Quiff it, quiff it good. The pompadour might adorn the heads of plenty a contemporary gent, but the quiff is firmly rooted in history. Believe it or not, the pompadour has unexpectedly feminine origins.
It takes its name from the infamous bedfellow and playmate of King Louis XV, Madame de Pompadour, who popularised the look and provided inspiration to the beautiful people of upper-crust 18th century Europe. Yep, you read that right. A popular men’s cut originated with the fairer sex (not uncommon, us blokes are always flogging the good ideas).
That’s not to say men weren’t keen to have a slice of the action. The pompadour did the rounds in Western culture and eventually found its way to a good ol’ boy in Mississippi called Elvis Presley in the early ’50s. And that, as they say, was that – almost.
Although the king of Rock N’ Roll solidified the pompadour into popular memory, the story of the quiff didn’t conclude with greasers and rockabilly enthusiasts.
The quiff has risen to the top of the grooming style pyramid, and plenty of guys – from yakuza mobsters to insufferable hipsters and Conan O’Brien – are representing the cut’s vintage continuity. David Beckham sports a dashing modern interpretation of the style, Brad Pitt gave it hardass martial beating in Fury, and Bruno Mars isn’t leaving much to the imagination with a peacocky, voluminous quiff. Its popularity is a testament to its enduring merit.
The quiff is surprisingly versatile. A good barber can tweak the cut to suit the wearer’s age, professional environment, or personal aesthetic. The pompadour can be cut with a fade, full side length, an undercut, long on top, short on top, with texture or without.
You’ve got a zillion options and if your barber has any imagination (he should, it’s what pays for his beer) then he’ll have something up his sleeve to suit your noggin.
Who Suits The Pompadour?
Before booking an appointment and submitting yourself to the scrutiny of a barber, it’s worth considering if your unique combination of hair and facial features are suited to the pompadour. No doubt, a pompadour can be worked in a dozen ways. But that’s not to say every bloke is doing himself a favour by making it his first choice.
In this instance, fortune favours guys with square or oval-shaped features. That might sound a bit unfair, but we’re coming from a good place, here. A quiff adds weight and substantial volume to the top of a guy’s head, and this can exaggerate any pronounced facial features you have – whether it’s a recessive chin, high forehead, or round cheeks. That’s not to say you will look like Gollum in an Elvis costume if you don’t have the aforementioned facial blessings. It just means you’ll have to play with the proportional aspect of the cut to achieve a flattering look.
A small, round head is less suited to an exaggerated, old-school pompadour due to an unfortunate risk that the dramatic shape of the cut will make his head look shrunken, like a pea with a wig. If you have a weak chin, furthermore, a high volume quiff can lead you into ‘top-heavy’ territory. Neither looks sexy. So if your features aren’t far off those mentioned above, consider a more modest quiff to maintain even, symmetrical proportions, because you probably don’t want to imply to your mates that you’re turning into Johnny Bravo.
Along the same lines, gents with a big forehead, or long features, are best served by reducing the length of the pompadour. Opting for a shorter quiff will reduce the impression of an elongated head and keep things in reasonable proportion. Of course, if you’ve been kidding yourself and your ‘mature’ hairline is beginning to recede, we’ll need to have a different conversation (that probably involves some stern words, and then a buzz cut).
The texture of your hair isn’t actually that important, as far as the basics of the quiff go. Both straight and curly hair look the business with a pompadour, even if the end state differs.
If you have unruly curls that won’t co-operate with a two pronged comb-and-pomade assault, it simply means your options are limited to a messier variation of the pompadour. This interpretation is more relaxed, outside the corporate spectrum of haircuts.
However, going for a tight-fade on the sides can sharpen a curly-hair pompadour, provided you aren’t going too short. Furthermore, guys with straight hair will probably have to settle with the fact that their pompadour will always retain a neat, angular shape as opposed to the ‘I woke up like this’ thing that curly haired blokes seem to manage (lucky bastards).
However, thin hair won’t cut the mustard. The quiff requires some follicular density to stay in place, as thin hair is likely to fall out of place and lose shape with sudden movement or the wind.
