The Ultimate Gallery of Short Haircuts for Men: 2021

Short back and sides, please. It’s been the default for men’s hair since, well, the dawn of time, presumably. Sure, there’s been a single exception — Jesus, Jason Momoa, basically everyone from the 70s — but overall, if you’re a man, you probably rock a cropped cut.

It sounds simple enough, but the word “short” is actually an umbrella term for countless different styles, each with its own set of rules. Picking one isn’t always easy. There are more considerations – regarding face shape, styling and everything else – than most expect. That’s why we’ve put all the information and visual inspiration you need in one convenient place.

Whether you’re wondering which hair trends to jump on this year, or just need some visual cues to nudge your stylist in the right direction, you’ll find everything in Ape’s ultimate short haircut guide.

Key Short Haircut Terms

Before we go any further, it’s worth familiarizing yourself with the short-haired lingo. It will help you decide what you want and help your hairdresser give it to you. Here are the terms you need to know when it comes to getting the chop.

Fade

A hairdressing technique that uses clippers where the hair is gradually cut from very short – sometimes down to the skin, also known as ‘skin fade’ – to slightly longer. This is usually done on the back and sides of the head and is used as a way to blend different lengths smoothly.

tapered

Similar to a fade but work with longer lengths. A taper usually requires a combination of clippers and scissors to blend the back and sides into longer hair on the top of the head.

Taper fade

The clue is in the name. A taper fade is a combination of the above techniques which allows the hair to be graduated from very short to a considerable length on the top of the head. It is often paired with short haircuts that lean towards the longer end of the spectrum, such as a pompadour or an Ivy League.

Shape up

Have you ever noticed how Drake’s hair is strangely straight and perfectly right around the hairline? That’s called a shape-up and it involves cutting along the natural hairline and removing stray hairs to create a straight line.

undercut

As the name suggests, an undercut is traditional where the back and sides of the hair are cut short, often buzzing, under longer hair that extends from the top of the head. Today, however, the term is often used to refer to any style where the back and sides are cut much shorter than the top.

Detach

This refers to having two different lengths of hair that are not mixed or graduated in any way. For example, you may hear someone talking about a “disconnected undercut.” That is a hairstyle with very short back and sides and longer hair on top, but without the use of a taper or a fade to connect the two.

Choosing a short haircut for your face shape

Of course, the first thing to consider with a new short haircut is whether you like the haircut or not. The second is whether it will complement your face shape or not.

The good news is that short haircuts are quite versatile. They sit close to the head and don’t add much height, which is good if you have a long face. That said, anything with a quiff or a pompadour is best avoided for those with rectangular faces, as that extra bit on top can make the face look even longer.

Conversely, if you have a very round head, short haircuts with a little height on top can balance out the proportions. Try a pompadour with the sides short and close to the head. Avoid a buzz cut unless you want to look like a golf ball.

If you’re lucky enough to be blessed with an oval-shaped face, there isn’t really anything that is off limits. Go wild.

Top Short Hair Trends For Men

take it all off

Good news for anyone who likes to spend 10 minutes longer in bed in the morning. The most low-maintenance trims are booming and have been for a few years now. From Becks’ high and tight to Zayn Malik’s all-out, grade two buzz; down-to-the-bone embellishments are all the rage. Honestly, they can’t really go out of style.

This trend is perfect for those who find themselves getting thinner on top. Taking the hair short makes it look thicker, and a close shave will always trump a spiky combo.

Texture is everything

When it comes to hair, texture is just as important as style, especially when it comes to shorter haircuts. The less length there is to play with, the more difference choppy scissors work and well placed product will make.

High-textured styles have been making the rounds on both the red carpet and high street for quite some time now. Aside from getting a good haircut, two of the best tools to help you achieve the look are matte clay and sea salt spray. Use the latter while blow drying and the former for styling.

undercut everything

Peaky Blinders has a lot to answer for when it comes to mainstream menswear in the 2010s. While we like to sidestep the non-ironic flat caps and the unfortunate return of braces, one thing we can get on board with is hair.

