The pompadour haircut is one of the most eye-catching, and one of the most popular hairstyles for men. Big, bouffant and voluminous, this is one of those haircuts that men should definitely attempt at least once. Admittedly, it won’t be for everyone, and for men who find the pompadour hairstyle isn’t for them, they can look more closely into the quiff hairstyle, which could be considered a distant relative to the pompadour haircut..
But, since this article relates to pompadour hairstyles and the various ways to rock them, style them and how to maintain them, you’re going to want to get familiar with this popular hairstyle for men. There are various variations to choose from, including the pompadour fade, a pompadour undercut or even what is known as a disconnected pompadour. As ever, your face shape and hair type will play a part in determining which hairstyle is best for you, and we’re here to help make that decision that little bit easier.
But first, a history lesson.
In this story…
- Where Did The Pompadour Haircut Come From?
- Who Suits The Pompadour Haircut?
- What Hair Type Is Best For Pompadour Hairstyles?
- How To Style A Pompadour Haircut
- Different Types Of Pompadour Hairstyles
Where Did The Pompadour Haircut Come From?
With a name like pompadour, it’s logical to assume it has history to thank. In fact, the haircut 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 haircut 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 haircut 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.
Who Suits The Pompadour Haircut?
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 pompadour hairstyles. No doubt, it’s a hairstyle that 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 classic pompadour 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, classic pomp due to an unfortunate risk that the dramatic shape of the cut will make the 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 hairstyle to maintain even, symmetrical proportions, because you probably don’t want to imply to your mates that you’re turning into Johnny Bravo. You could also try your hand with a more modern pompadour, which we’ll look more closely at in a bit.
Along the same lines, gents with a big forehead, or long features, are best served by reducing the length of the haircut. Opting for a shorter version will reduce the impression of an elongated head and keep things in a 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).
What Hair Type Is Best For Pompadour Hairstyles?
The texture of your hair isn’t actually that important, as far as the basics of the pomp go. Both straight and curly hair look the business with these hairstyles, even if the end state differs.
If you have thick hair and 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. This interpretation is more relaxed, outside the corporate spectrum of haircuts.
However, going for a high fade on the sides can sharpen a curly hair pompadour haircut, provided you aren’t going too short. Furthermore, guys with straight hair will probably have to settle with the fact that their pompadour hairstyle 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 classic pomp 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 an awful lot of pomade, you’re probably ready for our golden tips to achieving the perfect pompadour haircut.
How To Style A Pompadour Haircut
Due to its apparently careless look, most guys think pompadour hairstyles are 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 excruciatingly long 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 success, 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 your hair 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 products. Unlike other styles, the pompadour haircut 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 to blow dry your hair on top up and towards the back to give it height and extra volume. 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 modern pompadour haircut 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 hair in shape, and to maintain the sides. An undercut or pompadour fade will see you back in the chair every fortnight, but a classic 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. “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.
Different Types Of Pompadour Hairstyles
So, now you know if you’re going to suit the various pompadour hairstyles, and how to style them once you’ve visited the barber. Now let’s take a look at the various hairstyles to choose from, to make that barber visit that little bit easier.
Pompadour Fade Haircut
The pompadour fade is the version you’re probably going to be most likely to see atop the heads of other men. It could be considered a modern pompadour in that it doesn’t stick to classic criteria, and is easy to achieve and oh so stylish. In the case of this hairstyle, incorporating a fade – whether it be a low fade, mid fade, high fade, skin fade or a taper fade – helps to remove some of the weight of this traditionally hair-heavy haircut, making it a lot more neat and sophisticated in the process. This makes the pompadour fade a perfect hairstyle for both the office and for casual weekend looks.
As for the length of hair on top of the head, by removing hair from the sides of the head, it places more focus on the top. This means you don’t necessarily need to go as big and bold as you would with a classic pompadour, for example, making it a much more failsafe option for men who are yet to dip their hair strands into pompadour haircut territory.
Short Pompadour Haircut
As we mentioned earlier, a short pompadour is also an option for men who want to try this haircut out, but either don’t yet have the longer hair required for a classic version, or simply don’t fancy the extra maintenance that comes with taming the extra length. Not to be confused with the quiff, the short variation is subject to a little more preening to achieve an exact look, as opposed to the quiff which can be a little messier.
A short pompadour also works wonders with a fade, but you’re by no means obliged to do so. Instead, you can leave the hair on the sides of the head a similar length all over, yet still focus on the hair on top for styling purposes. However, it must be said, for the best results, you’ll at least want to incorporate a taper fade for a little extra tidiness and sophistication.
