24 Short Back And Sides Haircuts That Look Good On Every Man
These classic short back and sides haircuts will never go out of style and suit every man, no matter their face shape, age or race.
It’s the haircut that rolls off the tongue and that most guys have requested at some point in their life. The epicentre of men’s hair styling, the classic “short back and sides” suits everyone, regardless of hair type, age or race.
Add to that the fact it’s low maintenance and is a fasttrack way to look put together from the moment you wake up and it’s no wonder it remains a winner.
What is a short back and sides haircut?
Not surprisingly, this is a ‘does what it says on the tin’ sort of trim: the hair on the back and sides of the head is cut shorter than that on the top of the head.
That’s really the only rule there is. The rest is down to you – or your barber – on how you want to wear it. Smoothed back, spiked up, buzzed on top – they all fall under the same umbrella term.
Will a short back and sides suit you?
Because a short, back and sides is so flexible, it means there’s a style to suit everyone. So, whatever your face shape – oval, square, round or heart – you’ll be able to get a short back and sides cut that will flatter your features.
For example, if you have a round or heart-shaped face, keeping it short on the sides but with more length on top (think a pompadour or quiff) will add height, elongate your face and stop it looking so round.
At the opposite end of the scale, if you have a long face, you can keep it shorter on top with a little more weight at the sides to add width.
It’s also an ideal cut if you have a strong jawline you want to show off, especially if you opt for a classic crew cut or French Crop that will accentuate your bone structure and give you that definition you desire.
The best men’s short back and sides haircuts for 2023
These are six variations of this classic cut you should be considering in 2023, and how you can adjust each in a number of modern ways.
The French crop / Caesar cut
Keeping things prim and proper through the back and sides, the Caesar is ideal if you don’t want to go super short on top.
The hair is left longer and then pulled forward to create a blunt fringe that you can then leave smooth or roughed up. If you go for the latter, that’s when the style veers into a French crop. This modified version allows scope for the top section to be a touch messier with an added dose of texture and choppiness.
Classic French crop
This classic French crop has been cut to perfection, which means it needs very little product or styling to look its best.
The back and sides have been tapered to create a neat overall silhouette and provide contrast against the heavier top section, which is full of definition and texture.
Long French crop with skin fade
This contemporary take on the French crop sees the hair left longer through the front and cut with defined layers, which brings a sense of depth.
The back and sides meanwhile have been faded down to skin to create a dramatic, almost disconnected finish that brings this classic cut bang up to date.
Wavy Caesar cut
This short Caesar cut is as low maintenance as it gets when it comes to styling, with the clean line cut across the hairline and the tapered sides keeping the naturally wavy hair in check.
However, you’ll need to be prepared to visit your barber fortnightly for touch ups to keep the overall silhouette looking sharp.
The crew cut
Consider the crew cut your entry-level short back and sides. Office-appropriate, low-maintenance and minimalist, this crop is the haircut that everyone will approve of.
Not to be mistaken for a buzz cut (keep scrolling), a crew cut can feature tapered or faded sides, which gives the overall aesthetic a sharp and contemporary feel.
Classic crew cut
This is the epitome of a timeless crew cut. Neat, taper cut back and sides keep the overall shape smart and defined, while the hair on top has just enough length to wear forward in a short fringe or brushed over to the side in a quiff.
Use a medium-hold, matte clay or paste for a natural and effortless finish.
Crew cut with low taper fade
Leaving a little more length through the top gives you more styling options, as this modern crew cut proves.
The back section is cut slightly shorter, which allows you to introduce some volume at the front without it becoming too mushroom-like. This is ideal for rounder face shapes that need some height to lengthen their features.
Meanwhile the subtle low fade introduced at the sides sharpens up the overall silhouette and makes thick hair like this more manageable on a daily basis.
Crew cut with tapered sides
Thick, wavy hair is notoriously hard to style, but a short crew cut like this will soon whip it into shape.
There’s just enough length left on top to run a matte styling product through, creating separation and texture that gives this hairstyle an effortless feel that works for every occasion.
The high and tight
Another military-inspired haircut, the high and tight features faded or entirely shaved sides and back while the top is short, sharp and clean. It’s ideal if you like the thought of taking the sides ultra tight but don’t want a one grade all-over buzz cut.
Styling-wise it’s low maintenance, with just a small amount of product rubbed through the top, but to keep the cut looking its best you need to be prepared for regular trips to the barbers to maintain the crisp edging.
While it works for all hair types, it’s especially suited to straight hair. Those with long or angular facial features may also want to look for something that leaves a little more hair through the sides to soften their appearance.
Military high and tight
If you’re tired of dealing with unruly curls on a daily basis, a classic military high and tight offers relief, as shown on Justin Timberlake above. By taking the top short your natural hair texture shines through yet it requires absolutely no styling time each morning.
Meanwhile the high fade applied to the back and sides is taken down to skin, giving it an edgy, masculine finish.
It’s a far cry from his ramen noodle hair days.
