Changing up your hair is one of the easiest ways to reinvent your look, but what if you're more interested in cementing a signature style? Everyone from Becks to Bob Marley to Brian May has made a trademark barnet work for them. The trick? Find one classic crop that you can return to again and again, without looking like you’re caught in a time warp (sorry, Brian May). We’ve tracked down six haircuts that stand up to the fickle whims of time.
Six classic hairstyles
By Libby Banks, 24 August 2016
Break it down: The daddy of all hairstyles, the quiff has its roots in the 50s pompadour but never quite goes out of fashion. To keep it modern, ask the stylist for just enough length on the top that the hairs buckle, and keep the back and sides short.
Best suited to: True rock ’n’ rollers.
A word of warning: As with any retro style, the danger is looking like you’re in costume. While Alex Turner’s authentic super-slick take is commendable, avoid looking like an extra from Grease by sticking to a messier, tousled texture, as seen on Aaron Paul and James Dean. And remember – this is a style that takes major daily commitment.
The buzz cut
Who? ‘Who hasn’t?’ is the more pertinent question. David Beckham, Brad Pitt, Drake, Andrew Garfield, Kanye West, Jake Gyllenhaal, Ewan McGregor and Robert Pattinson have all made it work. Hell, even Britney went there.
Break it down: This is the ultimate low-maintenance style. Just use clippers to trim hair within (less than) an inch of its life.
Best suited to: Anyone who gets nervous around hair products but enjoys a meaningful relationship with their barber.
A word of warning: Keep the sides a bit shorter than the top, thereby avoiding the illusion of premature ageing. Get a professional stylist to do it the first time – or every time, if you want. A messed-up fade is a genuine tragedy.
The dishevelled centre parting
Who? Bobby Gillespie, Jared Leto, Jim Morrison, Kurt Cobain.
Break it down: Given 90s grunge’s influence on fashion and music, it’s no surprise that the scene’s signature choppy, dishevelled hair is re-emerging as an awesome style choice.
Best suited to: Those wishing to project a sense of cool ennui. Also looks great with a beard.
A word of warning: Just know that letting it grow doesn't mean letting go. Effortless nonchalance still requires a decent barber to tidy your hair and make sure it grows out smoothly. That said, over-grooming your lengthy mane brings its own risks. Take a look at glossy-locked Eddie of 1992 one-hit wonders Charles & Eddie for further reference.
Best suited to: An independent state of mind. You can spend your life fighting your waves or you can own them. Props to hip-hop next big thing Desiigner for mixing his impeccable streetwear (and indecipherable lyrics) with relaxed twisted curls.
A word of warning: If it starts looking bushy, then it’s time for a trim. And if you’ve got naturally straight hair, don’t even think about it.
The slicked-back look
Who? This one runs the gamut from David Beckham and Justin Timberlake to Nick Cave and Humphrey Bogart.
Break it down: This is basically the anti-quiff. It’s the same short back and sides with hair left long on top, but instead of building volume, hair is combed back and flattened out.
Best suited to: Anyone wishing to project an aura of sublime suave – this is the classic of classics. Feel free to take it up a notch with a full-on beard.
A word of warning: While the sides and back need to be significantly shorter than the top, don’t let your barber give you an aggressive undercut. Skrillex may be worth a fortune but his hairstyle is best avoided. And heed the Gekko. Wall Street provides both a cautionary tale about 80s avarice and a stark warning about pitfalls of too much hair gel.
The side parting
Who? It’s the quintessential Hollywood style, sported by everyone from Benedict Cumberbatch to Ryan Gosling. But its most famous advocate is a certain fictional advertising executive…
Break it down: High and short at the sides, and roughly an inch long on the top.
Best suited to: Anyone looking to bring a dose of dapper into their daily style.
A word of warning: Done well, a modern side parting is rare beast – it’s easy to maintain and looks incredibly well put together. To keep it more Ryan Gosling than Don Draper, ask the stylist to graduate the hair length between the top length and the sides – the results are a lot less severe. Now all you need is a decent comb and some wax.