One of the most iconic haircuts to have ever graced men’s heads, the quiff has been big (and big news) since the 1950s, earning it a place in the follicular hall of fame alongside other icons of the barber’s chair including the French crop, buzz cut and short back and sides.
Splicing together elements of the pompadour, flat top and sometimes even the mohawk, unafraid to make its voluminous presence felt, the amped-up quiff suits a wide range of ages, face shapes and personal styles.
According to research, it’s also judged one of the sexiest by women. When quizzed by styling product company Fudge on which haircut they are most likely to swipe right to on dating apps, 28 per cent of the 2,000 females asked picked the quiff.
The History Of The Quiff
The hairstyle itself had been around for some years by the time it became popular as a post-war reaction to military buzz cuts and flat wartime styles. But it only became truly iconic with the advent of rock ‘n’ roll, when it became an overnight badge of teenage revolt.
“As a style, it has always represented rebellion, and it screams confidence,” says ReeRee Rockette, owner of Rockalily Cuts. “It’s a hairstyle that literally takes up more space, so it makes you stand out and gets you noticed.”
The fact that the hair was piled upwards also meant that it had a natural tendency to flop forwards, demanding constant attention. That in itself became part of the quiff’s iconic appeal, with Elvis managing to turn combing his hair in public into an act as sexually charged as a shake of the hips or a caress of the microphone.
This unabashed narcissism also liberated men from the tyranny of not having to outwardly care about their appearance, laying the ground for the grooming revolution we take for granted today. Bottom line? It’s not an exaggeration to say that the quiff changed the course of hair-story.
The Quiff VS The Pompadour
Arguments rage over how the quiff itself differs from other classic cuts, such as the pompadour. As a general rule, the classic quiff is less showy than the kind of top-heavy pomp sported by rock ‘n’ roll legend Little Richard and later Bruno Mars.
“In truth, there’s no black and white answer,” admits Devon-based barber Tom Chapman, founder of mental health awareness group The Lions Barber Collective. “A typical quiff features short back and sides, and longer hair on top that’s swept upwards and backwards at the front. But this can be messy, straightened or brushed, making it a generally more versatile style. Pompadours are similar in that they take the hair off, up and away from the face, but are usually glossier and are very precise.”
While pomps, quite literally, big up all the hair, quiffs predominantly focus on the forelock (the hair just above the forehead) and in some cases, the rest can remain relatively flat.
“Ask your barber for a tapered cut with plenty of length on top and you can’t really go wrong,” says Chapman.
Choosing A Quiff Style
When it comes to choosing your own style of quiff, one of the most important factors to take into consideration (as with most cuts) is your face shape. Fortunately, there is an up-do for every dude, but they are especially good for those looking to elongate a round face.
“Rounder faces tend to have little structure or prominent angles, so a square-shaped hairstyle with height such as a quiff or classic casual side part with some height will be flattering,” says celebrity groomer Amy Komorowski, who has tended to the barnets of Eddie Redmayne and Ryan Reynolds.
Exercise caution if you have a particularly thin face, though – the higher the hair, the more angular and elongated it’ll make you look. Instead, opt for something a bit more single story than towering skyscraper. Since most modern quiffs require shaving or fading at the sides to emphasise what’s on top, they don’t always look great on guys with larger ears, either.
“The beauty of the quiff is that, depending on the shape or how tight the sides are taken, it can look quite different on whoever is wearing it, so you can make the style your own,” says Steve Robinson from the Electric Hair Group. “The most modern take on the quiff is certainly to have the sides finished with a fade.”
Quiffs also work with most hair types, except those that are very curly, excessively frizzy or very fine. “Movement creates texture, so wavy hair can be a godsend when creating a slightly more textured, messier look, but you can always use straighteners to achieve a more classic-looking quiff,” says Chapman, who suggests investing in smaller irons, which tend to work better on shorter styles.
Key Quiff Hairstyles For Men
The Classic Quiff
Despite being the earliest version of the hairstyle, the classic quiff has held its place as one of the most stylish for decades.
As with any quiff (and any hairstyle other than a mullet, for that matter), the ageless cut features shorter hair on the back and sides than on top. However, unlike contemporary takes on the style, the difference between the two is less severe, giving it a softer feel.
When sitting in the chair, tell the barber that you’re after around four-to-five inches growth on top, with slightly more left at the fringe. Ask for the hair at the sides to be taken comparatively short, but not disconnected, and without a fade.
Due to the natural weight of having longer hair, don’t overdo it on the products when it comes to styling, as this can cause the hair to fall flat. “After washing, start by towel drying the hair and apply a small amount of matte paste as a pre-styling agent,” says Chapman. “Next, create [your quiff] using either your fingers or a comb while blow drying the hair to add volume.”
Finish the look by working in a traditional pomade for added definition and shine. Take a small amount and rub it between your palms and fingertips, then slick it through your hair from front to back.
The Rockabilly Quiff
The pompadour may be the cut that’s been getting all the press recently, but according to Chapman, it’s the quiff that’s likely to stay the course.
“The pomp is high maintenance, can be hard to style and often requires a heavy product, and lots of it,” he says. “The quiff, meanwhile, has been consistently popular for decades; partly because it’s more relaxed, and there are so many different variations which can be worn by anyone.”
One of those enduring styles is the rockabilly quiff. The 1940s and 1950s cut, popular among the Greaser subculture of the time, has been worn by everyone from James Dean and Elvis Presley to Alex Turner and Zayn Malik.
“A traditional rockabilly quiff often has a side part, which can be shaved in, or combed,” says Rockette. “There’s also less height than with a pompadour and the hair around top is faded in.”
