Undercut (hairstyle)

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Soccer player David Beckham with a typical side parted undercut

The undercut is a hairstyle that was fashionable during the Edwardian era, 1920s, 1930s, 1940s, and 2010s predominantly among men. Typically, the hair on the top of the head is long and parted on either the side or center, while the back and sides are buzzed very short.[1] It is closely related to the curtained hair of the mid and late 1990s, although wearers of undercuts during the 2010s tend to slick back the bangs away from the face.


Historically, the undercut has been associated with poverty and inability to afford a barber competent enough to blend in the sides, as on a regular haircut. From the turn of the 20th century until the 1920s, the undercut was popular among young working class men, especially members of street gangs. In interwar Glasgow, Neds, the precursors to the Teddy Boys, favoured a haircut that was long on top and cropped at the back and sides. Despite the fire risk, lots of paraffin wax was used to keep the hair in place.[2] Other gangs who favored this haircut were the Scuttlers of Manchester, and the Peaky Blinders of Birmingham, because longer hair put the wearer at a disadvantage in a street fight.[3]

During the jazz age of the 1920s and 1930s, hairstyles of this type were considered mainstream fashion.[4] Military barbers of the World War I era cut hair "short back and sides," as fast as possible because of the numbers, under orders to facilitate personal hygiene in trench warfare, and as nearly uniform as possible, with an eye to appearance on parade. This made "short back and sides" the norm in Britain after 1918, and its variant the brush cut common in North America and France.[5] In Nazi Germany, a version of this haircut which was long on top but shaved at the back and sides was popular among Wehrmacht officers.[6][7] The undercut remained common in the UK and America until the 1960s, when longer hair was popularised by the mod subculture and British Invasion bands such as the Beatles and the Rolling Stones.


Beginning in the late 1980s, centrally parted undercuts, derived from the bowl cut, made a comeback among fans of new wave, synthpop, and electronic music as an alternative to the mullets and backcombed hair worn by glam metal bands.[7] A collar-length version of the haircut, known as curtained hair, went mainstream in the early 1990s and was worn by many celebrities, most notably Tom Cruise.[8] Another variant, with a floppy permed fringe, was known as the "Meet Me At McDonald's" haircut due to its popularity among fast food workers during the 80s, and among contemporary grime music artists such as Little T.[9]

Curtained hair and undercuts went out of style in the early 2000s, but underwent a revival in the early 2010s among indie kids and the skater subculture who imitated the 1930s and 1940s version: longer and pomaded or swept to one side on top and shaved or clipped at the sides.[7] At the time, although the style had many different names, one of the most controversial was the "Hitler Youth,"[1][7][10] "Jugend,"[11] or "fasci."[12] Some of the most high-profile early adopters of this haircut included rapper Macklemore,[13] North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un,[14] soccer star David Beckham, and Win Butler, a singer with Arcade Fire.[1]

During the late 2000s and early 2010s, undercuts were often associated with villainous movie characters such as Hannibal Lecter in Hannibal Rising, with Johnny Depp's portrayal of gangster John Dillinger, Jared Leto as The Joker in Suicide Squad, Guy Pearce as the corrupt prohibition agent in Lawless, and with various German officers in war films.[15] By 2014, the haircut had become relatively mainstream in the UK and was worn by people not normally associated with the indie scene, such as reality television celebrities from shows like The Only Way Is Essex.[16][17] A longer version of the haircut with long bangs, inspired by dubstep disc jockey[18] Skrillex,[19] pop star Miley Cyrus,[20] Kelly Clarkson, and Rihanna,[21] became popular at the same time among American ravers, hipster or scene girls, and female British chavs.[22][23]


Richard B. Spencer with the undercut commonly associated with alt right supporters.

