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What Is a Flattop Haircut?

By Jacob Queen
Updated May 21, 2024
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A flattop haircut is a style that's particularly associated with men in the United states, although it is worn in many other places as well, and some women have also sported the flattop look over the years. The style involves trimming the hair extremely short on the sides and sculpting the top so that it makes the person's head look flat. This hairstyle reached the height of popularity in the 1950s, and it has continued to be a fairly common style ever since, especially in certain social groups. Many people associate the flattop with conservative ideology, along with physically-dangerous professions, such as playing football, being a policeman, or being a soldier.

In order to cut a flattop, the barber first cuts the hair all over the head to make it fairly short, usually using an electric trimmer to shave the sides down close to the skin. Once that's done, he will often use the comb as a guide to make a flat surface in order to sculpt the top with electric trimmers. This is sometimes done by allowing hair to come up through the top of the comb at a uniform length and running the trimmers across the comb's surface.

The flattop haircut is often thought of as a style that embraces the ideas of uniformity and symmetry. For this reason, many people associate the style with conformity and old-fashioned values. Some people see it as a symbol of the 1950s and the culture that pervaded in that era. There was a certain kind of masculinity that many people embraced between 1950 and the late 1960s, and many popular heroic figures, such as sports stars and other icons, wore flattop haircuts during that time.

The associations between the flattop haircut and 1950s masculinity have been a key factor in the style's continued popularity. Groups of men in certain dangerous professions often wear flattop haircuts almost as a way of separating themselves from others as a cultural statement. For example, this is often seen among certain military people, along with astronauts, athletes, and policemen. Women also wear the flattop occasionally, and some of them do this as a political statement as well. For example, some women may wear a flattop haircut to show that they don't necessarily buy into the traditional cultural gender-based barriers.

Sometimes, when men wore their hair long and unruly, they did so as a direct statement of opposition to the straight lines and uniformity of the flattop. During the late 1960s and 1970s, many men started wearing longer hair as a way to show an association with the counterculture. During that time, the flattop continued to be popular, mostly among more conservative individuals.

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Discussion Comments

By stoneMason — On May 20, 2014

@bear78-- I have a flattop haircut. I go in and have it trimmed every few weeks otherwise it starts to lose its shape. I don't use a lot of hair product because my hair is suited for this type of cut. But a little bit of hair wax can be used to keep hairs in place. Overall, it's not a very high maintenance haircut, although it looks better on people with thick, full hair.

By bear78 — On May 19, 2014

@serenesurface-- Actually, people of many different professions have a flattop haircut. So it's definitely not something associated with only certain professions. Military personnel may prefer the haircut because of its neat look. When I was in high school, flattop haircuts were very popular. Most of the boys in my school had this hair style. It has never really fallen out of favor. It's still very popular and preferred.

What I'm actually wondering is how this haircut is maintained. How does the hair stick up like that? Are hair products required? Does it need to be trimmed often?

By serenesurface — On May 19, 2014

I associate short, flattop haircuts with the military and especially the marines. I haven't seen many civilians sport the hair style but maybe I just didn't run into them.

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