The flat top haircut is one of the few haircuts that is instantly recognizable. It gained popularity in the fifties and sixties, especially among football players and the staple athletic boy.

Flat Top 2
@juliuscaesar / Instagram

Today, the flat top haircut often preferred by older men, and its shape complements a head of gray hair. It’s also a good choice for younger boys who are active or desire a more military style cut.

It’s a staple in many barbershops, especially in shops where older barbers work, so often it’s a simple matter of walking down to your local barbershop and asking for a flat top haircut. (We’ll give you all of the details just in case.)

Flat Top 3
@jarredsbarbers / Instagram

The flat top haircut lives up to its name, giving the wearer a head of hair that is flat across the top. As a result, this gives a square look to the head and face. If you have a square face shape, a flat top haircut will reinforce the square frame of your face. Because of this, the flat top works best with a square face shape. If you have a triangular/diamond or round face shape, consider getting another, similar style.

The flat top haircut is also best for straight hair. If your hair is naturally wavy or curly, you might have a difficult time with this style. However, with the right cut and use of products, it is possible to get a flat top with wavy or curly hair.

Flat Top
by @dannyandcobarbers / Instagram

How To Get The Flat Top Haircut

Due to the flat top’s immense popularity, many barbershops (and even salons) are familiar with it. Your local barbershop may even advertise flat tops as one of their standby hairstyles. However, if you encounter a barber or stylist who has no idea what a flat top is, here’s what to tell them.

The key to this haircut is (as you might guess) flatness. The hair should be clipped on the sides and back using a relatively short guard setting (from #2 to #4 or so). When clipping the hair, the barber should clip in a straight line all the way up the head to create the flatness necessary for this cut.

High top afro with fade
@z_ramsey / Instagram

Next, your stylist should stand all of your hair up (about 1-3 inches of hair is good for this cut). They should then use the clipper over comb technique to create a flat head of hair that’s even all over. Your hair should get shorter as it goes backward toward the crown.

Finally, your stylist should touch up any areas that need some final cuts. And as always, bringing in a picture is immensely helpful; it’s truly worth a thousand words, and to stylists, it’s worth even more.

Because the flat top haircut is so meticulously cut, you’ll want to visit your barber or stylist every 2 to 4 weeks to touch it up, depending on how fast your hair grows.

Flat Top
by @dannyandcobarbers / Instagram

How To Style The Flat Top Haircut

To maintain the flat top’s style, you’ll need some good quality hair wax or gel. Work the product into your damp hair. Then, comb or brush the hair upward and backward. If your hair is particularly stubborn, try blow drying it, using a higher hold wax or gel, or a combination of these two techniques.

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Shiny Flat Top with Sober Fade

Classic, simple, iconic. If you grew up in the early ’90s watching the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and are a fan of director Spike Lee’s early work, then you’ll be sure to recognize this hairstyle for what it truly is.

A look that shaped an era(and one of the greatest at that). The volume here is moderate, as the medium fade compliments the sportiness and versatility of this style nicely.

Faded Sides Brushed Up Blonde
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Faded Sides Brushed Up Blonde

The standard-issue military look. Smart, clean, precise just like your compartment mess tray or the MRE’s in your rucksack. Next to a shaved head, the crew cut with a flat top is the most widely recognized (and saluted) military hairstyle around.

Whether you’re an officer saluting a superior or a fresh GI cleaning out the latrine, you won’t look out of place with this look. We salute you for your service and sacrifice.

High Volume Flat Top
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High Volume Flat Top

Just like with music, if you want to make a statement and stand out more then the answer is simple; you need to raise the volume. Think actor Christopher Reid in the House Party series of films.

The high volume flat top is quintessential 90’s goodness. While notoriously difficult to maintain and cultivate, the payoff is a hairstyle that few other styles (if any) can best in terms of being more eye-catching or charismatic. Nothing but good vibes…

Designer Temple with Taper Fade
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Designer Temple with Taper Fade

Taking a page right out of Wesley Snipes’s book, here we see an example of bringing a classic look right into our current decade, a flat top with a designer fade.

Arguably one of the coolest things about a modern designer’s fade is it’s intrinsic ability to seamlessly bring together the facial and top hairstyles, making them feel greater than the sum of their parts. In this example, the transition is so seamless it’s as though it were sculpted from a block of Italian marble by Michelangelo himself.

