The Worst Men’s Hairstyles Of All Time (& What To Get Instead)

These men's hairstyles are ugly, there's no getting away from it. If you were thinking of getting one, don't.

Words by: James Uden

Over time we have seen men’s hairstyles that are so handsomely desirable, so boldly trendsetting and so culturally impactful that they can be considered nothing short of iconic.

A haircut doesn’t even have to be complicated in order to achieve such status. Think David Beckham ditching the curtains for a buzz cut, the signature Elvis pompadour, or Paul Newman cruising into Venice with the wind blowing through that elegantly tousled sweep.

Benchmark hairstyles like this – endorsed by the right celebrity at the right time – can cause hysteria with their straight-up coolness, but also stand the test of time by being so widely adored and recreated.

The same high regard unfortunately cannot be applied to the hairstyles we’re about to pick apart below. Whether over the top, poorly styled, badly cut or indeed a combination of all three, these haircuts just don’t hit the mark for the modern man.

At best, some have flirted with potential and earned short-lived phases of popularity, before becoming infamous for all the wrong reasons. As worst, we knew at the time that they were god-damn awful, and they remain so today.

Just maybe though, have we perhaps been too quick to dismiss some of them? Was there actually something right about the idea but it all went wrong in the execution? You never know, with a few constructive tweaks there might be hope for redemption. Could a potentially iconic men’s haircut actually be waiting to be teased out? Or should all of these shambolic styles just be left to sink in the deep ocean of regret? Let’s take a look and see.

The bowl cut

Men's bowl haircut

Why it doesn’t work

It doesn’t get much more DIY-looking than a bowl cut. With a lack of any layering and texture, this haircut creates an unflattering shape around the entire head and has been appropriately named for clear reasons.

Not only does a bowl cut look awful and uninspired, it also offers very little in terms of practicality, with irritating sections of hair left to just flop over the eyes and bulk out over the ears as it grows out.

The notion of a bowl cut that lacks any sense of definition and edge should only be seen in medieval history books by this point.

How to make it desirable

Modern men's messy bowl haircut

Having more varied lengths cut around the sides and fringe compared to the back can elevate a bowl cut into a contemporary mid-length hairstyle.

You can still maintain something of a bowl-shaped outline, but a bit of effort spent refining the shaping around the head will provide a more impactful overall haircut, and certainly improve comfort.

Consider working in a texturising product too, which can create even more depth and definition.

The mullet

Men's mullet hairstyle

Why it doesn’t work

Business at the front, party at the back. Whether you lived through the 80s or not, most people can conjure a vivid image of the textbook mullet – often paired with a handlebar moustache for good measure.

This haircut was all the rage but in hindsight looked really quite awful thanks to the rigid, square shaping. The lack of quality styling products also made the finish on most guys look painfully dry and wig-like, instead of natural and textured.

How to make it desirable

Modern men's mullet hairstyle

Prompted by rebellion against the short skin fade boom, the mullet has enjoyed a steady resurgence in recent years. As a haircut it is well on its way to being considered cool again, thanks to a new generation of men adjusting the regretfully static template to create a more natural flowing shape.

Instead of the stereotypical harsh, choppy cut on the fringe and back, creating a square and boxy outline, we are seeing texturised flicks and curls bringing the business and the party to both ends.

To complete the mullet’s redemption, shaved sides following a clean arch above the ear (similar to a burst fade) can also further enhance the shape of the weightier top and back.

Top knot and man bun

Men's top knot shaved sides haircut

Why it doesn’t work

Top knots and man buns were doomed as soon as they became associated with such meme-able personality and lifestyle traits. The climate warrior, the angry vegan, the shallow hipster… while these stereotypes themselves can be harshly overboard, the associated character attached to them 9 times out of 10 will inevitably be a bearded guy wearing a top knot with shaved sides.

Yet ask most guys with long hair and they’ll tell you that despite its flawed reputation, the top knot does have its practical uses – particularly for people who are quite active or need to keep annoying strands of hair away from their face when working.

Where this haircut really falls flat though is when it is pulled back aggressively tight and shaved too high up the sides, leaving just an island of hair exposed on the top. Or when there’s only just enough hair in the first place to pull back and you end up with an awkward little tip that sticks out.

Modern men's long hair tied back into pony tail

How to make it desirable

There’s not a lot that can save you from the stereotypical associations, but if you do happen to have longer hair and a need or desire to tie it back, you could try a contemporary ponytail look. This provides all the genuine benefits of a man bun but doesn’t create a harsh disconnect between the top of the hair and the back and sides.

To get it for yourself, either maintain a healthy amount of weight on the sides that pulls cleanly back, or – if you want the top to be more defined – look to gradually work a subtle taper fade up the back and sides. This is a neat solution for guys with longer hair that’s quick to style and easy on the upkeep.

Frosted tips

Men's frosted tips hair dyed

Why it doesn’t work

Why oh why did we ever think this was a good idea? Frosted tips were such a summer holiday staple for many of us growing up, exuding teen rebellion and ‘edginess’.

Looking back, it did absolutely nothing to make our hair actually look good; particularly for those who fully committed to a wet look that weighed the hair down and made it look like we were going bald in our teens.

It was a literal mess of a haircut that our parents were quite right to try and put us off getting (or outright disallow).

Men's modern blonde highlights hairstyle

How to make it desirable

If you’re ready to commit to colouring your hair to any degree, whether it’s subtle highlights or full-on dyeing, spare the DIY approach and see a specialist who will be able to recommend and use the highest quality products.

Using the right gear will not only bring out the best possible colour, it will also keep your hair clean and healthy in texture – allowing you to create a style you actually want and not leave you with hair that’s overwhelmingly wet, thin and lifeless.

