The undercut

A Pinterest page on male haircuts led me to the undercut, a cut I’ve seen but had no name for (but this is a good one). From the Max Mayo site on men’s fashion (2/25/15, “45 Stylish Looks of Undercut Hairstyle”):

2015 would be the year faux-hawk officially died. But instead of dying by way of losing sight of it on the street (remember mullets from the 80s?) faux-hawk became a permanent fixture on today’s hairstyle menu, joining the classic league of buzz cuts, side-parted and the Ivy League.

In 2014, undercut hairstyle dethroned faux-hawk and took over the “Most Popular Hairstyle” crown. The request for the “IT” haircut at barber shops and salons continues to grow 3 years after we first spotted (and then embraced) the trend. The natural progression of the trend has given birth to countless permutations of the original style.

An undercut is short on the sides and full on the top. In a disconnected undercut, the sides are very short and clearly separate from the top; in a faded undercut, the sides blend gradually into the longer top.

Some examples to come, the first featuring male model (and former footballer) John Halls, who will provoke a digression showing him hunky in his underwear (and an undercut). Then a few notes on the faux hawk (or faux-hawk), a ‘false mohawk’.

Illustration: Halls in a disconnected undercut, with a pompadour on top:


Max Mayo caption:

Male model John Halls spotting undercut in DETAILS magazine, March 2014

At first I thought that spotting was just a typo for sporting, but the site uses spotting in other captions; no one else seems to use the verb spot this way (except in quoting Max Mayo), so the usage looks like an eggcorn (though it’s not anywhere on the Eggcorn Database site).

On to the first note: undercut in NOAD2:

a space formed by the removal or absence of material from the lower part of something, such as a cliff, a coal seam, or part of a carving in relief.

In the haircut, the hair on the lower part of the head is shaved down, though not to the point of complete removal.

Second note: Very briefly from Wikipedia about Halls:

John Halls (born 14 February 1982) is a model and former English footballer.

… After leaving Wycombe [Wanderers] in May 2012 Halls decided to retire and set up his own male fashion business. Halls currently models for Next Models.

Here he is reflectively modeling underwear (in a faded undercut):


(Soccer player / male model is a thing. The sport is good for developing model-style bodies.)

Back to haircuts. A disconnected undercut “with dishevelled side quiff” (as Max Mayo puts it):


Some older men have taken up the style. Here’s “silver fox Domenico Gianfrate spotting undercut”:


On to mohawks (on the way to faux hawks). From Wikipedia:

The mohawk (also referred to as a mohican) is a hairstyle in which, in the most common variety, both sides of the head are shaven, leaving a strip of noticeably longer hair in the center. The mohawk is also sometimes referred to as an iro in reference to the Iroquois, from whom the hairstyle is derived – though historically the hair was plucked out rather than shaved.

… While the mohawk hairstyle takes its name from the people of the Mohawk nation, an indigenous people of North America who originally inhabited the Mohawk Valley in upstate New York, the association comes from Hollywood and more specifically from the popular 1939 movie, Drums Along the Mohawk starring Henry Fonda.

Here’s an example with a relatively modest spike:


Now to faux hawks. From The Right Hairstyles for You site:

A stylish and appealing haircut can do wonders with man’s looks, especially if the haircut is just edgy enough to be intriguing yet not so over the top that it can’t be taken seriously. This is the case with the popular men’s faux hawk haircut that has been around for decades dating back to the punk rock movement, but it still continues to remain relevant due to constant updates.

… Essentially it is a haircut that is cut partially into a Mohawk, but not all the way. How to cut a faux hawk? The sides are generally clipped short with the hair longer in the top where it can be spiked or formed into a point, depending on hair texture.

Here’s an illustration of what’s identified as a “classic faux hawk”:


Note that the back is clipped as well as the sides and that the sides are back are faded, but with a clear delineation between sides and top.

An uncut is then very similar to a faux hawk, differing from it mostly in not having a spiky or pointed top. Both cuts can have the back of the head styled in various ways.

2 Responses to “The undercut”

  1. arnold zwicky Says:

    From Richard Jasper on Facebook:

    I call it the “Ellis Island” cut since it looks like something resulting from a de-lousing process gone wrong.

  2. arnold zwicky Says:

    From Max Rivero on Facebook (lightly edited):

    every stylist has their own interpetation.. the one pictured above is a tapered fade.. a true undercut is based on 1930’s men’s cut which leaves the weight line at the parietal ridge (ala Adolf Hitler) or the attached..‬

    I am, however, deeply suspicious of references to “the true X” in matters of cultural artifacts or practices.

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