None of this should suggest that it won’t work on regular guys, with regular faces that aren’t featured in hairstyle magazines. So if you have a decent mane and a willingness to get acquainted with shitloads of pomade, you’re probably ready for our golden tips on quiffstronomy.
How To Style A Pompadour
Due to its apparently careless look, most guys think the quiff is easy pickings for a low maintenance haircut. Not quite true. It takes a barber with solid experience, precision practice, and the right kit to make it work. The wrong approach can land you in the cheesy Elvis impersonator territory, stripping you of that rebellious rock n’ roll look you’ve spent excruciating hours rehearsing in front of the mirror. These simple tips will elevate your Grease-era bad boy points, and have Olivia Newton-John frothing over you in no time.
- Start with the cut. Find an experienced barber who can operate outside the narrow confines of short back and sides, and start with length: shorter on the sides with length on top. The ratio is up to you. Some general rules still apply though – don’t go too short on the sides for proportions sake, nor too long because you’re not a sleazy cheeseball.
- Shear the mane. Thick hair is a roadblock to a successful quiff, unless you have an industrial-grade comb and pomade that can lock down a house in a tornado. It helps if your hair isn’t so thick that someone could lose their phone and wallet inside your follicles. Ask the barber to whip out his thinning shears, if he doesn’t already. You’ll be able to style the quiff more effectively and get more bang for your buck/pomade.
- Invest in tools. Get used to dual-wielding a comb and blow dryer, because you won’t get far without them. Don’t get too fancy, though. The blow-dryer doesn’t need to be diamond-encrusted or have a laser pointer. I got mine from Savers for six bucks, and haven’t had a dull moment since (except for when it mysteriously stops working every few days). Combs are a different story – a mass-market plastic comb will bend and snap worse than those birds in Legally Blonde. Buy an acetate one from a barbershop (any decent one that wants to stay in business will sell them).
- Find the right pomade. Unlike other styles, the pompadour is mostly carried by good pomade. Buy something top shelf (Layrite or Uppercut Deluxe are the cat’s knickers). Depending on your hair, you can select water or oil based options, but the former is the best unless you wash your hair twice a day. Pomade will also keep the hair firm without sacrificing the option to restyle later, and maintains a smooth texture for all the Slick Ricks out there.
- Spray it (a little). A splash (and I really do mean just a splash) of hair spray will lock your hair into shape. Seriously, though, don’t add too much. Your hair shouldn’t be a fire hazard.
- Practice. You don’t need to be a wizard, but the first couple of times can be tricky. Before you get performance anxiety (not that kind) it’s worth remembering that getting the look right probably won’t happen overnight, unless your missus is a stylist and she’s happy to do it for you every morning (a couple guesses on the likelihood of that). Trial it a few times and see how your hair responds.
- Style it (for real this time). Start with towel-dried hair after a shower. Using the brush and blow dryer, dry the hair on top up and towards the back to give it height. Once the hair is dry, start working the styling product of your choice through it. When adding pomade, think of it as salt in a dish. The right amount will add flavour, but too much is overpowering and defeats the purpose. Start small, and add progressively. You can always add, but subtracting is a different story. When the product is evenly distributed, fine-tune the style with any tweaks it takes to get the exact height and shape you’re looking for.
- Follicular upkeep. The pompadour is not a low maintenance style that you can whip out after a shower and forget about. Frequent visitations at the salon are necessary to keep the length of the quiff in shape, and to maintain the sides. An undercut or tight-fade quiff will see you back in the chair every fortnight, but a traditional pompadour can be kept to 3-4 weeks between visits (for all you tightarses).
Even award-winning hairstylist Anthony Nader of RAW has some tips on the quiff. “I’m a big fan of the modern Pompadour especially if the quiff has the appearance of a more gritty/real look, rather than looking like your one of Ken and Barbies tight inner circle of peeps. I know the girls love a pompadour that looks more rebellious and rock and roll, which will win you points.”
There you have it – even prestigious stylists think it can make you score chicks (even if your mates don’t believe it). If all this talk of pomade and styling hasn’t turned you off your dinner, you’re ready to click through our gallery for inspiration.