Civilian high and tight
For everyday life on Civvy Street a military high and tight can appear a little brutal, so this cut shows how to take the edge off it slightly. By keeping just a little more length on top it allows you to work a product through with your fingers, creating a softer, ruffled effect.
The back and sides are then taken tight using a grade 1 or 2 instead of down to skin, so the contrast isn’t quite as jarring.
Longer length high and tight
This modified, longer length high and tight would get you court martialed but it proves how effective a high skin fade can be on an otherwise pedestrian hairstyle.
By wiping out the back and sides completely it keeps the focus on the lifted top section, which has a healthy dose of volume to emphasise the contrast even further.
The ivy league
An American collegiate style that was adopted by officers and high-ranking military during the second world war, this cut has a lot of similarities to the crew cut but it’s slightly longer length means it’s a touch preppier (hence the moniker).
The longer length on top also allows for the introduction of a bit of texture, some added volume or even a side parting. This makes it extremely adaptable – ideal if you like to mix things up or need something that works for a number of different occasions.
It’s up to you whether you opt for a smooth, gradual fade on the sides or go disconnected for a more modern feel.
Classic ivy league haircut
This is the archetypal ivy league hairstyle, and one that will always look timeless. The sides and back are slightly longer and scissor cut here, tapered down behind the ears to create a neat, sophisticated overall silhouette.
On top, a short quiff is easy to manage, with the length blending nicely into the sides to create a seamless transition.
It’s a smart, polished option that looks great on older men and those that work in professional environments.
Soft ivy league haircut
This photo of JFK proves just how timeless the ivy league hairstyle is. You could put this photo in any era and it would still look good.
Here, it’s all about the shaping and cutting, with little to no product needed to achieve this refined side sweep.
For hair of this length to require such little daily maintenance and styling is a credit to the barber.
Ivy league haircut with low taper fade
This is a prime example of how you can bring this mid-century cut bang up to date without sacrificing any of its preppy appeal.
The introduction of a low taper fade and clearly defined parting gives it a slightly more regimented, military feel, which is only enhanced by the sleek, manicured comb over.
The buzz cut
Also known as an induction cut as it was a requirement for new army recruits, the buzz cut can be worn the same length all over the head, or worn with a fade at the back and sides – which is why it falls into the ‘short, back and sides’ category.
A viable option for those who have a receding hairline or who are dealing with male pattern baldness, it eliminates any patchiness or the act of trying to hide bald spots with longer sections of hair.
With little or no styling needed and complementing most face shapes, the only people who should avoid this are those with a round face as it will simply enhance your spherical silhouette.
Buzz cut fade with waves
This is a great example of how a fade elevates what would otherwise be an ordinary buzz cut.
Smart and subtle, the low fade here has been worked in around the temple area but it makes all the difference to cleanly disconnect this section from the super-tight, even waves above.
Buzz cut with high skin fade
This take on the buzz cut almost veers into high and tight territory thanks to the high bald fade across the sides and back.
Exposing a clear strip of skin around the perimeter of the cut creates a clear break between the clippered top section and shaped facial hair, giving each a chance to shine.
Note how the fade graduates into the beard, creating a seamless transition from top to bottom.
Butch cut with high fade
Sitting in between a buzz cut and Caesar cut, when keeping more length on top like this the shaping can look a little spherical if the sides aren’t taken in tight.
At this length you can apply a matte product to bring more definition to the top. But ultimately it’s still the template set by the cut itself that’s going to dictate the direction of the style.
The short pompadour/quiff
If you like the idea of a short, back and sides but also don’t want to give up your length or like some volume through the top, a pompadour or quiff is the answer.
The key is to ask your barber to leave enough hair that you can style it up and away from your face, but not that it’s so heavy it will flop down and annoy you.
Then, rather than maintaining any weight through the back and sides, it’s about taking them super short, introducing a fade to add a more dramatic contrast.
As you’d expect, this cut does take more time to style and get right so stock up on texturizing pastes, volumising dusts and hairspray to create volume, airiness and hold.
Short slick quiff with high skin fade
Wiping out the sides with a high skin fade works particularly well on thick black hair such as this, creating a clear break between the short, slick quiff on top and the unruly beard below.
With the back cut slightly shorter and lengthening towards the front, it keeps the overall silhouette sharp while allowing for plenty of freedom to play with the fringe when styling.
Short quiff with high fade
Here we see the same template as above but this time the fade offers a subtler transition from the hair on top down into the beard, courtesy of a mid skin fade.
It’s less dramatic than the previous example, but much more versatile and appropriate for smarter occasions and work environments.
Hair with this amount of natural weight and thickness can sometimes restrict creativity, but here it offers enough freedom for a subtle amount of lift at the fringe, before sitting neater and flatter towards the back.
Short pompadour with drop fade
If your hair is quite static and straight, a short pompadour like this allows you to introduce some volume up above, which looks particularly good when styled with a texturising, matte product.
The bald fade here is cut in low with the skin-revealing section curving around the ears for a bit of dynamic shaping. The notable amount of weight left higher up the sides also stops the top from feeling like it is completely disconnected.