Defending The Undercut: This Played-Out(?) Trend Has Its Perks

Despite coming across vehement internet criticism of the style, I recently found myself getting buzzed... while getting buzzed.
Publish date:
July 29, 2013
short hair, hairstyles, shaved heads, summer hairstyles, undercuts, buzz cuts

Recently, I’ve been super-busy graduating, moving house and being unemployed. Naturally then, as I have my priorities in order, I’ve spent enough time aimlessly trailing around the internet to stumble across an article about Rosario Dawson’s new haircut.

It was a rather extreme strain of undercut, with half of her head shaved; and people did not approve (at least, the kind of people that spend their time commenting on articles about celebrities’ hair). They thought she looked unfashionable, out of touch, or downright ridiculous, and that the little undercut resurgence that started a couple of years ago should get back in its past box where it belongs.

Apparently, none of the negative commentary made too much of an impression on me because I found myself, several days later, getting a 270 degree undercut while slightly drunk in my friend’s garden, cut by my slightly drunk friend. Luckily, she’s better at cutting hair than I am at making life decisions.

Anyway, I love it! I’m finding the version I have to be versatile, unconventionally feminine and cool, both literally and figuratively.

I’m out to evangelize the undercut to you beautiful people, so I’m going to show you my inspiration, how I’m wearing mine, and suggest a couple of tricks to cheat if you don’t want to commit to partially shaving your head.

So an undercut, if you haven’t encountered one before, is a haircut for either gender where you rescue the top section of your hair and shave the back and/or one or both sides. I first became hypnotized by an undercut at a festival a couple of years ago when a girl in front of me in the crowd tied up her shining blond to reveal that a good inch or so of the back of her neck was shaved bare. I loved how unexpected it was, and also how easy to hide if you weren’t in the mood.

This is the kind I’ve adopted. Since I’m a graduate now, I need to at least be able to appear professional, and after I covered my tattoo and tried to make my nose ring less noticeable (that makes me sound so much more hardcore than I actually am) I don’t have much energy for anything else.

It’s so convenient and practical, especially in the summer. I remember commiserating with another commenter before about having super-thick hair, and she described her undercut as being “the best goddamn thing that ever happened to me.” It is SO TRUE. It air-dries much faster, doesn’t explode as much if it’s humid out and the reduced thickness means it’s less overwhelming. No longer will real hairdressers torment me with “face framing layers” or painful thinning scissors, I’m just getting rid of the bottom layers!

Also: no more neck straggles. I like to wear my updos high, but my hair falls out of all hair clips like water, Now there’s so much less to desperately try and keep pinned up at the back throughout the day.

Last but not least, it is so fun to stroke. It is like having a pet on your head.

After years of living vicariously through shaving the back and sides of boyfriends’ heads (at their request--I’m not a freak) I finally got one of my own. It’s easy to maintain with just the assistance of a willing friend and a pair of clippers. I even got my dad to touch mine up before I photographed it, and it only took a few minutes, though the guard did keep falling off, so let me know if I have any huge new bald patches I can’t see.

Undercuts were originally popularized in the late '80s and early '90s, influenced by the punk and grunge scenes. David Bowie was one of the early famous adopters, and he epitomizes the androgynous vibe that attracts me to it as a style.

On one level, my undercut’s just acting as a kind of patch to keep me from cropping all my hair again after spending a couple of bad hair years growing it out. Shaved heads are amazing on either gender if you can pull them off, but I’m no Sinead O’Connor. The resurgence of the undercut started a few years ago, and these days it’s all about models like Alice Dellal and hyper-glamorous musicians like Cassie and Rihanna (girl is FINE).

These days undercuts seem to be mostly contrasted with very long, very feminine hair. The rest of my hair isn’t really long enough to pull this off yet, but I can still dress it up with a side parting when the situation calls.

If you don’t want to commit, you could take inspiration from the omnipresent Cara Delevigne’s faux-undercut at the Met Ball, in which her hair was tightly French plaited to her skull on one side, or the 2009 Issa show, in which models’ hair was pinned back on one side and full of bouncing curls on the other.

So what do you think? Have you ever had an undercut? Do you have one now? Do you want one? Are you going to fake one? So many questions!