The scene/emo fringe

Men's 2000s emo hairstyle

Why it doesn’t work

The long, angled fringe either cemented by hairspray or left hanging loose to be forcibly swept away from the eyes. The messy top pulling the other way and often styled dramatically high. The pointed ends down the sides and even beyond the back neckline adding further dramatic definition.

Edgy and daring? This signature look that carried the Myspace generation through teenhood is now more commonly associated with ‘Karens’ caught on camera kicking off in supermarket car parks.

Men's modern emo haircut

How to make it desirable

Styling your hair with messy texture is always going to have the potential to draw attention. If you’re adamant on pursuing a less clean-cut style, then you can still loosely use the ‘emo’ template. However, it should be a shorter cut with less extreme volume that’s more fitting to a high-fashion runway than a grotty teenage house party.

It’s a fine line, but with a cleaner-cut shape you can successfully refine a messy hairstyle into something really quite modern and cool.

The spiky fringe

Men's we look spiky hair fringe

Why it doesn’t work

The vertical spiked, wet-look fringe dominated the 90s. This haircut was seemingly everywhere, with barbers having to recreate it for clients who wanted to get the look of their favourite manufactured boyband member.

In hindsight, the fringe was just so aggressive, particularly with it contrasting a flat top and straightforward back and sides. Not only that, once this haircut reached a certain length you also ended up with an awkward claw-shaped overhang on the fringe which required a liberal dousing of hairspray in an attempt to keep it upright.

They say less is more when it comes to applying hair styling products and for such a simple look, this demanded the complete opposite.

Men's modern swept back haircut

How to make it desirable

Instead of sticking that fringe up as straight and vertical as possible, the simplest way to turn this dated look into something desirable is to have the fringe grown out slightly longer and swept right back using a traditional pomade or lighter, matte styling product.

This will create a cleaner, more natural and sophisticated look that works in and out of the office. While also stopping the Backstreet Boy jibes. Win win.

The thinning combover

Men's bad thinning/balding combover hairstyle

Why it doesn’t work

There is a sense of inevitability that comes with thinning hair. While some men are able to work theirs into a style that’s passable for some time, others aren’t able to let things go when the time really comes to embrace Mother Nature.

Instead of accepting their fate, the combover screams desperation; clinging on to those wispy strands that, if anything, expose the scalp in such an unattractive way that you would be better off just being bald anyway.

We all like to be in control, but some things in life you just can’t escape and attempting to do so only makes matters worse.

Stanley Tucci clean shaven bald head

How to make it desirable

For most guys the solution here is simple: shave it off. It’s not necessarily what you wanted for your hair, but it’s the card you’ve been dealt. Better to embrace baldness and adapt a new stylish look for yourself than desperately clinging on and looking worse for it.

If your hair is on the finer side but not yet at the point of thinning enough to expose your scalp, you can look to use texture and volume-boosting products to style your hair. If you’re lucky, it will make it appear slightly thicker.

However, the majority of guys should just run with the change and buzz it off. You’ll likely find it liberating and as though a weight has been lifted off your shoulders. Then focus on the positives – like finally suiting hats, not having to spend a fortune on styling products, an extra five minutes to yourself each morning, or being able to still grow a really strong beard.

Shaved symbols and patterns

Shaved Nike tick in back of man's hair

Why it doesn’t work

Whether you’re a world-class sports star or not, deciding to get any level of enhanced artwork embedded into your hair is a bold call. Racing stripes are quite playful and innocent and kind of make sense within the world of professional sport. But brand logos, pop-culture characters and symbols make for way more impressive tattoos than they do haircut features – and the former can even be a slippery slope.

Black man buzz cut fade haircut

How to make it desirable

As mentioned, elite athletes get a pass on shaved-in artwork through sheer talent and celebrity status alone. As for the rest of us looking for a standout buzz cut, our barbers are much better off using their clipper skills to craft a more mature hairstyle with clean fading that’s intricate, attractive and turns heads for all the right reasons – leaving any desperate cries for attention at the door.

There’s a lot more scope with a buzz cut than you might first realise.

Detached/disconnected undercuts

Detached undercut fade men's hair

Why it doesn’t work

Fades and tapers can really put the skills of your barber to the test. But when either rushed and unconsidered, or worse, daringly attempted by yourself or an untrained friend, you can quickly lose any sense of clean shaping and end up with a mushroom-esque block on the top of your head.

Without any graduation, an undercut worked in too harshly can essentially eliminate the back and sides from your hairstyle profile – leaving you with a heavy square or oval at the top that’s completely disconnected.

This looks anything but natural and, particularly with thicker hair, can appear awkward and goofy.

Subtle disconnected hairstyle for men

How to make it desirable

Cutting a clean graduation in length instead of leaving such a harsh one-grade gap between the sides and the top of your hair can make such a difference.

If you’re keen to wear a disconnected style, a la Peaky Blinders, an experienced barber can still ensure that the top – while still very much separated from the back and sides – doesn’t appear overly bulky and complements your natural head shape.

The short perm (AKA ramen noodle hair)

Justin Timberlake 90s noodle hairstyle

Why it doesn’t work

Infamously labelled ‘ramen/noodle hair’, this boyish-looking haircut showcases curlier texture to the point of it looking fake. When chemically permed, short, tight curls can appear plastic and greasy while longer, looser curls can look uncontrollably stringy.

It’s as if the hair has a life of its own and refuses to be refined.

How to make it desirable

Neat curly hairstyle with clean taper fade

Curly hair doesn’t have to look or feel so overwhelming, restrictive and one dimensional. Ask your barber to work in a clean fade on the back and sides, or even a side parting, for a more distinct and stylish cut that works for both short or long curly hair.

When it comes to styling, try using flexible, texturising products that will help introduce plenty of volume and lift to the top, or boost a bulkier fringe over the forehead.