Grooming

The Big Esquire Guide to the Best Men's Haircuts

The best lids, as told by the world's best barbers.
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Men's haircuts aren't like men's clothes. We don't change them as often, for a start. Plus the trends involved don't move so quickly, which is why you probably have the same haircut as your grandfather during WW2. And, if guys do fancy a change, they don't just jump in with both feet at the nearest Vidal Sassoon Academy.

That's because very 'modern' haircuts age so very quickly. Think about all those mullets in your family photo album. Think about all those curtains in your school photo album. Think about all those album covers of boybands that lasted only slightly longer than their frosted tips. They're not around anymore. The classics, however, are. So find what you like, stick to it, and hope it works as well for you as it does the most handsome man in your circle.

Not so. Like clothes, one size doesn't fit all. Take, for instance, the short back and sides war hero cut. It looks great in the picture you so earnestly brought to show the barber, but there's no guarantee it'll be quite so successful for you, because your shape—specifically that of your head—will dictate the best sort of haircut. It's like finding the right pair of jeans, but more important, because this is your actual face.

So, how do you choose the right haircut for your face shape?

Well, first and foremost, you've got to identify the shape of your head—of which there are so many. It's highly likely you won't neatly fall into one specific category either. But, roughly work out where you sit within the Big Seven below—the most common face shapes barbers usually encounter.

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  • The Rectangle: Your face is longer than it is wide, with a similarly-sized jawline, forehead, and cheekbones.
  • The Oval: Your face length is greater than the width between your cheekbones, while a forehead out-measures that of your jawline—which is rounder than it is sharp.
  • The Circle: As you'd expect, everything measures up to a similar length resulting in a rounder face shape.
  • The Triangle: You've got an impressive jawline, and it out-measures your cheekbones, which in turn out-measure your forehead. Also, the formula can be reversed for an upside-down triangle.
  • The Heart: Your forehead out-measures your cheekbones and jawline, with a pointed chin.
  • The Square: Like a rounder face, all measurements are pretty similar but your jawline is sharper.
  • The Diamond: The length of the face is the longest measurement, following by your cheekbones, forehead, and then a smaller jawline with a pointed chin.

Once you've given yourself a rough categorization: congrats! You're about to ask for the best haircut of your life. Use that knowledge to define your choices immediately below the ears, too: your beard can also be preened to better suit your face shape. What's more, know that face shapes (and the best haircuts for them) don't exist in vacuums; styles that best suit square faces work for rounder ones too, and the same two-way street exists between diamond and triangular-shaped faces. Use your head (pun intended).

Granted, barbers may be opening and closing regularly under lockdown, but use this as your research period. Once the necessary evil of DIY cutting is over, and a semblance of real-life returns, leave your printed-out photo of Leonardo DiCaprio at home—and take one of these instead.

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Here are the best men's haircuts, as explained by the world's best barbers.

The Textured Crop

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Who: Chris Hemsworth

Face Shape: The Triangle

What It Is: One of the most accessible men's hairstyles in the book, or so says Kane Tuckwell of Idris Barbering Co, a London-based chop shop in Tottenham.

What To Ask For: "Some extra weight along the sides to offset your jaw width and allow for a bit more length and texture on top."

The Twisted Fro

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Who: Daniel Kaluuya

Face Shape: The Oval

What It Is: A low fade, with length on top. "The beauty here is the contrast between the tight back and sides and the more rounded shape on top," says Tuckwell.

What To Ask For: Most importantly, a square profile says Tuckwell. "You can embrace length as much as you like, but you need to remain square." And you'll need a bit of kit too. "Get a curl sponge to bring out some of the hair's natural movement."

The Really Long

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Who: Jason Momoa

Face Shape: The Oval

What It Is: "Long and layered," says Dana Caschetta, stylist at Eufora. "I would recommend it on any natural texture, but be wary on fine hair. The ends could look damaged and thin."

What To Ask For: "Most would think the best way to achieve this look is to stop getting haircuts but it's actually the opposite. Continuous trims will keep the ends of the hair looking healthy and full instead of frayed and damaged."

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The Long & Short

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Who: Adam Driver

Face Shape: The Diamond

What It Is: "A square box cut that's great for all hair types," says Caschetta. "For coarse hair with movement, style back with a control product like Eufora Hero Grooming Cream."

What To Ask For: "Ask your barber or hairstylist to use a texturizing tool on the ends for easier styling."

The Cherubim

Who: Harry Styles

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Face Shape: The Heart

What It Is: "A disconnected taper, also versatile but recommended for normal to fine hair to give the illusion of more hair," says Caschetta.

What To Ask For: "Grow some length first, then ask your barber or hairstylist to leave the front a bit longer so you have more options when styling," says Caschetta. "A little natural curl helps."

