While it’s certainly true that many men’s hairstyles can be classified as classic, none perhaps fit into that bracket better than the crew cut. The very epitome of timeless, it is one that most guys will rock at some point in their lives. And, with several variations of the crew cut that you might not have even known about, there’s an incredibly good chance you’ve already rocked at least one of them already.
In this story…
History of the Crew Cut
A perfect haircut for virtually all scenarios, the crew cut blends in perfectly at both the office and the bar (and everywhere in between). Undeniably masculine, many believe it originated in the military, but its history stretches back much further.
Contrary to belief, its history can be traced back to 18th century England (where it was actually known as a short pompadour, taking inspiration from the pompadour that originated in France around the same time).
The name is believed to have stemmed from the fact that it proved popular with the rowing teams – or crews – of Ivy League universities – Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Cornell – as it helped to keep the hair out of their face so they could focus on the race instead.
It was after this that crew cuts became popular in the military, with many inductees being forced to adopt it – if they weren’t given a buzz cut – and many continuing to rock one even after they finished serving.
How To Ask Your Barber For A Crew Cut
The crew cut is a global men’s haircut, and therefore, all barbers should have some understanding as to what goes into creating one. We can’t say for sure, but we imagine it to be one of the very first styles they learn at barbering school. But, as this guide proves, there are several variations, so you’ll do well to sit down in the chair with a clear idea of the look you want.
A crew cut is a traditionally short haircut, but there is some wiggle room with regards to the hair length and what officially defines one. So don’t necessarily assume you have to have your hair cut shorter than you’d normally like, you should weigh up your options.
You’ll also want to consider whether you want to add a fade into the mix. Fades suit a vast majority of men and an even greater selection of hairstyles, especially the crew cut. You have a number of options in this area too, with a low fade, mid fade, high fade, skin fade and taper fade all being worthy contenders for pairing with a crew cut haircut.
How To Style A Crew Cut
If you’re a man in possession of thick hair, you’ll find the crew cut much easier to style than your fellow man. This is because thick hair naturally wants to stand up straight, a key feature of authentic crew cuts. That’s not to say guys with thin hair can’t get involved, but the shape of your face will need to be taken into greater consideration.
A crew cut is technically defined as having hair that graduates in length from the front to the back and the crown. It’s this difference in length that caused it to be called a short pompadour many years ago. The longer section at the front can be rounded or flattened, with each style suiting particular face and head shapes, and the sides and back of the head are usually tapered (but as we’ve previously mentioned, the length of taper or fade you introduce is up to you).
Because a crew cut is a short hairstyle, and it wants to stand upright, if you have thick hair that does so naturally, you don’t need to worry about styling it too much. You could even go completely product-free if you wish. Some guys do, however, like to use a small amount of styling product to either give it slightly rougher, messy edge, or to just give it some shine.
Best Crew Cut Haircuts
So, now you know everything there is to know about the crew cut, time to take a look at the numerous ways in which you can have yours cut and styled.
Classic Crew Cut
We’ve already mentioned much of the criteria for a classic crew cut. It’s a short haircut for men that sees the hair on top of the head kept longer than the hair on the back and sides, which gradually tapers down to a shorter length as it approaches the ears. From the side, a classic crew cut will look horizontal on top, despite the hair at the front being longer than the hair at the back, and for the most part, your barber will be able to use clippers and a comb.
You can have some texture added using scissors (more on that later) but a classic crew cut will be cut to an even length all over the top.
Long Crew Cut
As we said earlier, there is some wiggle room when it comes to the length you have your crew cut. While a traditional one will be kept at around a number 3 or 4 on the top, a long crew cut can be achieved with a few inches of length of hair on top. As long as the hair stands upright, it can be considered a crew cut, but as soon as it starts naturally falling over, you’re into completely different hairstyle territory.
You’ll want to make sure you still introduce a taper to the back and sides of your head, and if you wish, a long crew cut does allow for some hair product to be applied, such as a gel or wax, to help it maintain its shape throughout the day.
Short Crew Cut
Yes, we’re aware the crew cut is already a short hairstyle for men, but it can be made shorter still, but there are a couple of things to keep in mind. You can opt for what is pretty much a buzz cut on top of the head – where the hair is kept one uniform length – which does go against crew cut rules, so you’ll want to make sure you taper the sides to be shorter still. This will introduce the contrast in length required for a crew cut.
A short crew cut is one of the most low maintenance hairstyles, since it requires very little styling
Textured Crew Cut
We promised you we’d mention a crew cut that was paired with textured hair, and here it is. A traditional crew cut will see the hair cut relatively uniformly all over, no matter the length. While this is a great option for some men, others like to make their crew cut a little bit messier. Messy hair can still be incredibly professional – as long as you steer clear of bed hair – and is a perfect partner for the crew cut. To achieve a messier look, you’ll want to ask your barber to add some texture to your crew cut by way of point cutting.
