Your style blueprint to rocking an epic slick back undercut
The slicked back undercut is one of the most popular men’s hairstyles, so I’ve decided to publish the following guide to help you get the best possible slicked back undercut hairstyle. While you will find in this guide all the details and advice needed to sport an epic slicked back undercut, here’s a picture of what a typical slicked back undercut looks like:
Since this guide is very detailed, I’d like to first provide below the table of contents of this guide so that you’re aware of what we will be covering in this guide.
Table of contents
- What is a slicked back undercut hairstyle?
- The haircut for the slicked back undercut
- The haircut for the hair on the sides and back of the head
- The haircut for the hair on the top of the head
- Styling the slicked back undercut
- Classic slicked back hair vs. modern slicked back hair
- Classic slicked back undercut
- Modern slicked back undercut
- What not to do with a slicked back undercut
- Conclusion to our slicked back undercut guide
Without further ado, here’s now our slicked back undercut guide!
What is a slicked back undercut hairstyle?
The slicked back undercut is a hairstyle that involves keeping the sides and back of your head in an undercut haircut while the hair on the top is kept long enough to be able to slick it back. Such a hairstyle setup keeps the hair polished and sharp as the hair on the top is slicked flat so that it blends into the undercut on the sides and back of the head.
The slick back undercut isn’t a new hairstyle as most people think. Instead, the slicked back undercut became popular in the 1930s together with the side swept hairstyle as the go-to hairstyles for men.
Back in those days (and unlike today), men were careful to keep their looks very heterogeneous and formal. As such, the slicked back undercut offered a way to keep the hair flattened so as to not pose any visual distraction in the communication process of a conversation. The same principle applies to the side swept hairstyle and it’s why the art of slicking one’s hair is so popular among businessmen and politicians since both types of professions require polished and sharp communication skills.
The haircut for the slicked back undercut hairstyle
As with all classic hairstyles for men, you should always approach your hairstyle with the haircut in mind first. A haircut serves as the foundation to your hairstyle, whichever it may be. You will probably be aware of this if you’ve ever gotten a bad haircut; no matter how you may try to style your hair, it will just look bad because the hair was cut badly. With the slicked back undercut, a good haircut is a priority.
The haircut for the hair on the sides and back of the head
The haircut of the slick back undercut is a buzz cut on the sides and back of the length. As the name suggests, the haircut is an undercut, meaning that the hair on the sides and back of the head is clipped with a single hair clipper length. This is where many people go wrong, including barbers, as many people tend to think of the undercut as being a tapered haircut, when an undercut is not a taper haircut!
The limiting line of the undercut is to be drawn at the temples; thus, all the hair on the sides and back of the head that is below the line at the temples is to be buzzed with the same hair clipper length. This line at the temples is what we call the disconnected haircut line and a good visual cue for it is to imagine a horizontal line that starts at your left temple, goes around the sides and back of your head and then meets the right temple. That particular line is where the disconnection occurs between the hair on the sides and back of the head and the hair on the top of the head.
In the barbershop picture below, you can clearly see how the undercut haircut has taken over the sides and back of the head while stopping right where the temple of the head starts (i.e. the sharp corner of the hairline as seen in the picture).
You can again see in the next picture below of Michael Pitt how the disconnected haircut line is drawn at temple level. All that you need to remember is that this is the line divides the hair on the top of the head from the hair on the sides and back of the head; this line is what we barbers also call the “haircut perimeter”.
The length to choose for your undercut is to be measured in hair clipper lengths. Different hair clipper manufacturers use (slightly) different clipper lengths, although the best hair clipper manufacturers have very similar lengths for their clippers. The best hair clipper length for the undercut ranges between a number 1 and a number 3 hair clipper length. A number 1 will leave your hair at 1/8 of an inch in length, while a number 3 will lave your hair at 3/8 of an inch in length.
This other picture below of actor Michael Pitt shows how his slicked back undercut has been buzzed with a number 3 hair clipper length. Again, pay special attention to how the undercut haircut has been divided from the top of the head at the temple with the aforementioned disconnected haircut line.
It’s up to your which hair clipper length you should use within the range of 1 and 3, although I suggest first starting with a number 3 and then, if you think that the hair is too long, go with a lower length.
The undercut is a very easy and fast haircut as all you have to do is pass the hair clipper through the sides and back of the head and buzz everything below the disconnected haircut line. So, if you use a number 3 but then change your mind and you want to get a shorter undercut, it will only take you a couple of minutes to buzz your sides and back of the head again for a shorter undercut haircut.
Since the undercut haircut is very easy to do by yourself, I highly recommend that you buy a good hair clipper so that you save money by buzzing your own undercut instead of having to visit the barbershop every time that you need to re-buzz your undercut. If you’re interested in buying a hair clipper then I recommend that you read through each top hair clipper recommended in the link by the barbers and hairdressers of a very famous male grooming forum. You will find a good range of top hair clippers recommended by the barbers of that forum including the hair clippers from Andis and Oster, which I highly recommend that you buy if you can afford any of the recommended hair clippers from these two brands.
The haircut for the hair on the top of the head
Now that the sides and back of the head have been buzzed in an undercut, it’s time to cut the hair on the top. The perfect hair length for the hair on the top in a slicked back undercut ranges between 4 inches and 6 inches. At such lengths, you will find that you can slick back your hair easily and keep it flattened. Likewise and from my experience as a barber, a slicked back undercut looks its best when it’s between 4 to 6 inches in length at the top.
If your hair on the top is not long enough yet, then I suggest that you grow your hair longer so as to get it to at least 4 inches in length, and then get the slicked back undercut. This way, you’d be getting the undercut haircut on the sides and back of the head when your hair is truly ready to sport a slick back undercut as soon as you’re done with the haircut. Not only that but an undercut doesn’t look very good with hair on the top that is shorter than 4 inches in length!
