One of the easiest ways to elevate your haircut is to have your barber shave a defined, clean part. This creates what is called a hard part, as opposed to a natural or combed-in part. Hard part haircuts call attention to themselves for their freshness—since they make a haircut look intentional, as opposed to a style you just woke up with. It’s like getting a fresh fade or a line-up; the hard part announces that your haircut is in fact a hairstyle, no matter its length.
Hard parts are often shaved in with a safety razor blade, or carefully etched with an electric shaver. They are particularly good at dividing two contrasting lengths of hair, or as an aesthetic flourish in a partless sea of hair. Again, the hard part is intentional, and very often it is purposely excessive; that’s what makes it so appealing. For inspiration on possible hard part hairstyles that might work for you, we rounded up our favorites and spoke with barbers Alex Brenard and Jessica Ortiz for their thoughts on each.
Meet the Expert
Keep scrolling for 20 hard part haircuts to inspire your next trip to the barber.
A hard part and a fade make a great team. "The crispness of the edge-up naturally fading into the part creates a softness around the face, and can help soften an uneven hairline," says Ortiz.
Pushed-Back Skin Fade
Ortiz recommends this look for diamond face shapes. "The hard part helps create volume to this hairstyle by pushing up the long hair on top while keeping the head symmetrical."
Short Side Part
While a DIY hard part may be tempting, some styles are left best to the pros. "The crisp lines around the temple accentuate the hard part nicely," Brenard says. "This shows some expert-level use of a straight razor." Apply a light coat of hair balm to keep strays in check while enhancing the hair’s texture. Try Scotch Porter's Smoothing Hair Balm ($15).
High and Tight
Not all hard parts need to be redrawn every week. Some of them grow out neatly and allow the hairstyle to take on new forms, while other hard part haircuts might need routine weekly or biweekly maintenance. According to Brenard, this style lasts a while between cuts since the clippers bring all the short hair up high, just below the part.
When deciding what hard part is right for you, ask your barber about upkeep so that you can anticipate how frequently you will need to come in for them to clean it up.
Hard parts will especially enhance curls, notes Ortiz. "The clean definition between the part and the fade pushes the curls up and contains them in a manageable section of the head. To achieve this look, start with damp hair and add a curl cream or gel to hold the curl as it dries." Oribe Curl Gelée ($44) is a great product for this.
Here's a part that creates a nice illusion around the head. However, Brenard offers his suggestions on how to modify it: He recommends pulling it away from the top, even by an inch. And if you want to get more life out of the cut between barbershop visits, ask for a thinner part than pictured here.
A hard part gives the classic quiff a bold finish. "This style looks like it was blown out following the part to create a little volume on either side," says Ortiz. "To keep the volume and texture achieved, I would use a spray wax to give the hair shine and bouncy hold." We recommend EVO Shebang-A-Bang Dry Spray Wax ($30).
If you have a round- or oval-shaped face, consider a hard part to sharpen your features. "This hard part really accentuates the hairline, creating a really uniform frame around the face," says Ortiz. "The crispness of these lines create angles that can enhance the bone structure."
A hard part gives this 1950s pompadour a modern makeover. "If you are leaving a bunch of hair on top like this, I advise keeping the width of the hard part minimal," says Brenard. "There is a nice balance created between the skin showing through at the part, then again down at the temples via a low fade."
An asymmetrical part that exists purely for style cannot be beat. "This clean, diagonal line achieves such a retro individual look that is suitable [for everything] from a high fade to a flat top," says Ortiz.
A hard part might sound tough but that doesn't' mean you can't have fun with it. "This is a really creative approach to a hard part, in that it’s paired with a design line," says Brenard. "They sort of mirror each other. Beware though—this kind of a cut will require some high maintenance regular upkeep to stay looking fresh."
Short Hard Part
When growing out a haircut, you want to avoid that awkward stage—and a hard part can help. "Refreshing a hard side part can help extend a haircut that started as a skin fade as it grows out," Ortiz says. "This sharp, short hard part can be achieved by an experienced barber using a razor."
If you have thick hair or at least a full head of hair, this classic style may be for you. "This guy took a very traditional cut and updated it with a shaved-in hard part," says Brenard. It's preppy with a side of edge.
A hard part is a quick and easy way to add a little something extra to your 'do. "Since the fade doesn’t get down close to the skin, and the guy has a heavy head of hair up top, the hard part is the star of this cut," Brenard points out. "That’s something to be conscious of when committing to a hard part with dark hair and no kind of skin fade... the hard part will absolutely be the most noticeable thing on your head."
Haircuts with short sides and a long top continue to be a popular men's style, for thick hair especially. "This deep, asymmetrical part balances thicker hair by distributing the amount of hair combed over," Ortiz says. "This makes the longer side of hair easier to style with a light, shiny pomade versus needing a stronger hold for larger amounts of hair." Try STMNT Classic Pomade ($25).
Wavy Hard Part
Contrasting textures and a boost of volume at the roots play out nicely in this look. "The subtle hard part enhances the less conservative faded sides," Brenard says of this cut. "But then there are texture, waves, and length up top, which all look good as long as a strong-hold product is used to keep things under control." Try BluMaan Monarch Matte Paste ($23).
Modified Gentleman's Cut
Brenard did this cut himself. "The challenge was fading the skin into the hair at the crown, which I feel was achieved nicely," he says. "This cut was all about being 'far out,' so in this case, the hard part really added to the edginess we were going for."
More subtle than the 1950s greaser 'do, this contemporary take replaces volume with a hard part to create interest. "This natural hard part curves slightly with the head and enhances the softness of the haircut," Ortiz says.
How often do you have to refresh a hard part?
Some hard parts need to be redrawn every one to two weeks while others can last for up to four weeks without a follow-up visit to the barber. Upkeep will depend on a few factors: the width of your hard part (thicker parts will be more noticeable growing in than finer ones), the accompanying hairstyle (some parts organically blend into certain hairstyles when growing out), and your personal preference on how clean and crisp you want your hard part to appear.
Do I need to go to the barber to get a hard part or can I do it myself?
Since a hard part requires precision cutting all the way to the scalp, it's recommended to see a skilled barber rather than attempting to DIY at home.
How should you style your hair with a hard part?
If you have some length on top, you can comb your hair over to the opposite side of your hard part or tousle to create texture. Using a gel or pomade will help to hold your style in place and add volume, texture, and/or shine. If you've got short hair, your hard part will elevate your cut on its own.