French Crop Haircut: What It Is And The Best Styles For 2023
Neat, timeless, sharp and easy to maintain, the French crop is a classic hairstyle that has proven itself over decades.
Arguably no subculture in history has taken its fashion more seriously than the Mods. While most youth tribes of the time revolved around music as the central theme, the Mods placed equal, if not greater importance on sartorial precision and style. The suits, the outerwear, the shoes, the scooters and, of course, the hairstyles were all integral to the look, and one of the most popular of them all was the humble French crop.
Neat, timeless, sharp and easy to maintain, the French crop is a classic hairstyle that has proven itself over decades. It’s a contemporary twist on a short back and sides, requiring minimal styling and leaving a good amount of room for interpretation and experimentation. It’s a simple cut that can be worn in many different ways, making it a good option for almost anyone.
Thinking of getting one for yourself? Before you head to the barber, here’s everything you need to know about the style, including what it is, who it’s for and the best French crop variations to consider in 2023.
What is a French crop?
The terms ‘French crop’ and ‘Caesar cut’ tend to be used interchangeably when talking about this type of hairstyle, but they are fundamentally different. And the difference all comes down to the fringe. A Caesar cut features a shorter, blunter fringe, while a French crop is slightly longer in length and often subtly feathered to create texture and a more jagged appearance.
The French crop was first popularised by the first wave of Mods, who wanted a low maintenance, ‘no-product’ hairstyle. What they meant by this was a style that could be worn without the need to apply waxes or pomades. It had to look sharp and polished at all times, and this was achieved by creating a defined shape and profile through the use of clever clipper and scissor work, rather than resorting to heavy styling products.
The cut itself is short at the back and sides, then slightly longer on top. The hair on top is combed forwards and the sides are tapered, either with clippers or scissors, depending on the desired overall length. Modern versions will often introduce some sort of fade, to sharpen things up even further.
Who does a French crop suit?
The French crop is an extremely versatile style, meaning it can work for most men if it’s adapted correctly. That said, as it’s designed to be styled with minimal product, the French crop does tend to looks its best on men with strong hairlines and thick hair – whether it’s straight, wavy or curly. This thickness gives the top of the cut a sense of weight and creates a more solid profile (particularly when combined with a nice full hairline), while any kind of kink or curl brings additional texture and character.
Conversely, men with thin and/or receding hair would do well to choose another short style, because sparse, flat or lifeless hair is only emphasised in a cut like this which relies heavily on shaping.
Another thing to consider when deciding if this trim is right for you is face shape. The general rule is that your haircut should contrast and balance your facial features, so those with longer or rectangular faces are going to want to keep the volume on top to a minimum to ensure they don’t appear any longer. Similarly, these same face shapes would want to leave a little more length and weight on the sides, through a low taper fade or similar, to give the appearance of width.
If you have a rounder or shorter face, the opposite applies. More volume and length left through the top offers a lengthening effect, while taking the sides tight with a skin fade would provide the structure and angles your facial features tend to lack.
In terms of lifestyle, the French crop is an excellent option for those who are always on the go and don’t seem to have enough hours in the day. If your barber does a good job you should require little daily maintenance and styling, other than running a small amount of matte clay or paste through it each morning with your fingers. That said, remember if you opt for a tight fade on the sides it can quickly look messy as it grows out so you will need to book regular visits to your barber to keep it clean and sharp.
The best French crop hairstyles for 2023
There’s so much that can be done with a simple French crop. Here are a few of our favourite twists on the classic trim, ranging from contemporary faded styles to the disconnected version popularised by Peaky Blinders.
Classic French crop
This is the French crop in its purest, unaltered form. It features tapered hair at the back and sides (not faded), slightly longer blunt-cut hair on top, and a fringe that is either cut straight or styled up and slightly to the side in a short quiff.
Getting this style is very easy. Simply ask your barber for a classic French crop. If they don’t know what that is then it’s probably time to find a new one. If it’s executed correctly, you shouldn’t have to do much in the way of styling, but adding a bit of texturising product never hurt anyone.
Short French crop
The short French crop is much the same as a classic French crop, only (you guessed it) a bit shorter. Your barber is likely to cut it largely with clippers as opposed to scissors, and may even use a subtle fade at the back and sides instead of a taper.
Again, any barber worth their sea-salt spray will know exactly what you mean when you ask for a short French crop, but if you have any preference about how short the fade is or whether it starts low or high on the head, it’d be a good idea to mention it.