During the mid 2010s, the American and Israeli press associated the undercut with alt-right activists like white supremacist Richard B. Spencer,[24] and with neofascist supporters seeking a less intimidating alternative to the buzzcut.[25][26]

In some Muslim-majority countries, including Saudi Arabia,[27] the undercut is considered controversial and in breach of Islamic teachings governing 'Qaza' hairstyles.[28][29] According to the Hadith the prophet Muhammad forbade traditional pagan Arab haircuts that were long on top but shaved on the sides as makruh.[30][31]



  1. ^ a b c Douglas, Joanna (17 November 2011). "'Hitler Youth' Haircut Gaining Popularity". Yahoo! Shine. Retrieved 8 April 2013. 
  2. ^ Christie, Stuart (2002). My Granny Made Me an Anarchist. Oil & Gas USSR. pp. 87–88. ISBN 1-873976-14-3.
  3. ^ Davies, Andrew (1998). "Youth gangs, masculinity and violence in late Victorian Manchester and Salford". Journal of Social History. 32 (2): 349–369. JSTOR 3789665. 
  4. ^ "CFCA - Hitler Youth haircuts becoming very popular in New York City". 
  5. ^ https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/a-bloke-writes-the-barber-my-father-and-a-short-back-and-sides-1170503.html
  6. ^ WWII German haircut
  7. ^ a b c d Williams, Alex (15 November 2011). "A Haircut Returns From the 1930s". The New York Times. Retrieved 8 April 2013. 
  8. ^ "Tom Cruise's Changing Looks". 
  9. ^ Mcdonalds haircut banned
  10. ^ Ramshield, Democrats (February 18, 2014). "Comeback of the Hitler Youth haircut worries Jewish and progressive groups fearing intolerance" – via Daily Kos. 
  11. ^ "'Hitler Youth Hairdo' -Silly Fashion Statement or anti-Semitism?". 
  12. ^ Dvorak, Petula (December 12, 2016). "It's 4 a.m. at MGM. Do you know where your money is?". Washington Post. Retrieved 2016-12-13. There were a few hipsters with fasci haircuts and ZZ Top beards at the “Walking Dead” slot machines, drinking beers. 
  13. ^ Thurm, Eric (27 August 2015). "Macklemore is Back, and He Brought an Army of Mopeds". Paper. 
  14. ^ "10 Things You Think Make You Look Cool But Really Don'tThe Macklemore Haircut". 
  15. ^ "30 Cool and Fantastic Cristiano Ronaldo Haircut Styles". Ringmyfashion.com. 17 November 2016. 
  16. ^ Betiku, Fehintola (23 January 2013). "Feeling reem? TOWIE's Joey Essex shows off his new bizarre half shaven hairstyle ahead of the National Television Awards". Daily Mail. Retrieved 8 April 2013. 
  17. ^ Dries, Kate (April 14, 2014). "Every Dude You Know Is Getting This Haircut" – via Jezebel. 
  18. ^ Skrillex's most priceless music moments
  19. ^ "The 10 best hairstyles for men that will never go out of style". 
  20. ^ "Get away from me! Miley Cyrus shows off her shorter hair... and even shorter manners as she brushes off hysterical fan". 20 November 2012 – via Daily Mail. 
  21. ^ Cauterucci, Christina (24 September 2015). "The Side Shave, R.I.P. (ca. 1989–2015)" – via Slate. 
  22. ^ Williams, Amanda (9 September 2015). "Girl excluded for leopard print hair goes back looking like THIS". Daily Mail. 
  23. ^ Joseph, Anthony (7 September 2015). "School sent 13-year-old girl home for her leopard-print hair cut". Daily Mail. 
  24. ^ Christian, Scott (August 15, 2017). "This Wildly Popular Haircut Has a Serious Neo-Nazi Problem". Esquire. 
  25. ^ Baharir, Ruth Perl (8 February 2017). "From hipster fad to neo-Nazi tagHow America's alt-right got its signature hairstyle" – via Haaretz. 
  26. ^ Hesse, Monica; Zak, Dan (November 30, 2016). "Does this haircut make me look like a Nazi?". Washington Post. 
  27. ^ Saudis arrested for forbidden haircuts
  28. ^ http://gulfnews.com/sport/uae/football/agl-players-told-get-haircuts-or-face-bans-1.1979066
  29. ^ http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/football/article-4226824/Ex-Sunderland-star-Asamoah-Gyan-guilty-unethical-hair.html
  30. ^ Hairstyles forbidden by the Prophet
  31. ^ Sahih Bukhari Volume 007, Book 072, Hadith Number 803
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