The Clean Shave

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Who: Stanley Tucci

Face Shape: The Rectangle

What It Is: "This is a clean shaved head, and it's useful if you like to wear hair loss confidently," says Sait Koca, co-head barber at Adam Grooming Atelier. "Quite often, someone who has male pattern balding on the top can be left with very thick sides which stick out from the roots."

What To Ask For: "A wet head shave is the ultimate indulgence for those who still want to relax during a trip to the barbers, but clipper and balding trimmers can be used for those in a rush," says Koca's co-barber at Adam, Alex Glover. "The best results with this look is to keep the scalp in good health, protected with a UV protection moisturizer. Cleansing with exfoliation can help dry skin if it persists."

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The Executive Contour

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Who: Kumail Nanjiani

Face Shape: The Square

What It Is: "The style name is hard to pinpoint. Based on the length of his sideburns this could be a grown-out 'executive contour'," says Koca. "Except this is just worn in a messy, relaxed style."

What To Ask For: "A soft pomp, so you have a soft quiffable top and some slickable side texture," says Adam's Glover. "Lengths should be dependant on your hair thickness and texture; a barber could best advise. If your hair is of a similar texture, you could ask for eight centimeters at the front on top, and the sides at around five centimeters."

The French Crop 2.0

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Who: Paul Mescal

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Face Shape: The Oval

What It Is: "This is a variation on a French crop haircut. The true French Crop would be a little more similar in length on the graduated sides as it is on the rounded top layering and fringe," says Koca. "The modern version of this is a cropped (or round layered) top with short back and sides, or even a skin fade. This version is something in between the two. "

What To Ask For: "Ask your barber for round layering at about five centimeters length on the top, graduating to a slightly longer fringe of six to eight centimeters with scissors, and texturized," says Glover. "A short back and sides should graduate to meet the round layers on the parietal ridge. You could opt for all scissors or a bit of clipper graduation too."

The Bleacher

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Who: Maluma

Face Shape: The Rectangle

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What It Is: "A classic brush buzz that's different from a typical buzz cut, as it's fractionally longer," says Denis Robinson, barber at Ruffians. "There's a toned bleach job too, which really sets this classic cut apart."

What To Ask For: "A number four on top for a softer, slightly hazier finish with further sections around the back and sides cutaway in pattern. Those wanting a more commercial version should ask for a drop in a fade around the back."

"And as for the colour, ask for a bleach with a blue ash toner. Without it, your hair will just look yellow and brassy."

The Classic

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Who: Riz Ahmed

Face Shape: The Oval

What It Is: "A pretty but basic scissor cut - basic in the best possible way," says Robinson.

What To Ask For: "A natural head-hugging taper around the back and sides, with a little softness left on the edges. Hair is marginally longer on top to enhance the head shape and create a pleasing silhouette."

The Precisely

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Who: Ryan Gosling

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Face Shape: The Triangle

What It Is: "A cleaner finish for a hair type that's probably the hardest to cut," says Robinson. "Super fine, and dead straight."

What To Ask For: "Clippers around the back and sides for a cleaner finish, then just scissors but go for a longer length so hair doesn’t look to shorn. It needs a little softness. Natural edges around the ears and hairline, too."

The Bed Quiff

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Who: Nick Jonas

Face Shape: The Diamond

What It Is: "It's a classic cut, and one that's all about the image," says Robinson. "You'll need product, and sea salt sprays will help mold finer hair."

What To Ask For: "A taper fade around the back and sides, and a traditional cut on top that goes shorter at the crown, which then extends slightly longer to frame the forehead. Hair needs to be blowdried and finished with a hair cream for a firmer hold."

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The Cherubim

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Who: Justin Bieber

Face Shape: The Oval

What It Is: "A throwback to junior school wedding pageboys with pageboy haircuts," says Robinson.

What To Ask For: "The hair has been feathered layered to remove surface weight and create movement and texture. This is created by starting at the crown at the shortest point, and exaggerating the angle towards the front the whole way around to leave length and weight around the edges."

The Sweepback

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Who: Robert Pattinson

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Face Shape: The Square

What It Is: "Longer hair that's outgrowing its past cut," says Robinson.

What To Ask For: "Growing your hair doesn’t always mean not cutting it. Go for a trim six weeks after your last appointment, and tell you're barber you want it balanced for a longer style. Then go have it trimmed every two months."

The Brideshead (Revisited)

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Who: Bradley Cooper

Face Shape: The Heart

What It Is: "A graduated haircut," says Robinson.

What To Ask For: "Ask for a sharper graduated cut around the radial section of the head, then go longer on a slightly disconnected layer on top. This creates a subtle wedged shape."

The Flush Cut

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Who: Michael B. Jordan

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Face Shape: The Circle

What It Is: Exactly what it says on the lid. "A flush cut means all flush," says Mark Maciver, award-winning barber and founder of SliderCuts. "It's a one-level, even cut."