Textured French crop
French crops are usually cut blunt, which means the hair is cut the same length all around, allowing it to lie flat. In a textured crop, the hair is cut in choppy layers and then styled with product for a tousled, textured look.
Ask your barber for a classic French crop with some choppy layers on top and feathering at the fringe. This will make the cut more lively and give it definition. It works particularly well on men with a slight wave to their hair.
Although the Mods wanted to avoid pomades and waxes, to reproduce this look at home you’re going to need to use some styling product. Try applying a sea-salt spray to damp hair and give it a quick blast with the hairdryer to introduce a bit of volume. Then, create the desired separation and texture by working a little matte paste or clay through the top with your fingers.
Messy French crop
One step on from a textured French crop, this variation is all about playful styling and not being too precise with the shaping. Again, you want to ask your barber to add some choppy layers through the top, and leave a little more length to work with.
When it comes to styling, rub a small amount of styling product through your palms then apply it all over from root to tip using your fingers, messily working the hair into shape. Leave it as it falls for that effortless, just-got-out-of-bed look.
Curly hair French crop
Curly hair can be difficult to control, but a French crop will help tame it. Taking the sides short not only keeps your hair more manageable, but also creates an excellent contrast with the natural texture on top.
Speaking of the top, we would encourage you to fully embrace your curls. Allow them to fall naturally and use a curl enhancer or texturising product to really ramp up the texture and definition. The juxtaposition between the shaved back and sides will be incredible, as proven above, plus they bring a sense of character and personality that straight hair often lacks.
Long length French crop
We’re straying from tradition here, but this twist on a ‘French crop’ allows you to grow your hair out without it becoming unruly or getting in the way.
The extra length through the top is contained by the closely cropped sides, which shouldn’t be taken too tight (avoid high fades and skin fades) unless you want to purposely create a disconnected feel (see below).
Your barber should cut the hair slightly shorter towards the back to ensure the overall shape doesn’t become too rounded and mushroom-like. They may also look to remove some of the weight through the top to give the hair more movement and make styling easier.
French crop with skin fade
We’re starting to move into more contemporary territory now. As we know, a French crop traditionally features tapered sides, with a subtle low fade or taper fade often introduced on modern versions. However, if you really want to bring this classic cut bang up to date, why not try a skin fade?
Also known as a bald fade, this type of fade sees the hair on the back and sides taken so close that it exposes the skin. Combined with a French crop, the juxtaposition in length looks striking but isn’t jarring or disconnected – particularly when a skilled barber creates a seamless transition from the top to the sides.
By almost wiping the sides out entirely, the full focus will on the top here, so if you don’t have the hairline for it or are thinning it’s a look that’s best avoided.
Disconnected French crop
This aggressive take on the French crop was first popularised by Tommy Shelby in Peaky blinders. It does away with the traditional softly tapered sides and instead features a clear jump from shaved hair at the back and sides into longer hair on the top of the head.
To get the look, tell your barber you want a disconnected French crop and let him guide you on the best way to achieve it. They can do this in a number of ways, including leaving the hair a lot longer on top and introducing an undercut, or by leaving a more weight at the top of the sides and shaving a clean strip of hair away underneath (creating a ). Whichever way you’d prefer, just be certain you know what you’re getting before your barber fires up the clippers.
French crop with hard part
For the brave and the fashion forward, this version of the French crop takes the traditional hallmarks – short length all over, textured fringe and tight back and sides – and applies some contemporary detailing around the perimeter through sharp clipper work.
Shaving in a hard parting or line creates a clear disconnect without resorting to an undercut or having to leave additional length through the top to create the contrast.
It’s a statement, so this look needs to be worn with confidence. It suits younger men best, particularly those that don’t work in stuffy business environments. You’ll also need to be willing to visit your barber regularly to keep that line looking crisp.
No, it’s not technically a French crop, but the Caesar cut offers another variation on the template. This time, the fringe should be short and blunt – a statement you need to fully embrace. The upshot is that such a short fringe stops the hair from falling onto the forehead, which can feel irritating for many and even cause spots.
When going for this cut, make sure you and your barber are on the same page – you want a cleanly defined line across the fringe, and potentially even some shaping up around the hairline in order to get that crisp definition at the corners.
Combined with a sharp fade on the sides and back, you’ve got a neat, easy to maintain cut that looks contemporary but is suitable for all occasions.