The easiest hairstyle to maintain for most men? Cuts that are long on top and have a short back and sides. Not only are these styles versatile—working well for both formal occasions and casual outings—they are timeless and sophisticated. And while some of them are incredibly low-maintenance, others aren't necessarily for the faint of heart. "The shorter the haircut, the more maintenance it will require," notes Wayne Wildrick, regional barber manager at Fellow Barber in Los Angeles.
Meet the Expert
Below, we've rounded up 22 of our favorite men's haircuts with short sides and a long top, along with tips from stylists Wildrick and Giovanni Vaccaro—a stylist with on-demand hair and makeup service Glamsquad—on how best to maintain the looks.
Singer Khalid's modern take on an old-school flattop eschews a straight line across the top in favor of more texture. The result (balanced with a slightly grown-out beard) is a far cry from the look of the 1990s. Be sure to invest in a hydrating conditioner to ensure the hair on top stays moisturized.
Undercut With Fade
Arguably the most high-maintenance look on the list, the undercut requires much longer hair on top, with hair shorn down (in some cases, faded) on the sides. Just how short you go on the sides is best determined by natural bone structure. "Some clients may have bone protrusions on the sides and the back of the head," says Wildrick. "Generally, we don't expose them, so this is where your barber would decide where the fade placement should be to compensate for those irregularities that we all have as humans."
A mousse can be used to style hair even further up on top, but you'll want to visit the barber every two weeks for a trim.
Bradley Cooper's elegant, swept-back style is one of the most-requested among Vaccaro's clients. "This style is probably the most popular, and my clients always bring in a photo of Bradley Cooper for this one," he says. "It looks good on most men and most textures." To replicate the look, Vaccaro recommends "keeping the sides wispy but not super tight." In other words, "no barber fades here."
This is a good example of how the long on top/short on the sides type cut can be worn for versatility. In this shot, the model's hair is styled in a loose, spiky style on top. The hair can also be combed neatly with a bit of pomade — try American Crew Pomade ($12) — for a more formal effect.
For this shot, soccer star Radamel Falcao's hair is styled up and back to create a pompadour effect. The hair on top is worn a bit loose with separation for a more casual look.
For this style, the hair is clipped aggressively short on the sides and back and left long and thick on top. There is minimal blending on the sides to create a bit of a disconnection. The hair may be styled back for a sleek, formal look. As with any style, keep in mind that some looks are better on specific face shapes (this one, for instance, looks best on a narrower face).
Short Sides With Twists
Soccer star Gabriel Barbosa's hair is kept short on the sides—but his long, blonde locs offer plenty of interest. The key here is to keep hair on the sides shaved down, so the look mimics a mohawk.
A very light application of products leads to a natural effect. Here, product (and, likely, a blow-dryer) is used to provide a bit of control and separation but still maintain a casual look. The end goal is for hair to look like you could run your hands through it, so stay away from a product that's overly drying. Try John Frieda Luxurious Volume Fine to Full Blow-Out Spray ($12) for a look similar to a salon-quality blowout.
This is a versatile style, which can be worn messy with a bit of styling paste — we like Suave Medium Hold Styling Paste ($3), or combed neatly and parted, for a more formal look.
Usher's style combines an afro fade and a mohawk with hair kept extremely cropped on the sides, and higher through the middle. To replicate this look, you'll want to get a trim every four to six weeks, and invest in plenty of hydrating hair products, to keep the longer hairs moisturized. And if you're wondering if a look like this would work for you, do your research. "If you are considering a fade, look up inspiration photos of people who have hair similar to your type and color," says Wildrick. "In my experience, I have generally found that clients with dark and thicker hair can get away with low to high fades whereas clients with light and less dense hair look more suitable with a low fade."
A low fade allows for more gradience, which you can’t get with a mid or high fade.
Slicked-Back With Side Part
Here, hairstylist Frank Lezari styles a model for an Elie Tahari fashion show during New York Fashion Week. The style is short on the sides, longer up top, parted, and slicked back with a paste. Try Fatboy's Perfect Putty ($21) for a similar style.
Actor Michael B. Jordan combines a lineup—where the natural hairline is straightened in the shape of a line—with a mid-fade. This style of fade lands below the temples and just above the ear. As Wildrick explains, how short you go with a fade depends on how often you plan to maintain it. "Suitability is always the word," he says. "The best way to maintain a fade (or any look) is to find one conducive to your lifestyle. If you go in for a skin fade, it will show signs of growing out within a week. If you are trying to maintain that look, you will need to be back in the shop every one to two weeks."
Actor Henry Golding's thick hair is cut in long layers, which just touch the top of his ears. The style can be worn loose or styled neatly with products for a more formal look. For volume—without stiff hold—use a product like R+Co. Balloon Dry Volume Spray ($32).