If long, shaggy hairstyles aren’t your thing and close shorn buzz cuts seem a bit too extreme, then a crew cut is the great middle point on the hair spectrum.
These slick and practical crops have been around for decades and continue to be a feature in breakdowns of the best haircuts for men year after year. Plus, they’re generally pretty easy to style for guys who are short on time or love savoring the extra ten minutes in bed.
With that in mind, you really can’t go wrong with a crew cut haircut. Not sure which one is best for you? Read on as we explore 25 of the most popular crew cut hairstyles for men to help you pick a favorite.
What Is A Crew Cut?
The terms “crew cut” and “buzz cut” are often used interchangeably, but anyone asking for the latter from their barber and expecting the former is in for a shock. “Unlike the buzz cut, the crew cut is tapered in the back and sides (sometimes with a fade) and there’s more length left on top.” says Callum McDonald, a barber at Ruffians.
Whereas the buzz cut most often requires clipping the hair to its shortest all over the head, crew cuts retain visible length on the top of the head and vary in length on the sides of the head.
To spell it out, the buzz cut is basically bald, whereas a crew cut is cropped but not so closely shorn.
Best Crew Cut Hairstyles
1. Classic Crew Cut
Dating back to the 1920s, classic crew cuts are neat, low-maintenance haircuts that suit various face shapes. They can be identified by their tapered back and sides, which graduate into a cropped top around 1 inch in length, typically slightly longer at the front. Get this look with a tapered scissor cut or grade 3 trim on the sides that neatly blends into the top.
2. Crew Cut Fade
The crew cut fade is a more contemporary take on the classic crew cut. While retaining the signature longer length on top, crew cut fades feature a shorter cut on the sides for a bolder contrast. Choose between low, mid, high and skin fades depending on the look you’re going for, and take advantage of the slimming effect that comes with shorter sides.
The crew cut fade has a cohort of celebrity fans with impeccable follicular credentials: Ryan Reynolds, Zac Efron, Tom Hardy, Brad Pitt and even David Beckham himself have adopted the cut in recent years. So, not only is this take on the crew cut utilitarian, it’s cool AF too.
3. Crew Cut Low Fade
The most subtle of all the fade options, crew cut low fades start to fade into a shorter cut roughly 1 inch above your ears. This can be a soft, low taper fade or a closely shorn low skin fade for a crisper effect. If you choose the latter, the last inch of hair closest to the hairline will be barely visible.
4. High Fade Crew Cut
On the other hand, high fade crew cuts start to taper much higher up around the corners of the forehead. This eye-catching look focuses the attention on the cropped top and helps to accentuate strong facial features.
However, this men’s crew cut isn’t for the faint-hearted. So, if you’ve never had a fade before, start with a low or mid-fade and work up to it.
5. Mid Fade Crew Cut
Looking for something in the middle? Mid fade crew cuts offer the perfect balance of length and fade. They start to taper between your temple and ears, removing bulk from the sides and creating a smoother transition to the longer top section. This sharp, modern crew cut haircut is suitable for a range of hair types and adds a modern edge to the classic style.
6. Skin Fade Crew Cut
For a fresh and youthful look, why not try a skin fade crew cut? This fade goes right down to the skin and works best with a high or mid starting point. The barely-there sides contrast with the longer, textured top for a sharp and slightly rebellious finish. Just make sure the top isn’t too long or it may look unbalanced.
7. Drop Fade Crew Cut
Unlike the other fades we’ve covered, drop fade crew cuts don’t follow a straight line around your head. Instead, they drop down behind your ears toward the nape of your neck, creating an arc effect. This allows for more depth and texture at the crown while maintaining a sharp outline around your face. Drop fade crew cuts can also help to elongate rounder faces.
8. Short Crew Cut
Crew cuts don’t necessarily have to go down the conservative route – in fact, they can skate perilously close to the buzz cut by going super short on the sides and (almost) obliterating that length on top. The result is a hairstyle which sits comfortably between the severity of a buzz cut and the smartness of a crew cut: pretty short, but it’s not going to kill your chances of getting a ‘proper’ job.