Styling the slicked back undercut
Once you’ve gotten an undercut and have the right length on the top, it’s time to start slicking your hair!
The actual slicking back of your hair is very easy and is quite intuitive too. All you do to slick back your hair is to use a comb and comb your hair back starting at the forehead and ending at the nape.
The motion of the back-combing of the hair is straight and even, so, if you first start combing back the hair on the center of your forehead (where the hair starts on your forehead), you shall then finish the back-combing motion at the center of your nape (where the hair ends on your neck). You then repeat the same motion for the rest of your head on your head, always starting at the front of the head and ending at the back of the head.
Here’s a picture of what hair that has been slicked back looks like. The haircut on the sides and back of the head in this picture is not an undercut. However, with this picture, what I want to emphasize to you is how the hair has been combed back with an even progression and close to the scalp.
In case you’re wondering, the dapper gentleman in the picture above is none other than Michael Corleone portrayed by Al Pacino in the epic movie “The Godfather”!
In terms of what products to buy and use, the perfect hair product to use to slick back your hair is a pomade. You can use other hairstyling products like hair gel, hair wax or hairstyling mousse if you so wish, but a pomade, whether it’s an oil-based pomade or a water-based pomade, will work magnificently to give your hair the necessary slick.
Classic slicked back hair vs. modern slicked back hair
One thing that should be duly noted is that there are two types of slicked back hair: classic and modern. The main difference between each type is based upon how high the hair is from the scalp, which is what we barbers call “hair volume”. Another less-important difference between the classic slick back and the modern slick back is the type of hairstyling product used, which I will cover below too.
Classic slicked back undercut
In the classic slicked back Undercut, the hair is slicked back flat. This was the type of hairstyle used in the 1930s by men and it truly blends the hair into the scalp, leaving no volume on the hair with which to distract people when engaging in a conversation.
By far, the best known classic slicked back undercut hairstyle is that of Jimmy Darmody in “Boardwalk Empire”. Jimmy Darmody appeared on the scene in 2011 and, ever since, many gents have been referring to Jimmy Darmody’s classic slicked back undercut as the “Jimmy Darmody hairstyle“.
The classic slick back is achieved by combing the hair back repeatedly until you’re satisfied with how flat the hair is. As a rule, the classic slicked back Undercut cannot be higher than one inch from the scalp. Thus, the perfect hair product to style slicked back hair in a classic style is an oil-based pomade. Such pomade offers the strongest hold and dampens the hair so that it loses its natural volume and can therefore be flattened.
If your slicked back hair loses its hold and hangs down in a curtained style as illustrated above in this other picture of Jimmy Darmody’s hairstyle, then all that you need to do is to simply apply some more pomade by first dampening your hair with water (and then applying the pomade and combing your hair back).
Modern slicked back undercut
In the modern slicked back undercut, the hair is slicked back with volume. This type of slicked back hairstyle has become popular since 2013, especially among the hipster sub-culture; a typical hipster look is a modern slicked back hairstyle with full facial hair.
This is how the modern slicked back undercut looks like:
The modern slick back is achieved by first slicking the hair back with a comb and then using the fingers (as a rake/comb) to continue to comb the hair back. By using the fingers instead of a comb to slick your hair back, you allow some volume to build on your head. Once you’re happy with the volume achieved by finger styling, you then use a hair dryer and keep it pointed to the top of your head as you continue to style your hair back with your fingers. By using a hair dryer, you achieve even more hair volume for your slicked back hair.
A male celebrity who has styled his hair in a modern slicked back undercut is Brad Pitt, who wore this particular hairstyle in the 2014 movie “Fury”.
At our barbershop, we have been getting quite a lot of questions all through 2015 concerning the Fury haircut of Brad Pitt, so I would rather let you all folks know via this guide that Brad Pitt’s hairstyle in Fury was a modern slicked back undercut. Hopefully more and more of you guys can learn the correct hairstyle name for Brad Pitt’s Fury haircut as many barbers will still not know what the “Fury haircut” is!
When it comes to hair products, you would use a water-based pomade to style the modern slicked back undercut, instead of the oil-based pomade used to style the classic slick back. Another hair product that you can use to maximize your hair volume in the modern slick back is a styling mousse. Whether you use a water-based pomade or a styling mousse, you must first coat your hair with your chosen hair product and then you comb and finger style your hair (with a hair dryer pointed for maximum hair volume if you so desire).
What not to do with a slicked back undercut
The slicked back undercut is a timeless men’s hairstyle, but it can be easily ruined. From the haircut to the actual styling of the hair, there are a few things that you must take into account and avoid if you want to sport the best slicked back undercut:
- Go to a good barber to get the haircut for the first time. You can buzz your own undercut and trim your own hair, but go to a barbershop to get the first haircut right.
- Do not turn an undercut into a taper haircut. Tell your barber that you want an undercut that only uses a single hair clipper length. For some reason, some barbers will taper an undercut when tapering an undercut is the exact opposite of what you want to do!
- Careful with smoothing the disconnected haircut line. A little smoothing is fine, but do not make the smoothing a full-on taper haircut.
- If you choose to get a modern slick back undercut, do not go above 4 inches in height for the hair on the top.
- If you have very curly hair (e.g. afro textured hair), then avoid the undercut and instead get a 2-step undercut.
- Above all, do not bleach your slicked back hair please!
Conclusion to our slicked back undercut guide
The slicked back undercut is a versatile hairstyle that can be transformed from a classic look into a modern look in minutes. So long as you have a good undercut haircut on the sides and back of your head and that you keep the hair on the top between 4 and 6 inches, you will be golden and ready to rock an epic slicked back undercut hairstyle!