Few men have looked back on mohawks or mullets – or, indeed, man buns and braids – with the warmth of nostalgia. But somewhere among all the fleeting trends, five haircuts have stood the test of time. We unpack five classic cuts and explain how to go about styling them.
The Side Parting
The defining look of the 20s, the side parting has not waned in its popularity (in recent years thanks to the popularity of Mad Men). “Classically speaking, the top would be a few inches longer than the sides,” says Jack Merrick Thirlway, senior stylist at Neville Hair & Beauty. “The important thing is that the corners on both sides are square in order to maintain a more masculine shape,” he adds. You do need more length at the front but this needs to be measured properly by a barber. Grow it too long and the cut won’t sit properly or look neat (or it will just look like a dodgy combover).
The actual parting should be done with a comb while your hair is still wet. Seek out the point at which the hair naturally wants to separate – this will be different for each guy – rather than attempt to enforce an artificial line. If there’s no obvious spot, Thirlway recommends aiming for around the middle of the eyebrow. “To style. I would put a matte wax on wet hair and blow-dry it into place. This will give hold and shine without making it look like your head is overloaded with product,” he adds.
Celebrity Inspiration: Liam Hemsworth / Daniel Radcliffe
The Buzz Cut
A low-maintenance solution with a distinct don’t-mess-with-me vibe, the buzz cut works especially well on guys with a square or well-proportioned face. Those less lucky in the genetics department – or who have bumps and birthmarks on their scalp – can soften the look by leaving a little more length on top. A good barber should be able to adapt this classic style to suit your face shape.
If you’re going whole hog, then it’s a clipper job from start to finish with regular tidy-ups every four weeks or so. Anything under a grade 3 will reveal scalp and make the look more Fight Club than desk job. And while this is a relatively easy cut, we’d advise against DIY jobs as you won’t be able to attend to your neckline (or, indeed, the back of your head) with any kind of precision.
The buzz cut is ideal for guys who are starting to thin or lose their hair – do it early enough and onlookers will be none the wiser.
Celebrity Inspiration: Wentworth Miller / Matthew Fox
Modest takes on the quiff will feature a soft back and sides while more contemporary incarnations feature a severe “disconnect” between voluminous length on top and tightly clippered angles. Neither, unfortunately, will look right with a hairline that’s receding. Darren Fowler, Creative Director of Fowler35, says, “The thing to remember is that a quiff adds height and length to the face so you don’t want to overdo it if you already have a long face.”
Opting for a quiff means getting to know your blow dryer on a daily basis. Fowler suggests using “a gutsy product like a dry shampoo spray” (such as Crêpage De Chignon by L’Oréal Professionnel) and then blow drying it in, all the while lifting the hair with a comb or brush. “Don’t forget to keep lifting as the hair cools so it sets in place,” he adds.
Celebrity Inspiration: David Gandy / Ryan Gosling
The French Crop
There are countless variations on the French crop, a carefully disheveled style with lots of texture. This cut is a scissor job from start to finish and it’s adaptable to almost any face shape. The sides and back should be kept relatively short and soft while the top is long enough so that it can be pushed forward or swept to the side. The choppiness of the cut works especially well on guys with naturally wavy hair.
Even though it looks low maintenance, your styling game needs to go up a couple of notches in order to maintain the style. Texturising powders such as Tecniart Super Dust by l’Oreal Professionnel will give a matte finish, add volume and accentuate the choppiness of the cut.
As evidenced by George Clooney in his ER heyday, the cut works especially well on mature guys who want to create the illusion of thicker hair. This ultimately comes down to the skills of your stylist. Adam Brady of Ruffians in London says “The barber should increase the texture on top by point cutting with downward – rather than horizontal – scissor movements.” In addition to this, the sides and back can be tapered tightly in order to create a contrast with the top. “Not only will this allow the top to grow out longer but it will give the illusion of thicker hair,” he adds.
Celebrity Inspiration: George Clooney / Gary Barlow
The Slick Back
If you have straight hair and a strong hairline, then the slick back can create an air of mature elegance. Popularised in the 20s and 30s, it is a sharp, no-nonsense cut that reveals the whole face, making a moustache or a beard more prominent (along with every tiny facial expression).
Ask your barber to taper the sides with scissors and to leave the top comparatively long (a good four to six inches). Hipsters, meanwhile, will invariably ask for an undercut, which can be achieved with clippers, creating a strong disconnect at the temples. The cut may be simple but it requires a lot of upkeep: ensure the neckline is always shaved clean and that the top doesn’t get so long that you fall into mullet (or indeed “duck’s ass”) territory.
Styling couldn’t be easier: blow dry the hair straight back with a comb and finish with a pomade for shine or, alternatively, a matte clay / paste. The pitfall here is that an over-styled or overly sharp slick back is too intense and will invariably make you look like one of those repugnant hedge funder types, a serial killer or, indeed, Silvio Berlusconi. To avoid this, try to create a little height when styling or soften the look with a side parting.
Celebrity Inspiration: Zac Efron / Brad Pitt