Military Haircuts for Men: The Guide for Awesomeness

Military haircuts have been trending for the last couple of years, yet there is still a lot of misinformation going around for these particular haircuts. Sit back, pour yourself a glass of the strongest Scotch whiskey you have and proceed to enjoy Rogelio’s epic blueprint slash guide on military haircuts.

Military Haircuts for Men: The Guide for Awesomeness

Military haircuts have been increasing in popularity as of lately. Well, when I say as of lately, I’m actually referring to as of a couple of years ago. It goes without saying that the internet is the go-to medium for learning all sorts of epic stuff, which means that, until not that long ago, military haircuts used to be exclusively reserved for military personnel, yet nowadays with the advent of the good ol’ Internet all these war-themed hairstyles are used to make fashion statements, shape one’s overall looks and even, sigh, look cute and glamorous.

You see, there are 12 military haircuts that have been used throughout the 20th century and all of these haircuts share the same fight-oriented trait: to offer a low-maintenance hairstyle that never blocks one’s visual field and that doesn’t allow for the hair to get trapped inside the helmet or clipped in the shirt’s collar. Ergo, all military haircuts are short haircuts (and thus hairstyles) and none of them allow for the hair to exceed the two-inch hair length mark. Usually in the military, the higher the rank, the longer you’re allowed to wear your hair; furthermore, the more you spend out on duty and in the battlefield, the shorter your hair will be in order to avoid potentially-catastrophic scenarios. Incidentally, the higher one’s rank is in the military, the less time he/she will be spending in the actual battlefield, hence the direct correlation between the length of hair in military men and their rank; this is just an observation, but it proves the point that military haircuts are designed for physical action.

Some pretty-geeky Wikipedia-esque stuff I have just told you above, huh? OK, back to the topic: military haircuts.

As said, there are 12 military haircuts that have been used by folks in the military for decades. I’ll go through each of the military haircuts in this article, but allow me to quickly list them below:

  1. Induction Cut
  2. Burr Cut
  3. Butch Cut
  4. Regulation Cut
  5. Fade
  6. High and Tight
  7. High and Tight Recon
  8. Crew Cut
  9. Ivy League Cut
  10. Flat Top
  11. Brush Cut
  12. Undercut

The above 12 military haircuts have been popular at one time or another since the First World War (i.e. since 1914, for those who skipped history classes at school). I’ll give y’all some example of how military men have sported different haircuts:

  • The Undercut was sported by just about every German soldier in Nazi Germany back in the late 1930s and early 1940s; incidentally, Hitler sported a Regulation Cut.
  • Men in the First World War went for Regulation Cuts as it was then that the battlefield tactics evolved and men wore heavy helmets in freezing temperatures.
  • The High and Tight Recon has been the flagship haircut of the Marines from the 1960s onwards. In fact, the Marines developed an actual haircut called the Recon, which is the extreme version of the High and Tight haircut (you’ll read more below).

Make no mistake though, there may be a good variety of military haircuts, but all of them must be short haircuts that are no longer than two inches in hair length; as a matter of fact, most military haircuts actually have the hair at one inch or lower in length. When you are shooting the enemy and getting shot back in return, there’s really no need to look all glamorous and pretty like Pauly D on a Friday night, don’t you think?

Pauly D with a blowout hairstyle

Would you want this dude on your side fighting some crazy rebels with AK-47s?

I rest my case

Induction Cut

The Induction Cut is what you get when you are thrown into boot camp. The Induction Cut is a clipped haircut with no guard attached to the hair clipper; essentially, the hair is at a near shaved length and will look like facial stubble. The hair is clipped with no guard all around the head (i.e. you’ll be left with no hair). It’s a great haircut to scare old women in the mall.

A man in boot camp with an induction cut

A man with an Induction Cut getting done goofed

Burr Cut

The Burr Cut is one step above the Induction Cut in terms of hair length. A Burr Cut is clipped with a guard number of a one or a two, which means that your hair will end up being about 1/8 of an inch or so (click to read hair clipper lengths). Like the Induction Cut, the Burr Cut clips all of the head with the same guard number.

