Staying kempt can be a full-time job. From mastering tie knots to keeping your toenails in check, the modern man’s checklist for looking good seems to grow longer by the day.
So why not do yourself a favour with an instant fix? Like an impeccably tailored suit (only less expensive), opting for a classic short back and sides hairstyle is a simple and effective way of sharpening your appearance.
Here are the key styles to consider if you want to smarten up:
The French Crop
Requiring minimal maintenance, the French crop is a fuss-free cut that’s still flexible enough to be tweaked to taste.
Ask your stylist or barber to take the hair tight (i.e. very short) through the back and sides, while leaving the hair on top slightly longer (a couple of inches at most) – the ‘crop’ part of this style’s name comes from the top section’s choppy, textured finish.
As for the front hairline, you can either ask to have your fringe cut short and neat or keep some length for styling forward across the forehead.
Classically masculine, the French crop suits guys of any age and face shape, provided your stylist or barber makes subtle alterations to suit. Round faces, for example, will benefit from especially short, sharp sides and plenty of texture through the top section to add some height; meanwhile, it’s better to frame longer faces with longer sides (which will add width to balance) and a slightly flatter top section.
How To Style
To style the French crop, always remember to apply product to damp or dry hair.
For a shiny, glossy finish, use something like Uppercut Pomade or American Crew Grooming Cream, rubbing into the hair with your fingers. Alternatively, for a matte finish, try Evo Cassius Clay or Baxter of California Clay Pomade.
A natural born showstopper, the quiff makes a statement but with the right touches can be worn as subtle or extreme as you like.
Any stylist or barber worth their salt will know that a quiff is all about length and volume at the front, so striking a balance is key when it comes to this cut.
If you take the back and sides particularly tight while leaving a good deal of length on top, your quiff will look much more dramatic due to the extreme contrast – so have a clear idea in mind as to how you want your quiff to look before your stylist or barber starts chopping. Bear in mind that the crown area also needs to be cut shorter to allow the quiff shape to stand out.
Although often seen as a younger man’s style, the quiff works for men of all ages – the size of your quiff should chime roughly with the size of your personality. If you’re opting for a quiff for its rockabilly-infused edge, then go big, but if you’d rather a less attention-grabbing variation, have your stylist or barber create a more balanced shape.
Face type is also important: since the quiff offers natural volume, it’s best not to take the hair at the sides and back too short if you have a long face.
How To Style
Use Layrite Original or Reuzel Pomade for a slick finish on shorter versions of this cut.
If you want more volume, try using Fudge Elevate powder before applying American Crew Defining Paste or Fudge Matte Hed.
For information on how to style the quiff for a variety of hair types, read our dedicated guide.
Textured & Undone
If you’re more bedhead than painstakingly sculpted barnet, a low-fi, ‘undone’ hairstyle is likely your best bet.
Texture is key here, so ask your stylist or barber to point cut your hair, rather than blunt cut, to enhance your hair’s natural movement.
Thanks to its relaxed structure, an undone style frames most face shapes well. That said, to ensure your face is shown in its best light, whoever is cutting your hair will need to make sure they maintain the right balance between the length of the hair on top and that at the back and sides.
How To Style
You can further tweak the proportions at the styling stage. If you want to lengthen your portrait, then add some height to your hair by working a volumising product such as Evo Root Canal or L’Oreal Texture Dust into the roots first.
Then, apply Kevin Murphy Rough Rider or American Crew Fibre for a natural matte finish, or if you prefer a slight sheen, try Fudge Hair Vanish or Kevin Murphy Supergoo.
Alternatively, to square your portrait off, start by wetting down the hair with a blow dry spray, and then blow dry flat. Once dry, add a light spray, like Fudge Light HED-ed Hair Oil or Wella SP Luxe Light Oil Spray, and gently shake out the hair, taking care not to disturb the flat texture.
The Modern Fauxhawk
Kind of a quiff-lite, the fauxhawk sits somewhere between the easiness of a French crop and a statement style like the pompadour.
Whether you opt to take the back and sides really tight to emphasise your fauxhawk, or keep it all a little longer for a more even keel, it’s essential to leave the front section – the focal point of this look – longer than the rest.
You can also customise at the top: either ask your stylist to maintain some length through the crown for an overall softer shape or have them cut it shorter to produce a sharper finish with a strong contrast from front to back.
How To Style
When it comes to styling, the fauxhawk is surprisingly versatile; keep the front neat and tidy for a smarter, work-appropriate look or go big and messy to make a statement on a night out.
Try Tigi Bed Head Hard to Get Texturising Paste or Evo Box O’ Bollox Life Changing Paste for a lived-in appearance, or if you want a healthy shine try American Crew Molding Clay, which works particularly well on thicker hair.
The Side Parting
Slick and neat, the side parting is the indisputable daddy of smart hairstyles, but it takes some prep to ensure yours is on-point.
Before getting your hair cut for a side parting, it’s worth taking time to establish which way yours sits better based on the way your hair grows. That way, you can have your hair cut in the right direction to optimise styling.
You’ll also want to discuss with your barber or stylist how prominent you want your parting to be, as that will likely affect the way it’s cut, too. By having them taper your back and sides tightly, your side parting will look even sharper.
How To Style
The way you should style a parting depends on your face shape. If your face is round, try to avoid creating a parting that’s too slick or flat as its clean lines will look at odds with your face. Instead, consider blow-drying your hair to create a bit of volume.
When it comes to product choice, comb through something like Baxter of California Soft Water Pomade for an on-trend super-slick appearance. Alternatively, if you’re after a more traditional finish, reach for Layrite Super Hold. Not a fan of the wet look? Try American Crew Defining Paste.
There’s more to short hair than a number four all over. Consider trying one of these styles next time you’re due a cut and see your look upgraded.
Which of these styles would you try on for size?
Comment below to let us know.