How to Cut a Classic Flattop Haircut

Flattop haircut

The flattop haircut is similar to the buzzcut in that the hair is clipper cut all over the head, but the top is rounded rather than flat. This style of haircut is a good option for military, law enforcement, athletes, or anyone who desires a short, low-maintenance haircut (but one with a bit more character than a one-length all over buzzcut). Cutting a flattop takes a steady hand and a good eye, but it's actually a fairly easy haircut to master. Here's how to do it.

Is a Flattop The Right Haircut?

Before cutting a flattop, it is important to evaluate the client’s hair and face shape. If the client has curly or very wavy hair, a strong forward growth pattern, a low front hairline, pointed head shape, or other irregularities, then a flattop may not be a good option. A flattop may also not be a good cut for someone who is looking for totally care-free style. A flattop often requires daily application of gel or wax (and often blow-drying) as well as frequent haircuts to keep it looking neat. For a flattop, I recommend having it cut once every two to three weeks to maintain the shape.

Cutting the Sides and Back

First, clip the hair close to the head on the sides and the back. Keep the clipper anchored to the scalp until just past the round of the head and then continue straight up -- the motion of the clipper should run perpendicular to the floor. When the head begins to round towards the top, the clipper will continue straight up and off the scalp. Remember not to round the sides too much as the emphasis on this haircut is flatness. Continue around the sides and back until complete.

Tip: I often find it is easier to cut a flattop's sides and back using a #1 blade on the clipper -- this will leave the hair about the same length as it does when cutting over a comb that is flat on the scalp (which will be handy when connecting the sides to the top as instructed below).

Cutting the Top Guide Strip

Apply an appropriate gel (such as Matrix for Men EnerGel) and blow-dry the hair on top up and back, making sure it is standing as straight as possible. Next, insert a comb into the front at the height you would like the top and cut off the hair above the comb. When inserting the comb, do not force the hair back as this will create an un-even cut. The client’s head should be perfectly straight and the comb should parallel to the floor. Next, using the front section as a guide, freehand cut a strip down the center of the head (it may be helpful to use a guard on the clipper during this step). This cut should be parallel to the floor. The hair will get shorter towards the crown. The client will be left with two longer patches on either side of the strip just cut (the shorter, already cut part should resemble a "T"). Next, freehand cut these areas so they are even with the middle strip.

Tip: When cutting a flattop, I've found the Oster Master Flattop Comb is the absolute best comb for the job.

Joining the Top and Sides

Insert a wide comb flat against the round of the head and remove any hair that is sticking out (the comb should be perpendicular to the floor). Try not to angle the comb in too far toward the center of the head. Follow this around the entire perimeter of the top. The crown area should be rounded more to conform to the shape of the head. Again, try to let the hair fall naturally into the comb without over directing it. This will help you avoid lines in the haircut.


Lightly spray the hair with water and re-dry it. This will reveal any odd pieces which may have been missed. Stand behind the customer and have them look up and then slowly look down while checking the cut in the mirror. There should be no un-even spots when viewed from any angle. Once the top is detailed, taper the neckline and create a line around the ears with a trimmer.

Tip: If you're wearing a dark shirt, put on a white shirt or hold a white towel behind the client’s head. This will provide better contrast to see any odd places that need to be touched up.


Depending on the client's hair type, a flattop may require no styling or simply a light application of gel or wax. Simply apply the product and brush the hair up and towards the center of the head. For a stubborn growth pattern, a blow dryer may be used to set the style in place.

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