the smallest imperfection will show.
When cutting the outline with the t-trimmer do not press too hard. This clipper is very sharp and the lightest of pressure will leave a sharp line. Also do not drag down with the clipper. This will cause irritation.
Before shaving the outline with the straight razor, be sure to ask your client first. This step can irritate some skin types. Remember, you just shaved it with a sharp clipper. Going over the same spot on the skin can cause irritation so be gentle and careful.

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