A man with a Burr Cut hairstyle

A Burr Cut

Butch Cut

The Butch Cut is yet another step up from the Induction Cut in terms of hair length. Simply put, the Butch Cut is an all-around clipped haircut done with any of the higher guard numbers of your hair clipper, so basically any guard number between a three and a five (and remember, you use the same guard all around your head).

A military man with a butch cut haircut

A Butch Cut will make you shout, but don’t take my word for it

Regulation Cut

The Regulation Cut is the (usual) haircut of higher ranking military officials (though not all sport Regulation Cuts!). The Regulation Cut allows up to two inches of hair on the top of the head although the hair is rapidly tapered down the sides and back of the head (using first a pair of scissors and then a hair clipper). The taper is done to skin, which means that the line of hair running across the sides and back of the head blends into the skin (see Fade haircut below).

A military man with a regulation haircut

A Regulation haircut actually looks quite good and leaves some length on the top to style

Fade haircut

A Fade haircut is a haircut that allows for the gradual decreasing of hair length until the hair is no longer seen (i.e. done to skin). A Fade haircut is typically done on the sides and back of the head to taper (i.e. decrease in length) the hair; since the fade can end up at different heights on the sides and back of the head, there are thus three types of fade haircuts: Regular Fade, High Fade and Low Fade.

A Regular Fade (aka a simple Fade) has the hair on the sides and back of the head finishing at one’s natural hairline, so basically the hair is tapered right till where your hair ends on the nape and ears. On the other hand, A High Fade has the hair visibly ending only one to two inches below the top of the head, or, in other words, there will only be hair visible on the upper part of the sides and back of the head. And, with a Low Fade, the hair ends visibly lower than a High Fade but higher than a Regular Fade, so a low Fade usually ends up about one to two inches above the natural hairline.

Overall, with a Fade haircut, the hair on the top of the head can be any length although, for military personnel, a Fade haircut will never have the hair on the top longer than two inches. If what I have written about the Fade in these preceding paragraphs makes as much sense as a drunk monkey attempting to write Cantonese in Cyrillic script, then thou shalt also read my Fade haircut guide to learn all the tidbits about the Fade and its variations.

 

A military black male with a fade haircut

The picture above shows a regular Fade haircut, notice how the fading reaches the hairline of the ears

High and Tight

The High and Tight haircut is a cool haircut that screams “military” as much as Justin Bieber screams when he sees a cockroach. The High and Tight basically has the hair clipped very short all across the sides and back of the head whereas the top of the head is left with a hair length of up to one inch. The guard length used for the back and sides is either a one, a two or no guard at all, and the hair on the top is usually clipped with a guard length of one or two numbers higher than the sides and back of the head.

With the High and Tight, there is no real smoothing of the edges between the hair on the top of the head and the hair on the sides and back of the head, although you may want to get a little fading done on the edges as a High and Tight can make you look like a walking mushroom if done improperly (don’t say I didn’t warn you).

A man with a cool high and tight haircut

The High and Tight is one cool haircut, brah

High and Tight Recon

The High and Tight Recon haircut (aka Recon) is the super-uber-cool haircut of REAL MANLY MEN. Oorah!!

Ok, ok… I made that up as I’m feeling a tad Marine today (“oorah” is the Marine’s chant for action)… but, oh boy, the Recon is one haircut that I have personally tested and concluded to have the ability to make women want to throw their panties at me (true story, bro). Considering that I’m one ugly huggable puppy, I can ascertain that what the Recon does to my looks is one darn good feat.

The Recon haircut is basically an extreme High and Tight haircut since the hair on the top of the head is made smaller in surface area and shorter in length, with the hair on the sides and back of the head being made shorter too; you thus end up with an almost-bald head with a mere strip of hair on the middle of the top of your head, which in military jargon is referred to as a “landing strip”. The landing strip is the recognizable trait of a High and Tight Recon haircut and it is the haircut of the Marines too (which partially explains the chic-magnet effect it has).

