The Buzz Cut
Updated: Mar 20, 2018
It’s been around for quite a while - Daniel Day-Lewis and Brad Pitt were rocking the look back in the early noughties - but the buzz cut has stood the test of time and is fast becoming the A-lister’s style of choice this year.
Everyone from Kanye West to Zayn Malik have been sporting a blunt buzz cut this year, so I wanted to share some tips on making the most of this bold look, as well as how to maintain and add a bit of extra interest too.
A buzz cut covers any short style that has been achieved using electric clippers. Crew cuts, flat tops, butch cuts or the slightly longer Ivy League look all fall under the handle of ‘buzz cut’, the difference is how close cropped you go and that is down to the length of the guard on the barbering clippers that your stylist uses to achieve the style; essentially the lower the guard number, the shorter the cut.
“A ‘one’ or a ‘two’ buzz cut, for example, refers to ⅛ of an inch and ¼ of an inch respectively, The longest lengths, a ‘seven’ and an ‘eight’ leave up to an inch of hair - a less dramatic ‘buzz’, and one that leaves enough hair to part.”
Looking back in history, there is a practical reason for these short cuts, with the term ‘crew’ cuts originally coined for the members of US university rowing teams, such as Harvard and Yale, who kept their hair short and shaved to stop it blowing in their eyes during races. Crew cuts remained popular in the 1920s and 30s, while GIs in World War II all received mandatory crew cuts. The 70s saw the cut fall from favour, but the 1980s brought the flat top crew cut back into fashion.
Today, both men and women - from Sinead O’Connor to Natalie Portman and recently Kristen Stewart’s super-cool platinum buzz cut – choosing super-short hair is all about making a style statement and standing out from the crowd. But if you think all there is to a buzz cut is being handy with a pair of clippers, you couldn’t be more wrong.
The first thing to consider with a buzz cut is that the shape of your head is going to be firmly in the limelight - so, depending on how low you go, any lumps, bumps, scars and the actual shape of your head will all play a part in how the end result looks.
Take a good look at your head from all angles - a second handheld mirror will be required, or get someone to take a snap of the back of your head on their phone - and get a good idea of how it looks from all sides. If there are lumps and bumps that might be better to be covered, consider a slightly longer ‘buzz’ to take that into account.
Face shape also plays a part in this radical cut - men with oval faces fare well, as this face shape works well with all hair lengths, while a rectangular face shape is also well suited to the buzz cut.
The ‘induction’ cut is as close to the bone as you can go, while the ‘fade’ works with short hair on top with no hair at the bottom - think Jake Gyllenhaal back in the day. The ‘Burr’ buzz cut is the next step up and offers a slightly softer look - Brad has rocked this look over the years - and it works well with a bit of stubble or facial hair too.
Once you’ve opted for short and sharp, you can play around with the dimensions. Keep the sides close-cropped and leave more hair on top - much like an undercut but with less hair - known as a high and tight, it creates contrast and interest, think Ryan Reynolds with his close-cropped sides and you get the picture.
And let’s not forget that you can still play around with colour here, as both Zayn and Kanye showed with their striking bleached blond buzzes in the last few months.
Buzz cuts work well with a beard - as Tom Hardy has proved on occasion - particularly if you have gone super short on top as it provides a bit of texture. Just keep an eye on proportions here, and keep any facial hair neat and cared for to complement your shorter style.
The obvious benefits of a buzz cut - apart from looking effortlessly cool - is the low maintenance and lack of styling required, this is genuine get-up-and-go hair. For those going for a slightly longer length on the top of the head, all you need is a little product, such as a pomade to provide a bit of shine. I like new product The Pomade, £9.99, from Braw Beard Oils (brawbeardoils.com), which is water-based and doesn’t dry out.
The other benefit is that this cut works really well for men with receding hairlines. Just remember, you do have to factor in very regular trims to keep on top of the length - it’s a must to stop things looking out of control, particularly if you have fast-growing hair, you will notice it much more with this cut.
There is no doubt about it though, buzz cuts look and feel cool, in all senses of the word - all we need now is a long hot summer to show them off.