Point cutting is the best way to achieve a textured crewcut, as it sees the ends of the hair strands cut to varying lengths. When it comes to the styling process, you’ll instantly notice how you can create vastly different looks, depending on how you run your hair styling product through your hair. Men with wavy hair have a natural advantage of introducing texture to their crew cut, so won’t need to worry so much about having the hair point cut.
Whatever your hair type, a textured crew cut is an ideal option for men who don’t quite fancy the uniform, sometimes fluffy appearance of a classic crew cut.
Ivy League Crew Cut
The Ivy League haircut and the crew cut are pretty much the same thing. In fact, in the US, a crew cut that is left to grow out naturally evolves into an Ivy League crew cut when it comes to naming, and so there is little to separate the two hairstyles, other than the length. An Ivy League crew cut still sports tapered back and sides, but the hair on top has enough length to it that it can be styled into a side part.
A great men’s hairstyle for the boardroom as well as the bar, the Ivy League crew cut is a professional-looking variation to the slightly more casual classic crew cut or textured crew cut. You can incorporate a fade to your Ivy League crew cut if you wish to help create a more modern crew cut variation, but classic examples of the Ivy League crew cut make do without the fade.
Curly Crew Cut
A great majority of men’s haircuts favour guys with straight hair, leaving those with curly hair or wavy hair to miss out on much of the action, and having to make do with their hair type they’ve been blessed with. There are several instances where curly hair trumps its straighter cousin, as the curls give the hair natural volume, something which straight haired gents can only dream of.
Curly hair can even be fashioned into a crew cut hairstyle, resulting in a completely unique look. You’ll want to cut your curly hair short still, in order to fit in with crew cut criteria. While this will inhibit much of the curly hair’s natural volume and texture, the section left on top of the head will still be long enough to flaunt what your genetics gave you. As with other crew cuts, you’ll want to keep the back and sides of your curly crew cut short and tapered.
To further elevate your curly crew cut, you can introduce a stubble beard to help counter-balance the extra volume of hair on top of the head.
Crew Cut with Low Fade
The crew cut in its classic form is utterly timeless, make no mistake. But that doesn’t mean it’s not susceptible to being modernised, and incorporating a low fade into your crew cut is a surefire way to up the style ante. A fade haircut of any description pairs incredibly well with the crew cut (which we’ll get into in a bit) but for those who are either new to the fade, or don’t want to make any drastic changes to their crew cut, a low fade is the best option.
Concerning only the small section of hair over the ears, a low fade helps to streamline your crew cut haircut. Because the hair on the back and sides should already be shorter than the hair on top to fulfil the requirements of a traditional crew cut, removing this small portion of hair, or at least, graduating the length even further, offers a subtle yet effective upgrade.
Crew Cut with Taper Fade
Oh so similar to the crew cut with low fade is a crew cut with taper fade. The primary difference is the rate at which the hair gets shorter as it approaches the ears and neckline. A low fade will see the hair get shorter rather quickly, whereas a taper fade will see it gradually get shorter and shorter. Introducing a taper fade to your crew cut may mean you’ll have to have it starter further up the sides of your head compared to a low fade, but you’ll end up with a similar length when you get to the ears.
Incorporating a taper fade is the perfect way to achieve a modern crew cut haircut, and similar to the low fade variant, offers a subtle visual difference compared to a classic crew cut.
Crew Cut with High Fade
A low fade and a taper fade and foolproof crew cut fade options. For those looking to be a little more daring with their crew cut hairstyle, there is always the option of a high fade. A high fade, as the name suggests, starts the fade higher up the side and back of the head. This, naturally, causes the hair to finish shorter much earlier than with the other fade haircut options, revealing a great amount of skin.
It’s a great hairstyle for men with squarer face shapes, as revealing a greater amount of skin can elongate the face and help to accentuate strong facial features such as cheekbones and the jawline. A crew cut with high fade can also look seriously good when paired with some facial hair, as we feel the image attached shows. As long as you stick to the criteria for a classic crew cut with the hair on top of the head, you’re free to do what you wish with the sides. A high fade could just be the perfect option for you.
Side Swept Crew Cut
Ok, now we’re getting into real technicalities when it comes to variations within the entire crew cut arena. A side swept crew cut can be viewed as a mash-up of both the classic crew cut and the Ivy League crew cut. It’s essentially the hairstyle seen on Zac Efron a few images above in the crew cut low fade section. A side swept crew cut is, as its name suggests, a crew cut which is styled sideways.
Different to a side part crew cut or Ivy League, since there is no defined parting, a side swept crew instead requires some styling product worked into the slightly longer hair on top of the head, and then for it to be pushed over to one side. You can sweep the hair on top to whichever side you choose, although we feel, based on images of the hairstyle, it looks better with swept to the right (if you’re styling it yourself).
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