Two military men with a high and tight and a recon hairstyle

The dude on the right has a Recon haircut (notice the “landing strip” of hair) whereas the dude on the left has a High and Tight haircut

This is me with a HIgh and Tight Recon haircut

The above is yours truly with a Recon haircut (seen from the back). And yes, the meat under my head is my neck and traps

Crew Cut

The Crew Cut is a conservative haircut that has been used by not only military men but also by sportsmen; most notably, the Crew Cut has been sported by team members (or crews) in boat races between the universities of Oxford and Cambridge. Apparently, the winning team gets to party with the hottest nerdy females of the losing university; I have seen these nerdy females in real life, and you ain’t missing much in case you are wondering what they are like.

The Crew Cut is very simple: the hair on the sides and back is tapered down to the hairline and the hair on the top of the head is clipped/trimmed from the vertex towards the front so that the hair on the front of the head is slightly longer than the hair on the crown (i.e. vertex); the front may be left with some length to style, but never more than one inch. Bear in mind that what I have just given you is the US definition of the Crew Cut; in other countries (i.e. European ones), the hair on the top of the head can be (and will usually be) left at the same length and not be tapered as with the US version of the Crew Cut.

A soccer player with a crew cut haircut

Even soccer players know about crew cuts

Ivy League haircut

The Ivy League haircut is a haircut that was most popular with the undergraduates of the Ivy League universities, although the Ivy League haircut has been used plentifully by military men alike (especially higher-ranking military personnel). An Ivy League haircut is also known as a Harvard Clip, a Princeton Clip or a Brown Clip, but this has more to do with one’s university affiliation than with any standardized name for the haircut.

An Ivy League haircut is basically a longer version of a Crew Cut. In the Ivy League, the hair is longer on the sides and back (compared to the Crew Cut) albeit the hair is still tapered and finished with a hair clipper at the hairline. With regards to the hair on the top in the Ivy League haircut, the hair is also longer than in the Crew cut, with a length for the Ivy League between one to two inches and usually allowing the hair on the front to be slightly longer than the hair on the crown, keeping a wedge-like pattern when the hair is seen from the side (the wedge-like pattern is also seen in the Crew Cut but is not as noticeable due to shorter hair lengths).

Matt Damon with an Ivy League haircut

Matt Damon knows it best: military haircuts rock!

Flat Top

The Flat Top is one diesel haircut that unfortunately isn’t feasible for men with curly hair (damn you, curls!). The Flat Top was the haircut of Guile in the video game Street Fighter and Guile was one of my favorite fighters (along with Ryu), so this haircut carries some good memories of the countless hours I spent in my childhood playing the Super Nintendo with my pals and trading games (p.s. anybody don’t agree that Super Mario 3 is like the best game evah????).

The Flat Top requires a haircut that carefully trims the hair on the top of the head so that, when the hair is lifted up (i.e. brushed up), the hair forms a flat surface; the hair on the sides and back is done with a high fade too. Lastly, if you feel like having some LOLZ and epic WINRARHS, you can grab a hair clipper with no guard attached and buzz through the center of the top of your head so that you end up with no hair inside the Flat Top; this idioti… I mean interesting version of the Flat Top is known as a Horseshoe Flat Top and is the sort of haircut that military guys get when they get stupidly drunk on their free day or when regular Joes like yours truly get stupidly drunk and decide to test haircuts “in the name of Chuck Norris”.

A man with a Flat Top military haircut

I haz curlz so I haz can’t a Flat Top, but it’s still a darn good military haircut

Brush Cut

The Brush Cut is sort of similar to the Flat Top haircut, but, in the Brush Cut, the hair need not form a flat surface when lifted up; the hair in the Brush Cut is simply trimmed so that the hair looks neat and cool when the hair is brushed up with a comb or brush (don’t use a comb or brush if you have curly hair though, use a wide-tooth comb instead!). Simon Cowell, known for his scripted funnies in garbage TV shows, sports a trademarked Brush Cut, just in case you were wondering since every week I get at least one person asking me what haircut Simon Cowell has. An actual cool dude who sported an equally-cool Brush Cut was Val Kilmer aka Tom “Iceman” Kazanski in Top Gun.