Flat Top and High Fade
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Flat Top and High Fade

The high taper fade gives this look greater contrast which in most cases results in a cleaner albeit a more demanding look in terms of maintenance.

The juice, however, is well worth the squeeze as we can see how much sportier and crisper this look dramatically becomes just by fine-tuning the gradient between the top and the fade.

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Classic Taper Fade
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Classic Taper Fade

Taking the sporty flat top look even further; here we see the fade being taken to its lowest point; absolute zero.

Clean lines and crisp edges all around yet more civilian and less military than the crew cut flat top, this is the perfect style if you play sports regularly or frequent the gym more than a couple of times a week.

Tall Afro Hair Blob with High Fade
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Tall Afro Hair Blob with High Fade

We’ve seen a couple of sporty versions of the flat top, each progressively sportier than the last. There seems to be a very blatant unwritten truth regarding hairstyles, that is that on one end of the spectrum we have clean-cut/sporty, and on the other, we have disheveled/artistic.

On one end we have pure business and on the other pure pleasure. Both diametrically opposed serving two different masters yet never sacrificing good looks and style. This tall Afro blob with a high fade is stylishly more towards the sportier end of the spectrum.

Flat Top
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Wavy Top with Faded Sides

If your love of curls and flat tops have historically been in opposition then here’s a way you can pop the question and marry the two once and for all, the flattop with curls(queue dramatic music).

As its name implies, the flat top with curls is simply that, a flat top with curls. And much like my struggles to find an opportunity for cleverly placed semicolons, the chances of running into one of these in the wild are few and far between.

Medium Flat Top with Temple Fade
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Medium Flat Top with Temple Fade

This medium-length flat top has been christened with softer edges. Serves as a nice contrast when paired with the crisp, harder edges of the temple fade. Unlike some of the more outspoken, expressionistic flat tops we’ve seen before, this style concerns itself

Designer Neckline with Dense Top
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Designer Neckline with Dense Top

Designer necklines, shaving different designs into a fade, and artistically placed hard edges all serve to add character and uniqueness to your look.

They make you look more confident and approachable. If done correctly, these can also greatly enhance your hairstyle, adding artistic flair.

Soft Edges on a Flat Top
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Soft Edges on a Flat Top

Softer edges subconsciously convey more of a feeling of warmth and security. While hard edges instinctively give us a more elevated sense of alertness; they give us a greater feeling of danger. You can use these two traits to tailor your style to the kind of message you want to portray.

Do you want to look more approachable? Try incorporating softer lines into your hairstyle. Or do you prefer the stricter, no-nonsense look of a drill sergeant? Try using more hard-edge, sharp lines in your look.

Flat Top Temple Fade
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Flat Top Temple Fade

It is believed by historians that King Tutankhamen ruled ancient Egypt from 1334 – 1325 BC. If you’re a fan of the Pharos of Egypt, then this next flat-top temple fade style should be right up your alley.

The base gradually gets wider going up where it crescendoes at the top giving it a sort of inverted pyramid look. This pays homage to the pharaohs of yesteryear and is a great way to walk like an Egyptian.

High Volume Flat Top with Line Up
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High Volume Flat Top with Line Up

Similar to the style we saw before, this variation, however, incorporates a lineup. For those who don’t know, a line up is when your barber creates an artificial hairline with clippers instead of just keeping your hair’s natural hairline.

The results are a cleaner, edgier look that’s great for contrasting against the other softer edges of your hairdo, creating an interesting sort of look one can only get from this kind of juxtaposition.

Low Key Spiky Flat Top
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Low Key Spiky Flat Top

Incorporating spikes into a flat top design is nothing new. While a bit of a high maintenance look, when done right it’s well worth the effort. When paired with a temple fade, it creates a look of various contrasting extremes: Short to long, spiked to buzzed, dark to sun-bleached.

Flat Top and High Fade
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Flat Top and High Fade

An excellent way to compliment any hairstyle and give it that added touch of “summer is here” feel is by adding a high fade.

Taking what was once casual, sophisticated and making it sportier. The flat top is not a hairstyle known for its breathability; the high fade variation of this style will help cool you down during the more unforgiving days of summer.

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Tapered Sides with Afro Line Up
High Volume Flat Top and Fade
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Low Key Line Up with Mid Fade
Spiky Brush Up with Tapered Sides
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Spiky brush Up with Tapered Sides