Undercut (hairstyle)

Soccer player David Beckham with a typical side parted undercut
Adolf Hitler and high ranking Nazi officers with undercuts.

The undercut is a hairstyle that was fashionable during the Edwardian era, 1920s, 1930s, 1940s, and 2010s predominantly among men. 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 and late 1990s, although wearers of undercuts during the 2010s tend to slick back the bangs away from the face.


Wehrmacht soldiers with Hitler Youth haircuts, similar to the undercut.

Historically, the undercut has been associated with poverty and inability to afford a barber competent enough to blend in the sides, as on a regular 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, Neds, the precursors to the Teddy Boys, favoured 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] 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.[5]


Alice Bag,1980s.
EDM artist Skrillex's asymmetrical undercut.

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 worn by glam metal bands.[5] 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.[6]

Curtained hair and undercuts went out of style in the early 2000s, but underwent a revival in the early 2010s among indie kids and the skater subculture who imitated the 1930s and 1940s version: longer and pomaded or swept to one side on top and shaved or clipped at the sides.[5] At the time, although the style had many different names, one of the most controversial was the "Hitler Youth"[1][5][7] or "Jugend".[8] Some of the most high-profile early adopters of this haircut included rapper Macklemore,[9] North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un,[10] soccer star David Beckham, and Win Butler, a singer with Arcade Fire.[1]

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 celebrities from shows like The Only Way Is Essex.[11][12] A longer version of the haircut with long bangs, inspired by dubstep disc jockey[13] Skrillex,[14] pop star Miley Cyrus,[15] Kelly Clarkson, and Rihanna,[16] became popular at the same time among American ravers, hipster or scene girls, and female British chavs.[17][18]


During the mid 2010s, some British schools have banned the so-called Hitler Youth cut as an extreme hairstyle.[19] From the 1940s to the 1960s haircuts of this type had previously been common among schoolboys and teenage National Service soldiers,[20]

In popular culture

During the late 2000s and early 2010s, undercuts were often associated with villainous movie characters such as Hannibal Lecter in Hannibal Rising, with Johnny Depp's portrayal of gangster John Dillinger, and with various German officers in war films.


  1. 1 2 3 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, A. (1998), "Youth gangs, masculinity and violence in late Victorian Manchester and Salford", Journal of Social History 32 (2)
  4. Hitler youth haircut popular in NY
  5. 1 2 3 4 Williams, Alex (15 November 2011). "A Haircut Returns From the 1930s". The New York Times. Retrieved 8 April 2013.
  6. Tom Cruise's changing look
  7. Comeback of the Hitler Youth haircut worries Jewish groups
  8. Israel Nation News
  9. Macklemore is back
  10. Macklemore haircut
  11. 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.
  12. Jezebel
  13. Skrillex's most priceless music moments
  14. Skrillex haircut
  15. Miley Cyrus haircut
  16. Rihanna, Kelly Clarkson and Skrillex
  17. Leopard haircut banned
  18. Lauren McDowell
  19. School threatens student with expulsion
  20. Grimsby boy excluded
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