Tom Iceman Kazanski aka Val Kilmer from Top Gun with a Brush Cut haircut

Ladies’ man Tom Iceman Kazanski aka Val Kilmer (when he was young, that is)

Undercut

For every weekly question I get asking me what’s Simon Cowell haircut, I get some twenty more questions asking me how to do an Undercut. The Undercut, informally known as an SS haircut or Darmody haircut, is a haircut that has been trending for the last two years for some unknown reason; it is like every male in the United Stated under the age of 25 must have an Undercut because each one of his Facebook friends has an Undercut. For the love of Bambi, fellow male readers, think and don’t be sheep: only get a particular haircut if you truly think it suits you and not because “everyone is getting one”. If you regularly get silly-looking haircuts because you have low self-confidence and simply want to fit in, then I recommend you to get my bestseller (yes, bestseller) book, The Curly Hair Book, as I cover not only all about hair care and hairstyling for men but I also give you some good motivation and mental encouragement so that you get to use your hair to help construct the puzzle that makes you as a male. If you don’t have curly hair and/or would rather read more formal stuff, then get my other bestselling book, The Men’s Hair Book.

Ok, back to the Undercut.

The Undercut is a mere bowl haircut, which means that the sides and back of the head are clipped short (up to a number three guard length) whereas the hair is left as long as you want on the top. Of course, in terms of military haircuts, the Undercut should only have the hair on the top of the head at a maximum length of two inches, but you are free to have your hair as long as you want although, the longer the hair, the sillier the Undercut tends to look as there is no smoothing of the haircut’s edges (although you might want to get some fading done on the edges due to the aforementioned walking-mushroom effect).

In terms of how to do an Undercut, well, it’s as easy as convincing Justin Bieber to spend an evening reading past issues of Cosmopolitan: grab a hair clipper and clip the sides and back of the head with the same guard number, that’s it. In fact, you quite likely got an Undercut as a kid as mothers in the ’80s had a tendency to do the whole “place a bowl on your head and cut anything below it” (i.e. bowl cut). I believe they got that from watching ET (the movie) as I think the kid in that movie (Elliot) gets a bowl cut too (movie connoisseurs, feel free to correct me on this one as it’s been a long time since I watched ET).

Jimmy Darmody with an undercut hairstyle

Loads of pomade and an Undercut…

Hair products to use for military haircuts

Since all military haircuts emphasize a short length, your range of hair products to use could not be any more simpler; essentially, all you need is a good hair clipper that can withstand some heavy-duty clipping and a hairstyling product such as a wax, pomade or hair gel. I suggest that you get a good hair clipper and not go for cheap ones since cheap hair clippers break down much faster than good hair clippers; you’ll be using the hair clipper quite often so you need to own a clipper that is reliable and won’t heat up like a frying pan. Get these (click the links for the products):

Military haircuts: Conclusion

Just over 3000 words; I have written over 3000 words on military haircuts and have, in the process, managed to get in two Justin Bieber jokes; this really is as good as you’re going to get for a military haircuts guide slash blueprint, my dear Manly Curls reader. Basically, I always tell dudes asking me for advice to try at least one of the military haircuts in their lifetime because any of the 12 haircuts above will give you some extra freshness and added convenience that none of the trendy diva-like haircuts of today will ever give you. For many of you, it will be your first time ever getting a manly haircut and I can guarantee you that, when you look in the mirror for the first time with a High and Tight or a Brush Cut, you will feel like kicking some derrieres that day and tattooing “Born To Kill” on your arm.

Questions? Comments? Let them known below, gentlemen.

All the best

Sgt Rogelio “Bad Attitude” Samson

Image credit: Wikipedia (users: Steindy and Mod Mike)

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Rogelio

Rogelio is the go-to guy when it comes to men's hair. Having embraced his natural curly hair for over a decade while living in 5 countries, Rogelio has learnt a thing or two along the way. Rogelio is the author of the two bestselling men's books "The Curly Hair Book" and "The Men's Hair Book", and his motto when it comes to hair is, "Gentlemen, having a good head of hair should not cost us our testosterone".