When discussing this style, it’s also common to hear the term ‘ducktail’, which refers to creating a central parting with the side sections curled in.
Whichever you decide to go for, pomade is your best friend when it comes to styling. “Warm the product up in your hands, smooth it through, and then comb,” says Rockette. “You’ll benefit from using a hairdryer, and you’ll definitely need a comb. I’m often amazed at how many men say they don’t own one.”
The Undercut Quiff
A sharper, sleeker take on the old-school classic, the undercut quiff retains an authentic vintage feel, but also looks modern and edgy.
The style works best when there is plenty of hair on top which can be slicked back, but bear in mind that, generally, the longer the hair is, the more time it will take to style.
The undercutting itself can be can either soft, with gentle graduation, or severe, with the sides kept at one length. In either case, it’s the disconnection and contrast between long and short that gives this look its impact.
“Ask your barber to disconnect the sides from the top, level with your recession point until the back of the ear,” says Chapman. “Choose the fade or taper style below the disconnection and create lots of texture through the top with length left for your quiff at the front.”
To create the texture, Chapman suggests applying a salt spray when the hair is still damp and blow-drying it into shape with the help of a round brush before finishing off with some matte clay product for separation.
The Psychobilly Quiff
An exaggerated, almost cartoonish version of the traditional quiff with elements of a mohawk, the psychobilly quiff (also known as the wedge quiff) has its origins in the fusion of rockabilly and punk.
“A psychobilly quiff is achieved by completely shaving the back and sides down to a zero, allowing a sculpted, reverse shark fin-style quiff left to take all of the glory,” says Rockette.
By that description alone, it should be clear that the more extreme examples of this hairstyle are not going to fly in every office. However, it is possible to tone down the look by creating a looser, less structured front, and keeping the sides slightly longer.
Whether styling it traditionally or for the 9-5, getting height on the quiff is key. “You’ll need a hair dryer at the very least,” says Rockette. “And every single hair strand will need product on it to enable it to stand up straight, so you’ll need a comb [to work it through].”
A psychobilly quiff, like its rockabilly cousin, is best styled using a strong-hold pomade. This will help achieve the rigidity and height needed, but you’ll also need a little help from a coating of hairspray, which will add an extra shield against the forces of gravity.
The Textured Quiff
A less formal, more relaxed take on the traditional quiff favoured by the likes of David Gandy, this version is less about sleekness and shine and more about matte texture.
“Because it’s less polished and less structured it’s easy to maintain and, depending on the length of the quiff, you can change up your style at any time,” says Saboo.
A textured quiff is perfect for winter, when blustery winds and a little drizzle will probably only make it look better. This in-built feature also makes it an ideal choice for guys with wavy or generally unruly hair.
“To achieve the look, have a barber clipper your hair short on the sides and back, fading into the longer hair on the top that’s point-cut with scissors for an uneven, textured look,” he says.
Though it may appear unfussy, the textured quiff takes a bit of effort to get there. The first aim of the styling routine is to add depth and bulk, so do this with a texture powder or volumising spray added to the roots.
From there, Saboo suggests a very specific technique for achieving the desired end result. “Rub a styling paste or soft clay between your fingers and hands, so the warmth of your palms makes the product more manageable. Then, twist the hair slightly at the sides of the crown, pushing it upwards, before passing your hands through the quiff until you are happy with the result and the quiff stays in place.”
The Side-Parted Quiff
One way to render an existing quiff instantly smarter is to tone down its rebelliousness by working in a side parting. While it’s possible to do so with most types of quiff, if it’s your full-time intention, it’s worth letting your barber know.
To create a side parting, celebrity hairstylist Asgar Saboo suggests using your palms and smooth the product into the sides. “Comb the top section away from the parting, so there is a clean divide, then lift and shape the fringe into your desired style.”
If a completely polished look is what you’re after, perfect the finish with the comb. Or, for a slightly more natural result, rough it up a little with your hands for a more rugged effect.
Equally, a variety of different finishes can be achieved by simply altering your styling product. High-shine products will channel Ivy League vibes while something matte will skew casual and contemporary.
To ensure your quiff is on point, start by investing in a hair dryer. Look for a lightweight model with a cool setting to avoid flame grilling your hair, which will cause it to appear dry and brittle.
“The two stages for blow-drying is wet to dry and then hot to cold,” says Robinson, who also suggests blasting the hair with the cool shot button on the hairdryer for 10 seconds to help hold the finished look in place.
Quiffs require significantly more maintenance than, say, a buzz cut. So be prepared to shell out on some basic styling gear like a round brush to tease the hair into shape as you blow dry it.
Getting the best results from a brush requires some practice, especially if you’re wielding a hair dryer with the other hand. “It’s all about gently working the brush through your locks while guiding the hair [into place],” says Chapman.
If going for a side parting, you’ll also need a medium-sized comb to exaggerate your natural side-parting and achieve a sharper-looking finish.
Paste And Pomade
The traditional styling aid for creating a quiff is a high-shine pomade. The earliest types were made from animal fat and therefore had to be scented with fruit (hence the ‘pomme’ in the name). Thankfully, today’s water-based alternatives are less messy, easier to wash out of hair and much kinder to your pillowcase.
If shine is not your thing, opt for a styling paste. “These are translucent, so hair looks and feels like hair but it keeps the style in place without being too oily or too dry,” says Robinson.
“For extra hold, spray a small amount of hairspray onto your round brush when blow-drying,” says Daniel Davies, general manager of London’s Pall Mall Barbers. “This gives a firm hold without the need to fill your hair with product and is a trick I often use on gents looking to achieve a quiff.”