A crew cut is a type of haircut in which the hair on the top of the head is cut relatively short, graduated in length from the longest hair at the front hairline to the shortest at the back of the crown. The hair on the sides and back of the head is tapered short. Other names for this style of taper include tight cut and fade.
Crew cuts can make the face look more defined. They are popular with men and boys who want a short, low-maintenance hairstyle. Crew cuts have almost exclusively been worn by men and boys, especially those of high school and college age who want to be perceived as clean cut and athletic.
The term, originally crew haircut, was most likely coined to describe the hairstyles worn by members of Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Cornell and other university crew teams, which were short to keep the hair from being blown into the face of the rower as the boat races down the course opposite the direction the rower is seated with both hands on the oars, making it impossible to brush the hair out of the face.
The name drew a contrast to football haircuts, which had been long since 1889 when Princeton football players began wearing long hair to protect against head injury, thereby starting a trend, not altogether welcome; mop haired football players were frequently caricatured in the popular press.
Prior to the invention of electric clippers with a motor in the handle in 1921 and their ensuing marketing and widespread use, barbers considered the perfect short pompadour to be the most time consuming style to trim. 
Men inducted into the military in World War II received G.I. haircuts, crew cuts, and a significant proportion continued to wear a crew cut while serving and after, as civilians.
As long hair became popular in the mid 1960s, the crew cut and its variants waned in popularity through the 1970s and 1980s. The crew cut came back in style in the 1990s, popularized by Boyz II Men in 1992, and then became exceedingly popular in the 2000s and 2010s among youths and adults alike.
The hair on the sides and back is cut with a coarse clipper blade from the lower edge of hair growth to or nearly full up to the crown. The clipper is gradually arced out of the hair at the hat band to achieve a taper. Clipper lines are blended out so there is a seamless transition between lengths. A tapered back and sides generally contours to the head shape; the hair progressively graduates in length from longer hair at the upper portions of the head to shorter hair at the lower edge of hair growth on the back and sides.
With a semi-short crew cut, the hair on the sides and back is cut with a coarse clipper blade about half way up to the crown; the clipper starts to gradually arc out of the hair at the top of the ears. Short crew cuts are sometimes referred to as butch and high and tight. Though with the exception of variant forms, a butch differs from a crew cut in that the top hair is cut a uniform short length.
A short pompadour with a flat top was considered the standard while a somewhat curved appearance across the top was suggested for wider foreheads and face shapes. The style with a flat top acquired the name brush top short pompadour and the style with a more rounded top, round top short pompadour. A fade is where the hair on the sides and back is cut close to the head and then tapered upward to a longer length on the top of the head.
A short crew cut might have a similar proportional graduated difference in the length of the hair on the top of the head. If a short crew cut is three fourths of an inch (19mm) at the front hairline, the length of the hair at the back of the crown might be one fourth of an inch (6mm). A crew cut where the hair on the top of the head is graduated in length from the front hairline to a chosen point on the mid to back part of the crown as a flat plane, of level, upward sloping or downward sloping inclination is known as a flat top crew cut or flattop.
A long crew cut can be referred to in the US as an ivy league crew cut or ivy league. A long crew cut might be graduated in length on the top of the head from one and a half inches (38mm) at the front hairline to one half inch (13mm) at the back of the crown. 
Auguste Rodin with a crew cut, 1889
Jack Kerouac, 1943
A curtained crew cut, 1995
Wrestler John Cena, 2006.
Musician Adam Levine, 2007
Ben Affleck with a crew cut in 2010
Ricky Martin, 2011
An airman with a "recon" style haircut, 2011
Model and actor Colton Haynes, 2012
Rapper Macklemore with a pompadour-inspired crew cut, 2012
Soccer player David Beckham also with a pompadour-crew cut, 2012
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- Stephan Talty (April 19, 1998), "Crew Cuts Forever", The New York Times
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- "John Hay Whitney Philanthropist, Film Producer, and Father of the Crew Cut". Yale Alumni Magazine. April 2002.
- "Pompadours Passe Says Barber; Collegetown Condemns Crew Cuts". The Cornell Daily Sun 100 (Number 141). 25 March 1937.
- "Obecure Origins of the Crew Haircut Revealed by Harvard Square Barbers". The Harvard Crimson. 23 November 1935.
- "Two-Fisted, Stout Jawed Movie Idol Plus Crew Haircut Resembles Composite Undergraduate". The Daily Princetonian 65 (Number 46). 27 March 1940.
- Beau Riffenburgh, The Official NFL Encyclopedia: "The Helmet"
- Moler 1911, p. 82.
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- "Crew Haircut With Back Sheared Is The Male Method For Beating The Heat". Life 11 (2). 14 July 1941.
- "The Men 300,000 New Sailors Will Make The Navy Their Career". Life 9 (18). 28 October 1940.
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|Look up crew cut in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.|
- A brief description of the term's history in the Yale Alumni Magazine
- A brief description of the term's history in the Yale Daily News
- Agonies Of Victory For Comeback Crew Life Dec. 10 1956. Includes photos of crew cut Olympic Gold Medal winning Yale oarsmen.
- Crew Haircut With Back Sheared Is The Male Method For Beating The Heat Life July 14, 1941. Includes before and after photos.
- Obecure Origins of the Crew Haircut Revealed by Harvard Square Barbers Harvard Crimson November 23, 1935.
- Pompadours Passe Says Barber; Collegetown Condemns Crew Cuts Cornell Daily Sun March 25, 1937, Page 1
- Princeton Oarsmen Pick Bayard To Lead 1940 Varsity Crew. Includes photo of crew cut Crew Captain. The Daily Princetonian May 24, 1939
- Stout Jawed Movie Idol Plus Crew Haircut Resembles Composite Undergraduate The Daily Princetonian March 27, 1940