Undercut (hairstyle)

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The undercut is a hairstyle that was fashionable from the 1910s to the 1940s, predominantly among men, and saw a steadily growing revival in the 1980s before becoming fully fashionable again in the 2010s. 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-to-late 1990s, although those with 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 short back and sides 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, the Neds (precursors to the Teddy Boys) favored 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 gave short back and sides haircuts 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 the short back and sides style the norm in the UK after 1918, and its variant the brush cut became 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 such as the wings haircut 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 of 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 1980s.[9]

Curtained hair and undercuts went out of style in the early 2000s, but underwent a revival in the early 2010s among hipsters and skaters who imitated the 1930s and 1940s version: longer with pomade in 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, the most controversial were the "Hitler Youth",[1][7][10] "Jugend",[11] and "fasci".[12] Some of the most high-profile early adopters of this haircut included Macklemore,[13] Kim Jong Un,[14] David Beckham, and Win Butler.[1]

During the late 2000s and early 2010s, undercuts were often associated with villainous movie characters such as Hannibal Lecter in Hannibal Rising, Johnny Depp's portrayal of gangster John Dillinger, Jared Leto as The Joker in Suicide Squad, Guy Pearce in Lawless, and 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 stars from shows like The Only Way Is Essex.[16][17] A longer version of the haircut with long bangs, inspired by Skrillex,[18][19] Miley Cyrus,[20] Kelly Clarkson, and Rihanna,[21] became popular at the same time among American ravers, hipsters, scene kids, and female British Working-Class.[22][23]


During the late 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 such as Saudi Arabia,[27] the undercut is considered controversial and in breach of Islamic teachings governing hairstyles.[28][29] According to the Ḥadīth, 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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