Most people say it’s your footwear that is the first thing people fix their eyes on – but we’d argue, given it’s location on the body, it’s your hair. And, unlike a subpar pair of brogues or some battered white leather sneakers, you can’t easily slip out of a questionable hairstyle.
With that in mind, it pays to get acquainted with a few classic cuts ahead of your next visit to the chair. Like these nine, chosen by the UK’s best barbers, that promise to work for just about anyone, and won’t fall hopelessly out of favour six months down the line.
The French Crop
Daniel Davies, general manager at Pall Mall Barbers
The white T-shirt of haircuts, the French crop is a style that suits most face shapes but is particularly ideal for men going thinner on top. Since you’re taking the hair forward slightly here, leaving length in the fringe can help to cover any receding patches.
It’s a low-maintenance style perfect for someone in and out of the gym or swimming pool, as you can wear it without any styling product, just letting it fall naturally into place.
If, however, you do want to use product, try a little hairspray, as the French crop is a style that’s meant to be left natural. The upkeep with this cut isn’t in styling but in making a point of getting it trimmed every three or so weeks.
The Buzz Cut
Brent Pankhurst, founder of barbershop and grooming brand Pankhurst London
The buzz cut is a timeless style. But to really make it work, you need to have a great shaped head (a noggin like Ryan Gosling’s or Christian Bale’s, for example).
Named after the sound they make, it stands to reason that the look is achieved using clippers, however there are less severe alternatives for those not blessed with a square jaw and perfectly proportionate head.
If that’s you, go for a shape that is slightly square all over [clippered at the sides], with a little more length on the top. Scissor over comb is the Pankhurst technique and I’d highly recommend this rather than clippers exclusively. By cutting, you can work with the shape of the head to make the overall cut more flattering.
A good barber will take everything he knows about you into account, from your personality to your style to your day-to-day living, to provide a cut that suits you. Remember you wear your haircut 24/7, so it needs to work for all scenarios.
The Slick Back
Joe Parker, barber at Ruffians Covent Garden
The modern slick back first made an impact in the 1920s. At the time, it was useful to have a hairstyle that wouldn’t be messed up when wearing a hat (a status symbol and indicator of one’s class around the early 20th century). Since then, it has become a timeless classic.
Straight hair is best for this – the more curl you have, the harder it is to slick back properly. As for what face shape suits this style, it’s pretty versatile, as it will allow facial features (like beards, moustaches) to be more prominent, with the hair essentially framing the face. Unfortunately, for those with a receding hairline, the slick back look won’t be ideal as it’ll make recession far more prominent.
The back and sides need to be tapered, natural and fairly tight, with graduation up to the slightly heavier top. If you’re going for an undercut, there needs to be a disconnection here, but blending would be a better option for finer hair.
To style, blow-dry the hair back (if you have hair that grows forward, this will take longer) – bear in mind it takes practice to do this effectively. For a traditional slick look, use a water-based pomade and comb through when damp, or try a matte paste for a softer, more contemporary finish.
The Side Parting
Joe Parker, barber at Ruffians Covent Garden
Particularly popular from the 1920s-1940s and again in the 1960s, this style has been revived in the last decade as an easier-to-achieve alternative to the slick back.
As the basis of the haircut is a simple short back and sides, the style is pretty versatile and will suit most hair types and face shapes. That said, this can run the risk of looking like a comb-over if the hair is too long and thin on top.
When in the chair, ask for a classic taper on the back and sides, and for the top to be left long enough to part, but short enough to be neat and tidy.
The styling product you should use depends on your hair density: those with thicker hair should try a paste, while a matte clay works best for finer, less dense hair types.
Actually parting the hair can be tricky; the best approach is to put the product in the hair when damp (not wet) and part using a comb. You should try to establish where the natural parting is, perhaps with the help of your barber initially. If you’re struggling, comb the hair backwards, and you’ll see where it starts to fall and separate.
The Shoulder Length Cut
Classic and refined, this style has featured in fashion for years, likely because it is versatile enough to be adapted to several situations. By keeping your hair longer and having your barber or stylist add in some layers, you can switch between a beach-ready textured look and a Gordon Gecko boardroom do.
Probably the toughest part of achieving this style is growing your hair. There will always be a day when you can’t stand it and want to cut it all off, but before making any rash decisions try setting a goal length and make a decision once your hair has grown to that length on whether or not you want to stick with it.
When getting your hair cut, take time to discuss it with your stylist, making sure you mention what your limitations are. There’s no point having a messy, choppy layered look when you have to appear smart and put-together for work.
Like with most cuts, the success of this style is dependent on the hair texture. Very straight hair won’t stay in place as easy as hair that has a subtle wave; equally, excessively curly hair will be difficult to keep smoothed out.