If you’re on the hunt for a men’s crew cut that requires very little styling, a short crew cut is a great option. Typically around ¼ – ½ inch in length, short crew cuts pair the flattering nature of a crew cut haircut with the easy upkeep of a buzz cut. The longest section of hair at the front can be spiked up for fun or kept flat to give the illusion of a smaller forehead.
9. Medium Crew Cut
At roughly 1 inch in length, medium crew cuts stay true to the traditional crew cut. Opt for subtly tapered sides for a timeless finish, or go for a more modern approach with a fade. At this length, the top can be styled in a variety of different ways, from fluffy spikes to textured strands, so you can easily change up your look for different scenarios.
10. Long Crew Cut
Long crew cuts are another versatile style for men who want options with their haircut. Measuring up to 2 inches on top, a long crew cut can be brushed up into a pomp shape, parted to the side or even crafted into a faux-hawk. All you’ll need is a stiff brush or comb and some strong hold wax or pomade to help you achieve your chosen look.
11. Messy Crew Cut
If you’d rather save time on styling, how about a messy crew cut? This casual men’s crew cut offers a relaxed, natural finish for everyday wear. It can also help to add volume to thin hair. Keep the sides tapered and let your hair grow out a little on top. Then simply use your fingers to rough it up with some styling wax or hair mousse for a laid-back effect.
12. Textured Crew Cut
Whereas the OG crew cut was all about keeping it neat (no doubt with the aid of a truck load of pomade), it’s the 21st century now and you’re (probably) not on an Ivy League sports team, so you can afford to muss the style up a bit. This is where the textured crew cut comes in: it’s essentially the classic crew cut but undone.
Similar to messy styles but more intentional, textured crew cuts are less formal than classic styles. Point cutting creates choppy layers of varying lengths in the longer top section. These can then be spiked up with gel or tousled with a texturizing sea salt spray to calm any natural fluffiness. Blend the sides into the cut or keep them short for a quirky, disjointed look.
13. Military Crew Cut
If you’re after a traditional short back and sides with a hint of wartime charm, this is the cut for you. Military cuts gained popularity during World War II as they were short enough to meet armed forces regulations. With a short crop on top and a high fade on the back and sides, military crew cuts are crisp, clean, and tidy and suit angular faces best.
14. Side Swept Crew Cut
Whether you have a medium or longer length crop, you can still achieve a face-slimming side swept crew cut. Ask your stylist for a square cut haircut with scissors vs. clippers. You can then either incorporate your natural parting for a sleek side-parted style or choose to have no defined parting at all. This way, you can brush it to the side or forward as you wish.
15. Taper Fade Crew Cut
Compared to the original crew cut, taper fade crew cuts graduate more quickly and start to reveal skin around the ears. Though not as extreme as a skin fade, the sides get shorter and shorter towards the base of your head with the use of clippers set at different grades. Ask your stylist to tailor the fade’s starting point based on the best haircut for your face shape and facial hair.
16. Ivy League Crew Cut
Having originated at top-ranking universities like Harvard and Princeton in the 1930s, ivy league crew cuts remain popular to this day. They are slightly longer than regular crew cuts and incorporate a side part. The hair is then combed over for a stylish, professional look. With neatly scissor-tapered sides, this style is ideal for men with thick, straight hair.
17. Crew Cut And Beard
By pairing a crew cut and beard, you can instantly create a rugged, masculine look. Longer, tousled crops can be balanced out with full beard styles. Alternatively, more angular crew cuts go well with shorter beards or neatly sculpted chin straps. Just remember to get your sideburns blended into the sides – whether you have a fade or a neatly tapered cut.
18. Crew Cut Mohawk
If you like a longer cut and an ultra-short, high fade, how about trying a crew cut mohawk? This non-conformist style is technically a faux-hawk as it doesn’t feature spikes down the back, but you can still channel your inner rocker regardless. Brush up the strands to create a semi-triangular ridge along the top and secure it with strong-hold spray. This style also works with curly hair.
19. Crew Cut Blonde
While edgy blonde buzz cuts have been all the rage for a while, blonde crew cuts offer a slightly softer look with more hair on top. Platinum blonde shades are the most modern and look particularly sleek when styled into short, feathery spikes for added texture. Alternatively, add some caramel highlights to messy brown crops for a sun-kissed surfer look.
