Most people will say that men, like fine wines, get better with age. Whether that’s true or not is up for debate, but getting older still requires maintenance, even for men. Our bodies change, our priorities shift, and our lives evolve. Case in point: Hair. What may have been a cool edgy haircut in your twenties can look like you’re trying too hard once you reach your forties. The difference in age-appropriate men’s haircuts isn’t drastic in most cases, but boils down to subtle changes.
According to hairstylist Rodney Cutler, "[Men] tend to want their aesthetic to fit into their career and their social environment,” which is why you tend to see men with similar looks in certain jobs.
There are specific issues that men deal with as they age that can affect their hair. “A lot of men are concerned about losing their hair,” says hairstylist John Barrett. The right haircut can help camouflage thinning hair or make it seem less drastic. While there are options beyond a haircut to help with thinning, he also says sometimes the best thing is to just embrace it (more on that later).
Here, we round up our favorite haircuts for men over 40.
Classic But Versatile
Literally no one can go wrong with the classic leading man side part. “Ultimately, a lot of the styles older guys want are more classic,” says Cutler.
The secret to fuller hair isn’t always how much you have, but how much texture your cut gives it. Asking your barber to texturize your hair helps it stand up easier with less product. A cut like this “is not even a style, but it just looks pushed back and natural,” says Barrett
Losing your hair is a reality for plenty of guys, and the bad news is it’s impossible to regrow hair you’ve already lost. Some guys choose to cut their losses and shave it completely. It can mean less maintenance, less stress, and a great look.
Keeping the shape of a fade, but leaving the slides a little longer is the haircut equivalent of “boardroom to bar.”
When your hair goes gray, you may need to change your product more than your style. “Gray hair becomes wiry because there's a lack of moisture,” says Cutler. “Creams, oils, and shine serums help control but also add moisture.” Instead of weighing hair down with pomade, switch to a styling cream to keep it in place.
Leaving natural waves slightly longer on top will help add volume and add a more casual, laid back quality. Keep it slightly shorter on the sides to add polish.
Not ready for the full-on shave? A super-close crop that leaves a little bit of hair is still low maintenance, but can camouflage inconsistencies in hair growth.
A buzz cut is not about cutting your hair one short length all over your head. Slightly tapering the sides and leaving it a little bit longer on top can help elongate your face and make it look slimmer.
Even short hair can benefit from texture. It makes hair look fuller and can camouflage thinning a little bit, says Cutler. Just don’t go too long if you notice thinning; longer hair will actually call attention to lost volume. Use a matte clay or paste to help build up but not weigh down hair.
Length, But Not Too Much
Contrary to popular belief, not all men’s haircuts need to be short. If you had long hair when you were younger (and provided thinning isn't a big issue for you), you can keep it as you get older. Keep it well above your shoulders and ask your stylist for layers.
Lots of guys use gels to slick back hair, but wet products can cling to hair and show more scalp (making it look thinner). To slick back hair, use a styling cream to help moisturize and build up volume. Keep it medium length and don’t try to use longer hair to cover up bald spots.
Embracing natural waves can go a long way to help hair look fuller. This shape is similar to a fade, but uses natural texture to create more height on top. Use a salt spray to build up hair without weighing it down and looking over-styled.
Texture for Volume
Hair naturally gets thinner as we age, even if we don’t notice it falling out. Length can be your friend here as long as it’s not all one length. “You need internal length,” says Cutler, which is when your barber cuts into the hair to create body.
“If you're losing your hair on top, having a lot of bulk at the sides just will accentuate what you're losing,” says Barrett. “Have your hair cut tighter so everything will just flow nicely.”
The first place many men notice hair loss is at their hairline (it’s an indicator of male pattern baldness). “If you’re receding, be realistic,” says Cutler. “You don't have to try and completely hide it. A little bit of a recession is actually quite attractive and realistic.”
Textured Flat Top
Using natural curls to build height on top of your head is like an optical illusion. It builds volume without weighty products. Keep the sides slightly longer than a fade to show off the natural texture.
A more casual part can make your hair look fuller than a crisp, shellacked hairstyle. It’s all about what products you use. “Use a pomade that has a little bit of a natural feel to it instead of a gel,” says Cutler. "You can still get away with it at work but look a little bit more playful and fashionable.”
“A shorter hairstyle that’s nice and clean” looks good on everyone, says Barrett. A military-inspired crew cut is great and a little more length on top makes it even suitable for civilians.
Instead of trying to use bangs to cover up receding temples, ask your barber to blend them and cut them a little shorter. “If you don't blend the temples, your eye is actually drawn to it,” says Cutler. “It accentuates the bald spot because of the amount of hair on the sides.”
Length is your best friend when it comes to versatility, but it doesn’t mean you have to have long hair. Even a tiny bit of texturized length on top means you can style your hair natural and messy or slick-backed and sleek.
The Shaped Afro
Longer hair can look cool on older guys, as long as it’s shaped properly. A slight oval shape keeps the sides shorter and gives a cleaner look. Keep it just long enough for natural curls to be defined but not weighed down.
There comes a time when all of us need to grow up a little. Long hair can look messy on older guys (especially if you're not willing to put in the daily effort to style it), but a classic short fade will always look clean and stylish.
The IRL Don Draper
You can never go wrong with a classic, but to keep it from looking too square, shape it with your hands instead of a comb. That subtle change in texture, but not shape, will make it cooler.
The Gray Quiff
Instead of trying to dye graying hair, embrace it. Using a subtle camouflage of color, “adding more pepper to the salt” as Cutler says, will take you back a few years but still look natural and unforced.
Sometimes it’s best to not overthink it. A fade works well on everyone (there’s a reason why it’s a classic) but a slightly lower transition helps add height.