Refreshing your look needn’t cost more than a round of drinks. Yes, you could spend the equivalent of a small car on a new wardrobe, but 45 minutes in the barber’s chair can have the same effect if you’re brave enough to say something other than “The usual.” Plus, if it’s the kind of barbershop we like — plush seats, hot towels and craft beer — it’ll be a lot more pleasant than a march up the high street.
So what are we doing for you, today? If 2019’s hair trends are anything to go by, you can go one of two ways: messy or military. While some cuts favour texture and grunge-style long hair, others are all about a sharp short back and sides or no-messing buzz cuts.
The Textured Crop
Since the bad bowl cuts of nineties and the acne-inducing emo side sweeps of the noughties, sensible men have instinctively given fringe haircuts a wide berth. In most cases this has been wise risk aversion. But, this year’s big hitter on the fringe front — the textured crop — is neither scarily precise nor antisocial, just flattering for the majority of guys.
The style, in a nutshell, is a remix of the short back and sides where the length on top works with gravity rather than against it. “The messy cropped cut works with your own natural growth patterns,” says Robbie Burt at London’s Sharps Barber and Shop. “It’s best on those with thick hair that has natural texture. You should ask your barber for the makings of a high and tight but ask for plenty of length to be left on top which should be cut for bold, square texture.”
The style comes from the woke-up-like-this school of hairdressing, so if you’ve got several thousand hairs out of place that may be a good thing. “Maintaining this style involves minimal fuss,” says Burt. “By working a matte paste through your hands and applying evenly through your hair you can create a softer, undone appearance.” If you’re more Slick Rick than bird’s nest, though, you’re still eligible to apply. “To create something with a smart, smoother finish by using a water-based pomade.”
The Undercut Quiff
The quiff is the default hairstyle of adolescents armed with too many hormones and too many bargain hair products. This year’s version is not so try-hard, however. It sees the quiff enter the serious grown-up hairstyle arena via a sharply contrasting undercut and a finish that prizes gentle matte texture over skyscraping stiffness.
Before you think about which industrial-strength hair product can secure your hair into place, think about the cut; it’ll make maintaining this style a hell of a lot easier. “Ask your barber to disconnect the sides from the top at clipper grade zero, creating a blunt contrast in length,” says Bradley Smith, creative director at Bradley Smith Hair Heathrow. “Then you’ll need a taper off through the neck and sides while leaving length on top and your fringe will allow room to create texture and volume at the front.”
Those familiar with keeping a quiff in place will know that technique (and a steady hand) is everything. “To start, towel-dry your hair until slightly damp then apply a pre-styling agent,” says Smith. “Work a dash of sea salt spray into your hair all the way to the roots, then blow-dry your hair into shape, using a round brush to create texture and volume. Follow this by working a coin-sized amount of clay into your hair and create texture with your fingers. To complete the look, use a booster powder to help group your hair together.”
The Tapered High & Tight
Not really into long hairstyles? Can’t be bothered to style your hair? Don’t want to look like an egg with human features? This year’s tapered take on the high and tight sounds right up your street. This short, low-maintenance style borrows the buzz cut’s CBA attitude but leaves you with something to play with up top.
The high and tight is a time-poor, style-conscious classic, but on the wrong head, it can get a little too Secret Service. “For a sleeker version of the basic short back and sides, ask for a tapered high and tight at clipper guard one or two with a compact crop on top,” says Smith. “The finished cut should echo tradition but a sharply cut and textured length on top will steer modern; think Jake Gyllenhaal and Ryan Reynolds.”
Most of the artistry of this style is down to your barber, so once you’ve survived the awkward chair chat, the hard part is over (although you will have to go back regularly). “Apply a smudge of fibre paste to towel-dried hair, working from to back to front distributing the product to create weight and texture with an overall natural but smart look,” says Smith.
The Messy Man Bob
Since time immemorial, long, messy hair has been the preserve of rebels and grungers. It’s been regarded as a hairstyle that just kind of happens to a man when grooming goes out of the window. With a bit of TLC and fancy scissor work, though, long locks don’t need to smear you as a soap dodger. Mid-shoulder-length hair that’s slightly messed up has plenty of potential to reach the hallowed mid-point between making an effort and not. Look to the likes of Timothée Chalamet and Kit Harington as your go-to guardians of the messy man bob.
Although this year’s take has undoubtedly smartened up its act, avoid anything too smooth; that’ll land you in ABBA tribute band territory. “This style can work on those with any thickness or texture—the key to getting it right is making sure that you’re asking your barber for layers which complement your face shape and hair texture,” says Burt. “Strong shapes should be cut into the hair’s outer layers to create flow or drop within hair, ensuring that the weight and balance is evenly distributed.”
Pleasingly, this cut doesn’t require the patience of a saint to style; it can mostly be left to its own devices. “Let the style dry naturally,” says Burt. “You should use product though depending on the finish you’re after; use a little salt spray for a messy matte effect or soft wax to encourage texture and curl.”
The Buzz Cut
Traditionally, the buzz cut has been shorthand for either rebellion against ‘the man’ or a way of turning you into just another number. Depending on your point of view, when the clippers come out, either your individuality or compliance with society will end up on the floor. Not that it can’t show off your good looks, but that’s the thing – you need to have the features for it.
The sad fact of life is that we’re not all blessed with pleasantly proportioned heads. “Before getting a buzz, feel your head for any lumps or bumps as these will be visible,” says Smith. “I suggest looking in the mirror, and imagine what you would look like with a buzz cut, and ask yourself, is this right for me?”
Once you’ve got the all clear to go all clear up top, it shouldn’t be a self-shave job with the hair clippers. The buzz cut may be uniform in length but small variations on your clippers’ guard can be the difference between Channing Tatum and Gollum. You’ll also need a barber to clean up the edges. And as it grows back, don’t think you won’t need a little product. “You may wish to add some product to change the texture, such as a matte paste. However, for a shiny polished look, a pomade-based product will do the trick,” says Smith.