That lockdown buzz: doesn't look so bad does it? After taking the plunge with the safest cut in the DIY barber book (by which we mean shearing it all off), turns out that, after all these years, you've got quite the dome.
But given how much your mother cried, and how a little bit more length never hurt anyone, it makes sense to turn your buzzcut into a crewcut: the ultimate fuss-free look for the man who has bigger concerns than a quiff that won't quite sit right.
The crew cut is a simple style with many variations. But, ultimately it’s a close, cropped look that’s both smart and effortless. Jack Kerouac in the Fifties, he had it. Early 2000s Brad Pitt? You bet. From the Ryans (Gosling and Reynolds), to Michael B, Idris, Beckham and even Thor, every man worth his salt has been there and done it. That's because it works.
It's also neat, tidy and easy-to-maintain: three things that so often elude longer hairstyles for men. And, post-lockdown (soon my son, soon), crew cuts are a counter to the inevitable influx of Jesus waves. Best of all though, is it's universality: crew cuts suit almost everyone. Yes, even you.
What You Need To Know About Crew Cuts
The crew cut is mainstream today, sported by actors, sportsmen, politicians and Joe down the pub. But while it was first drafted during World War I, like many men’s classics, it was homogenised in the Ivy League universities of North America. Rowing or 'crew' (as the sport is often called in the States) teams at Harvard, Princeton and Yale sheared off the tousled scholarly curls that impeded vision out on the water. The crew cut then, was a style born out of function.
Which is exactly why the US military adopted it as part of its uniform. It was smart, neat, manageable and practical out in the field. Other military forces soon copied. And to this day, the crew cut is standard issue for many forces. More notably, the Royal Navy handbook informs recruits with particular military precision: “Hair shall be neatly groomed; taper trimmed at the back, sides and above the ears to blend with the hairstyle. On the top of the head it shall be no more than 15 cm in length and sufficiently short at the front and sides”.
But is it a look worth copping for civilian life? In short: yes.
So Why Do I Need A Crew Cut?
Similar to the world of fashion, hair trends come and go. That said, the crew cut transcends trends: it's sheer lifespan has outlasted them, cementing it as a classic style that suits most face shapes.
But it has proved especially popular of late, both in the world of celebrity and on the high street. Joe Mills, barber and founder of Joe & Co, believes this surge is almost certainly reactive. “We've seen longer, softer cuts over the past year, but this look doesn't work for everyone. The crop is almost the antihero cut to this. It has that harder nod that works so well”.
The way it worked in the military is exactly why it works for the rest of us. The crew cut is one of the easiest styles to manage. Once you've got it, you don't have to do anything to it. Whether you opt for a short back and sides variation, or a more evenly graded cut, you just get up in the morning and let it do its thing.
The one caveat is that, in order to keep it looking its finest, regular maintenance is a must. Matthew Heckle, barber at Ruffians, confirms this fear: “The best barber shops will recommend tidy up services every few weeks to keep the style looking as sharp as possible”. Roger that. But which variation of the crew cut is right for you?
The Best Crew Cut Haircuts
The Classic Crew Cut
The Face Shape It Suits: "The most versatile incarnation of the crew cut, the classic suits virtually every face shape, apart from one, says Joe Mills: “it works for pretty much every face shape except round, as this tends to accentuate it more”.
What To Ask For: “The shorter the length of hair the harder it looks”, warns Mills. “Realistically you should be asking for around a grade 4 on the clippers and working down from there. You need an inch or so left on the top and this needs to have texture added so that it doesn't lay too flat”.
Best Way To Style: “Towel dry freshly shampooed hair, apply some matte paste (a 5p sized amount) and style with your fingers”, says Mills. “If you have fine hair you could use sea salt spray to give it a little more texture and thickness before adding the paste”.
The Severe High And Tight
The Face Shape It Suits: The severe high and tight crew cut works perfectly for guys with angular features”, says Matthew Heckle. “Square jaws and chiselled cheekbones only accentuate the strong cut, often giving a dramatic look”.
What To Ask For: "Ask your barber for short sides taken high - not necessarily a fade, but a smooth transition to the top, which should always be longer to balance out the shape”, says Heckle.
Best Way To Style: “A high and tight crew cut should be styled with a moist texture clay to show the definition of the texture on top. I defer to Ryan Reynolds, who’s sported this style on and off for years. It should always be about minimum effort and maximum results”.
The Side Fade Crew Cut
The Face Shape It Suits: "This could be the everyman of the crew cut. “Pretty much every face shape suits the side fade crew cut, and if your face is round this is the one to go for”, says Mills. Rejoice.
What To Ask For: “Decide on the length you want on top first and then ask for the back and sides to go down to a skin fade. Ideally the length on top shouldn't be too long as it can look really unbalanced”.
Best Way To Style: “Towel dry and get the paste out. If you want to have a really matte finish, blow dry it and then add some styling powder as this will give you the texture as well as that matte finish”.
The Textured Crew Cut
The Face Shape It Suits: “The textured crew cut suits most face shapes”, says Brent Pankhurst, founder of Pankhurst London. “Even if you have a round face it can give lift, slimming your appearance. It can also be shaped forward if you have a more angular face”.
What To Ask For: “Ask your barber for a textured crop, square-cut haircut through the sides”, advises Pankhurst. “Cut the hair about twice the length of the sides on top and chop into it to create texture. The cut should always be very dishevelled on top - the more texture the better”.
Best Way To Style: The best product to use would be the Pankhurst London Moulding Cream which is a matte paste. Always have the hair bone-dry, spread about a 5p-sized amount of the product evenly into your hands; apply to the sides of your hair first then quite ruggedly through the top of your hair with your palms”.
The Side Sweep Mini Quiff Crew Cut
The Face Shape It Suits: “This is another cut that suits all face shapes but it's particularly good for the rounder face as it has that slimming quality”, says Pankhurst.
What To Ask For: “Ask for a square-cut haircut, evenly through the sides with a natural parting combed in and side-parted over. The cut should be evenly elevated, not disconnected through the front. All cut naturally into the hairline. No clippers, hard lines, and no high-partings. I can't overstate how important a natural parting is with this cut”.
Best Way To Style: “Wear your hair towel-dried and style with Pankhurst's Pomade. Use a good wide-toothed comb and comb-in your natural parting. Rub a 5p amount of product into your hands; blend through the sides, then to the top and then over. Use the wide-toothed comb to comb flat across from the side parting then just lift the front up”.
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