The combination of French harvest and uncoupled undercut will go down in history as the chop that defined the decade. Due to its popularity, undercuts have become one of the most googled haircuts as well as one of the most requested haircuts in the barbershop.

keep it tidy

Crew cuts, Ivy Leagues, and high and tights — the kind of hairstyles your mom would approve of are also the coolest adornments in town. Gyllenhaal, Gosling, Reynolds…some of Hollywood’s most stylish men claim this look as their own, cementing its place as a tonsorial phenomenon.

For those of us who can’t go to the office with a loose undercut or a pale blonde buzz cut, opting for a neat, classic haircut is a great way to stay in your boss’s good books without sacrificing your style credentials.

Maintenance & Styling

Compared to their longer, lofty counterparts, short haircuts are relatively hassle-free when it comes to maintenance. However, there are a few tricks and tools to keep an eye on.

Styling products such as paste, pomade, wax and clay are essential and should be chosen based on the look you want to achieve. Pomades and gels tend to give a wet, glossy finish, while clays, pastes, and waxes are better for texture. Think pomade or gel for pompadours, smooth backs and quiffs, and wax or clay for a textured matte finish.

It is also worth investing in a set of clippers. Obviously, we’re not suggesting that you just go to town on your own hair. Still, having a kit on hand makes it easy to quickly touch up the edges. And if you go the buzz cut route, there’s no reason you can’t learn to cut it yourself.

The best short haircuts for men

Cut crew

If you’ve ever asked your stylist for a “short back and sides,” this is most likely the cut they provided. The round cut is about as classic and timeless as a trim can be. It has (you guessed it) a narrow, tapered cut at the back and sides of the head with slightly longer hair on top that is often styled forward in a small quiff at the front.

Ivy League

Save your insanely large pompadours and rockabilly sideburns. For us, the haircut that really captures the essence of the 1950s is the Ivy League. Also known as a Harvard clip or Princeton, this classic preppy style is essentially just a grown-up round cut with a neat side part. It’s the haircut that Ryan Gosling has had for ten years – timeless and steeped in American heritage.

Buzz Cut

Hairstyles are not much simpler and easier to maintain than the buzz cut. Named for the non-recurring sound of the clippers, this hassle-free style can be anywhere between a grade one and a grade six. Keep a uniform length all over or sharpen it up with a fade on the back and sides.

High and tight

Many of the best short haircuts have their roots in the military, and the high and tight haircuts are no exception. With cropped back and sides and a slightly longer patch on top, the style is timeless and masculine. Channing Tatum, Denzel Washington and Matt Damon are all doing well.

Textured Crop

One of the most popular hairstyles of the past decade, the textured crop is a tousled hairstyle that is playful from the top and keeps the back and sides fresh. Styled with a textured wax or clay, the hairdo is usually pushed forward with a short fringe in the front.

Pompadour

At the longer end of the short hair spectrum, we have the pompadour. Unlike the other styles mentioned, this 50s favorite actually requires a decent length on top. The longer hair is brushed up and back and combed into place with pomade to create height and shine. It can be paired with a taper or fade at the back and sides, or if the hair is kept longer, it can be smoothed over behind the ears to a point at the back of the head.

Tintin

A little brother of the pompadour, the crest follows the same principle of creating height in the front, but in a less dramatic way. Worn short in the back and sides, longer hair on top is carried forward and styled up and to the side using a product and a comb to guide it into place.

Smooth back

This style does exactly what it says on the tin. The hair is grown out and then combed back and styled in place with some pomade or gel. Think of it as a pompadour but without the loft, making it much less maintenance. Keep the sides long and smooth back or wear with an undercut for a modern touch. Depending on how you style it, it could be either the definition of establishment (think Michael Douglas on Wall Street) or a sign of something a little more edgy and rebellious (see Brad Pitt in Fury).

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