What To Ask For: "A one-point five with the grain all around, and a hairline shape-up. For the beard, shave the sides and then leave the mustache and goatee natural."

The Plaits

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Who: A$AP Rocky

Face Shape: The Rectangle

What It Is: "Single plaits, with a shape-up," says Maciver.

What To Ask For: "Medium size—a space in between each plait—single plaits, and a soft hairline shape-up to finish."

The Natural Fro

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Who: John David Washington

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Face Shape: The Triangle

What It Is: "A natural fro style with a beard shape-up."

What To Ask For: "Cut down freehand to level of choice, using a kurl king sponge to slightly twist the hair to give it a natural curl," says Maciver. "Shape up the beard to the highest line possible to give a neat natural look, and not too sharp. It needs to be ever so slightly faded, but not to skin level."

The Skin Fade

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Who: Anthony Joshua

Face Shape: The Oval

What It Is: "A skin fade, with the grain," says Maciver.

What To Ask For: "A number one with the grain, a skin fade, and a very soft shape-up."

The Big Quiff

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Who: Jon Bernthal

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Face Shape: The Rectangle

What It Is: "A high quiff with tight sides," says Joe Pomper, head barber at Murdock London.

What To Ask For: "A clipper cut on the sides using a grade two, tapered around the neck and ears. Clippers should be taken quite high on the sides to create the square shape, and top, disconnect hair from the sides, building the length as you get to the front."

The Polite Parting

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Who: Park Seo-Joon

Face Shape: The Circle

What It Is: "A classic side part with clippered sides."

What To Ask For: "A clippered grade two/three on the sides, kept clean around the ear and neck," says Pomper. "Keep some length on the top, fractionally longer at the front. Maintain the weight around the parting in order to smooth it down."

The Fauxhawk

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Who: David Beckham

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Face Shape: The Oval

What It Is: "A short texture fauxhawk—like a fauxhawk, but not quite."

What To Ask For: "Short clipper on the sides using grade one, or even shorter. This should be blended with scissors on the corners to give texture," says Pomper. "Keep hair longer on top with a rounded shape and lots of texture. To style, push up at the front and in the middle, but keep it disheveled so the finish isn't too 'perfect'."

The Throwback

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Who: Cillian Murphy

Face Shape: The Square

What It Is: "Mid-Nineties Hugh Grant inspired curtains."

What To Ask For: "This style is proving very popular at the moment with lockdown hair in full swing," says Pomper. "Ask for a mid-length scissor cut on the back and sides, with length on the ear and nape. Leave heavier on the top, and slightly layered to soften the shape and to help flow the style back."

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The Natural Quiff

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Who: Henry Golding

Face Shape: The Heart

What It Is: "A natural, textured quiff".

What To Ask For: "A finger-length scissor cut around the sides, kept neat around the edges with some length on top so you can sweep over," says Pomper. "Styling should be textured to keep a slightly ruffled finish."

The Getting-A-Bit-Longer

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Who: Brad Pitt

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Face Shape: The Square

What It Is: "This is a long layered cut," says Joe Mills, founder at London barbers Joe and Co. "You need a minimum of three to five inches all round"

What To Ask For: "Ask your barber or stylist to leave plenty of length, and it has to be layered and texturized as this will help with styling and as it grows out."

The Chalamet

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Who: Timothée Chalamet (no way!)

Face Shape: The Heart

What It Is: "A slightly longer cut styled to sit in around the back and sides," says Mills.

What To Ask For: "Ask for a cut around three inches in length around the back and sides with some texture in it so it doesn’t look like a Lego head. The top is slightly longer, and once again, you need texture adding to the layered cut."

The Clean Cut

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Who: Ryan Reynolds

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Face Shape: The Diamond

What It Is: "A clean-cut short back and sides."

What To Ask For: "You want the top of your hair to be around three inches long, and it will need some texture in there to help get it to sit up and over," says Mills. "Make sure the back and sides are blended into the top."

The Prince Curls

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Who: Dev Patel

Face Shape: The Oval

What It Is: "A men's haircut that is all about shape, natural curl, and texture," says Mills.

What To Ask For: "If you've grown your hair out post-lockdown, ask your barber to work the length through the back and sides so it’s at collar length at the back, and at least halfway down the ears. It should be layer cut to create the shape, and you ideally need a good four to five inches of hair through the top to create this shape."

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The War Hero

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Who: Tom Holland

Face Shape: The Rectangle

What It Is: "A short, sharp military-inspired cut that has a hint if flat top about it," says Mills.

What To Ask For: "Take the back and sides down to a short scissor over comb, but not so short you see the scalp. On the top you need a little more length to the front to create the slight quiff, but it needs to be short enough to sit up and it needs to be slightly squared off in shape."

This story originally appeared on Esquire.co.uk. Minor edits have been made by the Esquiremag.ph editors.

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