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8 Responses to Military Haircuts for Men: The Guide for Awesomeness

  1. Charlene Mckee on June 10, 2014 at 10:38 pm

    Dear Rogelio, read your haircut guide for military haircuts and your right on! I’ve been a barber since the early 60s being one of the first women barbers in Houston. I was taught to cut hair by Norris Womack who was a style innovator. Now the problem! My 15 yr. old grandson just ask me to cut his hair in a (air-force cut!) EXCUSE ME! I’ve never in 54 years of barbering heard of such a cut! I ask him if it was a military cut and he said no! Can you help me! I loved your sense of humor and your web page. Thanks a lot, Charlene Mckee

    • Rogelio on June 11, 2014 at 6:25 pm

      Hi Charlene,

      Thanks for passing by! You have all my respect for being one of the first female barbers in Houston, and in the 1960s no less!

      An air-force haircut would be a High and Tight or a High and Tight “Recon”. I am pretty sure that is what he means, although the Flat Top was also a very-popular haircut with air-force personnel. Show your grandson the pictures in this guide for the Recon, High and Tight and Flat Top as it’s bound to be any of those three cuts. Remember that the Recon is simply a more extreme version of the High and Tight, you will be making a narrow strip of hair on the middle of his hair (3 to 6 inches wide) and the rest of the scalp is either clipped with no guard or is shaved.

      Here are some more pictures of the Recon; notice how the width varies upon the preference of the person, but the hair that remains on the top pf the head as the strip is placed very high on the head. In the High and tight, the hair is clipped from the horizontal line of the temple and down, but in the Recon the hair is clipped from 1 to 2 inches higher than the horizontal temple line! The first picture, however, is very close to what a High & Tight would be although it would still fall under the Recon style (since the hair has been clipped higher than the horizontal temple line). Any landing strip that is narrower than the first picture would also be a Recon as you can see in the rest of pictures below (although the last picture is a proto Mohawk haircut but the landing strip in terms of surface area is the same for the Recon).

      If you have any questions, please let me know.

      Best

      Rogelio

      A Recon cut

      Difference between the two male cuts.

      A Hells Angels dude with a short Recon.

  2. David Lamar on April 16, 2014 at 3:02 am

    R, love that this was structured like a primer. Simple, no-nonsense, not pretentious, lay it on the line, KISS ( Keep It Simple Sailor). Wish that every website was like this.

  3. Mike on April 10, 2014 at 12:35 am

    This is a great site for us guys looking for a no B.S. haircut that looks great as well as manly. The regulation cut is my absolute favorite, I googled “ww2 german soldiers haircuts” because they had that style but I was unsure of what it was called. Now I do, so thanks again for your hard work here.

  4. Tobias on March 6, 2014 at 4:17 am

    Rogelio. Just got done going through this awesome web page. I truly appreciate what you have done here and the ‘to hand’ info. I was a sports coach, (football,rugby, wrestling, martial arts, body building, power lifting, strong man) for 35 years after doing a bunch of around the world stuff I can’t talk about. Had me a fine flat top for most of that time, but since retirement (I’m 60), I’ve let the old locks grow (and grow and grow). So now my hair is around 30 inches long (still dark brown) and with the full white beard my oldest son said I look like Poseidon. Thanks for your effort Rogelio, god bless
    Tobias G. Coach Ret.

    • Rogelio on March 6, 2014 at 12:31 pm

      Hi Tobias,

      Thanks for the kind words, and nice to hear from a fellow long hair! You’re lucky to be able to sport such a mane as by your age many men are bald, so keep rocking those locks!

      Your case is similar to mine: I grew my long curly hair from a Recon, similar to the picture I posted for the Recon in this guide!

      Keep in touch.

      Rogelio

  5. Joel on August 7, 2013 at 2:46 pm

    Hey Rogelio! Que pasa, amigo! Long time no chat about Weightlifting, brah! How you been. Great article. I served in the Army for 11 years. I got out in 2003 and up to this day I still maintain my ‘crew cut’. Easy maintenance. I get up in the AM, hit the gym, then go to work.. Maybe someday I ‘ll decide to let my hair grow and get a perm. haha..

    Peace!

    • Rogelio on August 17, 2013 at 5:08 pm

      Hey Joel

      Happy to hear from you! Just got your comment my friend, and I’m glad you’re still weightlifting, brah!

      If you gonna get a perm, then let me know, I know a couple of things about perms, ha!

      Keep in touch buddy

      Rogelio

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