Keep styling products to a minimum, as this style is at its strongest when it looks completely natural. With that said, you could try some salt spray to add softness for a messier take, or apply some texturiser to soften very curly hair and make it more manageable.
The Modern Hi-Top Fade
Two words: Will. Smith. The Fresh Prince paved the way for the popularity of the shaped <ahref=”https://www.fashionbeans.com/article/black-mens-haircuts-hairstyles/” target=”_blank”>afro, giving rise to variations and interpretations like this alternative take on the classic hi-top fade.
This isn’t the most versatile look, as it’s designed to stay in the shape that it’s been cut, so there’s not much room to change it up. Therefore, you need to make sure you’re committed to the look and it’s one that works for you. It goes without saying that afro or extremely curly hair is essential.
Before your cut, make sure you take the time to discuss with your barber or stylist the degree to which you want the shape of your afro to point out; getting this part right is crucial so that you can brush it into shape easily.
There are so many different variations on this style so it might be worth taking some images of styles you like with you to your haircut. Guys often feel embarrassed taking pictures with them but the more insight the person cutting your hair has, the better.
Make sure you go to a barber who knows how to work with your hair type and get yourself proper tools like an afro comb to style.
Alex Glover, master barber at Murdock at Liberty, London
The pompadour has been popular in many different lengths and variations since its debut on Madame du Pompadour, chief mistress to the French King Louis XV in the 1750s. Originally a feminine style, this is a hairstyle with hundreds of years of history. You can’t get more classic than that.
The pompadour works for most but does require some degree of thickness to the hair so that the style can support itself once created. Different face shapes can be flattered by varying the style’s structure. For example, if you have a narrow face, you could wear your pompadour wider and softer; or if you have a round face, it’s worth slicking the hair at the sides of your head right down to slim the overall silhouette.
To get this style, you’ll need to start by growing the front out. Get your barber or stylist to cut in a graduated top for you. Then, each time you have your hair trimmed, the graduation should be altered slightly to retain all the length at the front, while keeping the back shorter.
Once you’ve grown three inches of hair at the front, you’ll be able to create height by using a hairdryer and a mousse or sea salt spray. Pull the hair up as you dry it to create root lift. Once nearly dry, use your fingertips, or a hairbrush to give the ends some movement, allowing the style to be pushed back on itself.
It’s worth experimenting with products to find the best fit but avoid overloading your hair with product. Add your product to the back and sides before working through the top – remember you can always add a little more in, but you can’t take any out without washing. Finally, groom into place using hairspray for hold for your chosen finish – whether an Elvis-inspired greaser style or a more James Dean-esque dishevelled take.
Dion Padan, a hairstylist and finalist in the L’Oréal Men’s Image Award
A less polished alternative to the pompadour, the quiff is an iconic style that suits a wide range of ages, face shapes and personal styles. Like the pompadour, though, the quiff isn’t best suited to those with receding hairlines as it exposes the forehead.
Before your cut, make sure you’ve decided whether a classic or contemporary take on the quiff works best for you. The classic quiff features a softer back and sides which are kept short, but not severely so. The contemporary take can feature a dramatic contrast between long hair at the top of the head and a tightly clippered back and sides, producing a ‘disconnected’ effect.
Face shape is also an important consideration. Since the quiff offers natural volume, it’s best not to take the hair at the sides and back too short if you have a long face.
To style, apply a wet styling product to towel-dried hair and comb through to evenly distribute. Then, blow-dry the hair using a hairdryer set to the highest temperature setting and the lowest speed, while simultaneously using a vented brush to sweep the hair into your preferred shape.
Remember to finish off with strong-hold hairspray to make sure your efforts don’t go instantly to waste.
The Textured Cut With Fringe
Daniel Davies, general manager at Pall Mall Barbers
First things first, you’re going to need a good bit of length in your hair before you schedule a cut for a style like this. Also worth noting is that this textured style works best with thick rather than fine hair, and if you’re receding, then this isn’t the style for you.
Guys with double crowns or cows licks should definitely consider a textured look, as it’s a style that lets your hair lie the way it wants to. It’s best not to battle against these hair problems.
When it comes to achieving the textured look, take a picture with you to demonstrate exactly the type of cut you want. A good barber will be able to tell you from the picture if it’ll suit you and your hair type.
One thing to watch out for is thinning scissors; a lot of barbers tend to get trigger happy with these, but they should never be used on the top of the hair as they can make ends wispy and hair at the root excessively bulky by comparison. Instead, ask for the top to be point cut.
When styling a textured look, you need to make sure the hair is dry. Once dry, work a little texture enhancer, clay or putty into the hair with your fingers. But remember that this is a carefree style, so you don’t it want to look too groomed.