The Undercut: A Dude’s Cheat Sheet

It's not all black and white.

If you’re a loyal reader you’ve probably already come across our brief history of the undercut, in which we cite some cheeky, slightly controversial references. Every good haircut has a story, and as for the undercut men’s models, actors and street-style savants everywhere have been paying homage to this vintage-meets-badass style with their own particular versions.

The latest trend in men’s grooming and hairstyling is to modernize some popular, romantic retro hairstyles. The undercut men’s haircut and its hybrids probably lead the pack of most-requested ’dos this year, as its versatility and overall cool, fresh vibe work on a multitude of hair types as well.

So how do you personalize this hot look and tailor it to your own tastes without looking like an underage barista? It’s all in what you ask for. Read on for some tips on asking for your best undercut yet:

The Undercut Men’s Style Shortlist

undercut men's platinum long bangs
An undercut is a surprisingly versatile cut. Photo credit: Dvora

1. Assess your lifestyle

Do you have 10 minutes to get ready before work, or can you devote more time to styling your hair after showering? Does your job have a strict dress and grooming code, or are things more flexible? Do you like your cheekbones, or don’t mind your head bumps being exposed? Set your parameters before shopping for the undercut look that’s best for you. The good news is that you can run the gamut with this particular hairstyle: It works equally well with clean-cut edges as it does rough and messy.

2. Assess your face shape and hairline

Avoid getting a quiff or pomp-styled undercut if you have a wide forehead or have a receding hairline—these will just highlight your losses. Ask for an undercut with a high and tight fade that starts at your parietal ridge instead, as this gives the illusion of fuller hair at that point.

undercut men's style cheat sheet
The undercut can easily transition from work to play with just a few product tweaks.

3. Go to a pro

Under no circumstances should you attempt to do this haircut yourself. These cuts require precision (not to mention switching out several clipper guards), and since there’s no way you can see the back of your head, you will mess up if you D.I.Y. Just shell out the extra moolah for an actual barbershop or salon appointment and just charge it to the game of lookin’ fly.

4. Disconnect, taper or T-zone? You decide

A few definitions to discuss with your stylist:

a. A full disconnect—or a definitive undercut—has no slight fade or tapering from the tops to the sides and back; it’s just a mop of hair on your crown, which lies above a uniformly shaven back and sides. The curlier or thicker your hair, the bolder and edgier this look will be.

b. A taper or fade: This is when the hair gradually thins out/fades/completely disappears from the upper layers to your nape. The most versatile and style-friendly iteration, most undercut hybrids have some sort of fade or blending on the sides. A practical option for guys who want longer time between touchups too. Your barber will help you determine how high or low you want your fade to be, depending on what’s most flattering for your facial structure.

c. A T-zone gets its name from a shaven T shape from your hairline to the back of your head. Synonymous to a two-block cut, visualize a subtle mohawk but with hair at your bang area. This offers a lot of styling options as well, and can also work with a fade on the sides and is one of the best versions to ask for if you could use more texture up top (as opposed to a clean-cut mop, as that would just fall limp if you have superfine hair).

5. Keep it fresh

Ask your barber to freshen you up every four to six weeks—undercuts look crisp longer than regular cuts mainly because they’re initially so short, and can take a few days to settle in. Maintenance-wise, your strands will now lie closer to your scalp’s natural oils (great news if you have dry or curly hair), so make a good point of washing your hair regularly. Learn how to do a man-bun while you’re at it too—it helps change up your look and also keep your hair smelling and feeling fresh when you’re being sweaty and active.

6. Get the right products

For undercuts, this means more pomades and waxes, which can help you achieve those stylish comb-overs and quiffs, and less hard gels, which you won’t really need. The best part of an undercut is its vintage vibe, and pomades help give you that molten, dapper look that girls can’t resist. Some faves that give a retro-cool finish include Axe Signature Clean Cut Look: Classic Pomade, Dove Men+Care Defining Pomade and Bed Head for Men by TIGI Slick Trick. Remember to use only around a dime-sized amount of product however and to refine your style with a fine-toothed comb if you need more definition.

Will you try your hand at the undercut men’s hair look?