Modern Pompadour Haircut
Despite being a haircut entrenched in the history books, nobody really wants to look like a 17th century French woman, do they? So, while the classic pompadour may take considerable inspiration, for those who want to bring it more in line with modern day hairstyles, the modern variation is the way to go. Still just as voluminous but slightly more reserved, the modern interpretation is all about height. Rather than style the front portion to eh hair up and back, the modern pompadour sees all your hair styled upwards.
You will naturally need some strong hold styling paste for this, and a hairdryer will certainly help – not to mention some long hair in the first place – but the resulting look will add considerable length to your face. It’s with this in mind that men with rectangular-shaped faces should tread with some caution, but those with faces on the rounder side could certainly benefit.
Pompadour with Curly Hair
You may have noticed a slight trend forming among the current list of images: they all feature straight hair. However, that doesn’t mean only straight-haired gents can benefit from the pompadour haircut, as men with curly hair can most definitely apply too. In many ways, curly hair is a natural fit due to its natural volume and bounce, leaving you with a little less maintenance to do in the morning.
In fact, you may not need to do any real styling at all. Just get rid of some of the hair on the sides of the head, incorporating either a variation of a fade haircut or even an undercut if you really want to create a contrast, and the natural volume created by your curly hair will do the rest of the work for you.
Disconnected Pompadour Haircut
The disconnected pompadour – which can also be referred to as a pompadour undercut – is a coming together of two hairstyles that work together in follicular harmony. Similar to the curly hair variation above, the disconnected pompadour sees the hair on the sides of the head removed, leaving just the bouffant, voluminous long hair on top. The sharp contrast created by the undercut creates a head-turning look, and that’s even without needing to put too much effort into styling.
Depending on the length of hair on top of the head, you can opt to add some styling products and work the hair into something with a bit of sophistication, perhaps for your days in the office. Alternatively, if it’s relatively long hair you rock on top of the head, you could opt to let it flow naturally, perhaps with just a hint of product to keep things together.
Slicked Back Pompadour Haircut
If you’re someone who enjoys the rockabilly aesthetic, then you’ll love the slicked-back pompadour. Far neater than its messier compatriots, the slicked back pompadour is one that exhibits high shine – meaning you’ll need to invest some good quality pomade or wax products – and is a great hairstyle option for more formal settings, or if you’re the corporate bigwig around the office. The key to achieving a successful slicked back pomp is what you do before you apply your styling products. Namely, how well you can yield a hairdryer and a hairbrush.
Use the hairdryer to manoeuvre the hair up and back to get the volume you seek, use cold air at the end to set it in place and then apply your product. Because a high shine is what you’re after, you can be a little bit more liberal than if you wanted more of a matte effect, although you don’t want to go too overboard or you risk looking like your 7th grade maths teacher.
Medium Length Pompadour Haircut
A medium length pompadour haircut is a failsafe option for men wanting to venture into pompadour territory, but don’t necessarily inherit the ‘go big or go home’ mentality. As many men will be able to attest to, medium length hair afford them plenty of styling options, yet without the excessive maintenance required by long hair hairstyles, a perfect middle ground, if you will.
The medium length pompadour haircut is, therefore, a fantastic hairstyle for men. If you think this is one you want to try, be sure to ask your barber to add some texture to your hair by way of point-cutting or the use of thinning shears. This will help remove some of the extra weight of long, thick hair, leaving you with a mane that is easy to run your fingers through so that you make style adjustments throughout the day.
You’ll still want to blow dry your hair upwards once you get out of the shower, and then use some medium-hold styling products – a matte paste or clay should do the trick – finished with a light spritz of hairspray. You’ll be looking a million dollars in no time.
Side Part Pompadour Haircut
The side part pompadour haircut offers a refreshing alternative to the classic version. Whereas the classic pomp calls for the hair to be styled upwards and pushed back, the side part pompadour – as the name suggests – incorporates a side part, meaning the hair is swept over from one side of your head to the other. However, if you’re still able to add volume to this sweep, you’ve got yourself a pomp.
The side part pompadour works best for guys with straight hair, but if you have wavy hair then you’re still able to give it a go. If anything, the slight bounce and natural volume to wavy hair will give it extra texture, which when styled with a matte-effect styling product and perhaps a fade haircut on the sides of the head, will result in a head-turning look for all the right reasons.