20. Crew Cut For Receding Hairline
When it comes to crew cuts for receding hairlines, you have two main options. A mid-length, textured crew cut is ideal for disguising thin spots around your forehead as there’s no harsh endpoint, and the strands can be brushed forward as needed. Meanwhile, short crew cuts with faded sides minimize the contrast between the temples and the sides of your head, so the receding section is less obvious.
21. Crew Cut For Curly Hair
Struggle to keep your wayward locks in check? Then a crew cut for curly hair could be perfect for you. While the top part is kept about 1-2 inches long to show off your natural curls, the sides are tapered down to reduce some of the volume for a neat finish. A beard can also look great with this men’s crew cut to help balance out the textured top.
22. Flat Top Crew Cut
The classic crew cut features a front section that is slightly longer than the crown. This is also true of flat top crew cuts, but a flat line is maintained across the top with this style. You’ll need to have it cut to precision and then comb up the top to create a boxy shape to achieve the look. Set it in place with a strong hold hair clay and pair it with short, faded sides for a sharp finish.
23. Widows Peak Crew Cut
If you have a V-shaped hairline at the front, a medium-length widows peak crew cut is a great way to disguise it. Brush the strands up and toward the front into fluffy spikes that will cover the hairline’s start and end. Then opt for soft, scissor tapering on the sides that blend naturally into the longer top. Or, if you have light-colored hair, try a short widows peak crew cut haircut with a fade that discreetly blends down to the skin.
24. Crew Cut Comb Over
From retro Ivy League crops with a side part to shorter haircuts with a small quiff at the front, crew cut comb overs come in a range of styles to suit your personality. You can even slick it back rather than to the side and incorporate a high fade for a chic, contemporary look. Just be sure to avoid going too long on the top, otherwise it won’t resemble a crew cut anymore.
25. Crew Cut For Thin Hair
As with receding hairlines, a short crew cut is a great choice for thin hair as it will help to reduce the visible difference between thicker and thinner strands. However, with crew cuts for thin hair, the focus is typically on disguising a balding crown. A medium-length, tousled cut can also be effective in this case, as the crossing strands will help hide the thin patches.
Not what you were looking for? Discover more on-trend short haircuts for men here.
Crew Cut FAQs
How Did The Crew Cut Get Popular?
If you were in any doubt that the crew cut was one of the most convenient cuts for men, then consider this heroic hairstyle’s (figurative) roots. “It’s thought that the term crew cut was coined to describe the hairstyles worn by members of US Ivy League university rowing teams around the turn of the last century,” says McDonald.
It wasn’t just a frat boy whim that gave this hairstyle traction, but also its fuss-free finish. “The style was favored because it’s short and tidy: ideal for keeping hair from being blown into the face of the rower.”
Soon enough, army recruits enlisted too. “The style grew massively in popularity when the look was adopted by the US Army in the 1930s,” says McDonald. “Again it was prized for its ease of maintenance.”
The crew just isn’t just practical, it wins the popular vote too. Thanks to the style’s length all hair types can apply, in the process leveling the playing field between those with shiny lustrous locks, unmanageable curls, and fine thread-like strands.
What is a crew cut haircut?
The crew cut is a timeless, low-maintenance haircut featuring a tapered back and sides (sometimes with a fade) and longer length on top. Crew cuts are usually longer at the front than at the back, though the top is typically no more than 1-2 inches at its longest point.
Crew cut vs. buzz cut: What’s the difference?
The buzz cut involves trimming the hair short all over the head, while crew cuts retain visible length on the top of the head and vary in length on the sides. Buzz cuts are very closely shorn, whereas a crew cut is cropped and with shorter sides with some length on top.
How to ask for a crew cut
Depending on the style you’re going for, ask for a short trim on top between ½ an inch and 2 inches long, with tapered sides. Alternatively, you can ask for a low, mid or high fade to accompany the longer length on top.
How to style a crew cut
Crew cuts can be styled in a variety of different ways depending on the length you choose. Spike it up, comb it over, tousle it to add texture or even create a faux mohawk. You can also opt for classic scissor-trimmed sides or a contemporary fade. It’s entirely up to you.