While it’s true that the last decade hasn’t exactly been a pony ride geopolitically or culturally speaking, it has actually been pretty darn good to our hair.
Take the undercut. This simple throwback style has re-cemented its place as one of the most iconic ‘dos around, having been rocked by everyone from the Hollywood elite to soldiers. And when a haircut has an appeal that broad, it’s safe to assume it won’t be getting the chop anytime soon.
But with so many variations to try, it pays to swot up on the key takes before sitting in the chair. To give yourself a head start, here is the complete guide to men’s undercuts.
What Is An Undercut?
At its core, the undercut is simple, stylish and versatile. The term itself refers to any cut that leaves length on top while the back and sides are closely cropped, faded, or buzzed completely.
These days, sculpting the perfect undercut is a precision task for barbers – especially when skin fades and tight graduations get thrown into the mix. However, back in Edwardian era England, an undercut was nothing more than a sign that a man couldn’t afford a haircut from anyone skilled enough to blend lengths. Funny how things change, eh?
How The Undercut Became Popular
Peaky Blinders turned a generation of sartorially confused men onto flat caps and trench coats, but it’s also responsible in part for the new dawn of the undercut.
Joe Mills, founder of unisex hair salon The Lounge Soho, also chalks the return up to a rebellion against IDGAF styles like the buzz cut. “For me, [the undercut] has come back with such momentum partly because of the way men have found their feet and male grooming has found its place in our lives,” he says.
“We have experimented with beards, moustaches and grooming products to the point that the way we wore our hair became a thing again.”
How Do I Know If An Undercut Is Right For Me?
As with any hairstyle, there are a few things to weigh up (the weight of your hair, of course, being one of them) before sitting in the chair.
As well as getting to grips with them yourself, it’s always wise to consult your barber on what they think might suit your face shape, hair type and lifestyle before committing to a cut. After all, they are the professionals.
Any styling choice north the neck – be it glasses or facial hair – is going to be affected by the shape of your face. The same goes when it comes to your hair, which should aim to balance out your most prominent features.
For example, if your face is so long you could give Hugh Laurie a run for his money in the Grand National, it’s a smart move to avoid anything with too much height. Instead, opt for a style that can be worn slicked back, or a short haircut with textured length on top that lays flat.
At the opposite end of the scale, guys with round faces should try to add a few inches with a style such as an undercut pompadour or quiff with tightly cropped sides.
Lastly, and as is usually the case, people with oval shaped faces will look good regardless. Annoying. Well, for the rest of us anyway.
How curly, coarse, thick or thin your thatch is will serve as another deciding factor when it comes to what undercut style to go for. Luckily, as there are seemingly endless variations, there’s something to suit every type.
As a general rule, lofty styles like quiffs and pompadours are better suited to thick, full hair, while those with curly or very fine hair should opt for shorter, textured styles. Afro hair, on the other hand, lends itself well to loose curls or braids.
Maintenance is the barbershop term for deciding how much you value that extra 15 minutes in bed each morning. If your answer is “a lot”, you’re better off siding with something fairly low maintenance, such as a style that is designed to be worn messy, whereas those who don’t mind putting in some extra work in front of the mirror pre-9am can choose from more sculpted snips.
Maintenance also refers to how often you will need to get your hair cut in order to keep the intended shape. Because each variation of undercut features a short back and sides, it’s advisable to book into the chair at least every two weeks.
Undercut With Pompadour
The pompadour has come a long way from its 18th-century roots. Originally worn exclusively by the type of ladies seen in Baroque-era paintings, the style was brought back into favour and on the heads of men by the likes of Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley and countless others throughout the 1950s.
“The classic pompadour is defined by two main characteristics,” says Jason Collier, a go-to barber for the likes of Justin Timberlake and Brooklyn Beckham, “a sharp undercut around the back and sides, with the hair worn much longer on top, swept back in a high quiff.”
But will it be your ‘Good Luck Charm’, or could this be a trip to the barber that will leave you ‘Crying In The Chapel’? According to Collier, that’s all down to your hair type.
“It’s all in the styling when it comes to this haircut,” he adds. “If you have thinner, finer hair, then you’ll need to amp up the volume, with some backcombing and volumising product. For thick or curly hair, it’s more about taming the beast, and using strong-hold products to keep the hair in the classic pompadour shape.”