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Crew Cut Vs Flat Top: Differences And How To Choose

August 2, 2023
Crew Cut Vs Flat Top: Differences And How To Choose

These two styles may not seem that similar, but they’re easily confused. People tend to have a tough time identifying each of them. So, what’s the difference between a crew cut and a flat top? 

With crew cuts, the hair on top tapers from long to short on top as you go back, while flat tops have a more deck-like appearance from a side-on view. Crew cuts are usually scissor-cut on top, while the level plane of a flat top is often achieved using clippers. 

Although that’s the gist, as always, there’s a lot more to it. 

After talking through the differences in detail, we’ll go through how you can choose which one of these two hairstyles would be best for you. 

Let’s get to it. 

Crew Cut Vs Flat Top: 3 Key Differences

Here are the key differences between crew cuts and flat tops. Once you get to grips with them, you’ll find it a lot easier to choose which one is right for you. 

1. Tapered Top Vs Level Plane

With a crew cut, the hair on top tapers in length. It’s longest at the front, forming a short pomp, before graduating to its shortest point at the back of the crown. In contrast, with a flat top, the hair on top forms a level deck, appearing horizontal from side-on. 

flat top haircut
A flat top. Notice the level, deck-like appearance to the top. While scissors are being used to finalize it, the top has been clipper-cut to achieve a straight plane.

Image From 123RF

This is the most obvious difference and is the easiest way to identify a flat top. When you know that the deck-like appearance of the top defines the flat top, you won’t miss it. 

In fact, it’s so recognizable that you just wouldn’t confuse it for a crew cut. 

Once you know what a flat top looks like, you’ll easily be able to spot them. 

Crew cuts aren’t as easy to identify, simply because their features are quite similar to other short-back-and-sides styles. Unlike the in-your-face, deck-like appearance of the flat top, the features are more subtle. 

olive green shirt with white jeans
A crew cut. Notice the more tapered appearance to the top. It’s less box-like and more shapely than the flat top

Image From DepositPhotos

But knowing that the hair graduates (i.e reduces in length) as you go from the small pomp at the front backward toward the crown, should make it easier. 

great crew cut
Another crew cut. Freshly washed and cut, it’s difficult to see the tapered appearance when it’s flat. However, it’s very different from a flat top

Image From Deposit Photos

2. Clipping Vs Scissor-Cut

With flat tops, the hair on top is often clipped down to a short and even length. While it’s possible to achieve it using a scissor-over-comb technique, it’s harder. 

In contrast, with crew cuts, the hair on top is usually scissor-cut to achieve a natural and tapered appearance. 

While it may not seem as though this difference is important when it comes to how the style looks, you’d be surprised. 

Entirely clipper-cut styles like induction-style buzz cuts and flat tops have a distinctive aesthetic. 

If you’d prefer a more natural and tapered silhouette to your hairstyle, go for a scissor-cut style such as a crew cut, or its longer cousin the Ivy League. 

It’s worth mentioning here that both crew cuts and flat tops will have the sides and back clipped down to a short length. In fact, the sides will often be faded with each of them. 

It’s the hair on top where the two styles differ a lot. The sides are similar with each of them. 

3. The Square Effect

Flat tops have a square-like appearance to them due to the deck-like hair on top, as well as the boxy upper sides that often have sharp corners. With crew cuts, the sides blend a lot more gradually into the top without boxy corners. 

This is yet another way to easily tell the difference between a flat top and a crew cut. 

Just take a look at the general shape of the hairstyle when viewing it from front-on. A flat top will simply have a more box-like, square-ish shape to it. 

Crew cuts have a more natural shape to them due to the way in which the sides transition into the top more gradually and subtly, as well as due to the tapered top. 

Crew Cut Vs Flat Top: How To Choose

Now that you’ve seen both styles and know the differences between them, it’s important to consider the factors which may lead you to choose one over the other. 

If you simply like the look of one style over the other, your decision may already be made. 

But knowing these factors may even lead you to change your mind. It’s definitely worth understanding them. 

1. Trends

Flat tops simply aren’t as common or popular as crew cuts. While flat tops were hugely popular in the 1950s and enjoyed a brief resurgence in the 1980s, they’ve fallen out of favor. 

Crew cuts, on the other hand, have remained a classic men’s hairstyle for decades and show no sign of reducing in popularity. 

This is probably due to how subtle and versatile its features are. It’s the sort of style you just can’t go wrong with. People won’t really have strong feelings about it either way. 

That appeals to people who just want something neat and easy to maintain. 

Flat tops are a lot more divisive due to their sharp contours and box-like appearance. Don’t get me wrong – they aren’t universally disliked. There are plenty of people that look great with them. 

They’re just nowhere near as common as they used to be. 

So, if you want a style that’s currently popular, a flat top probably won’t be it. Go for a crew cut instead. 

2. Face Shape

Considering your face shape is a lot more important with flat tops than it would be with crew cuts. 

This is due to the square-ish corners and box-like appearance of the flat top when viewed from front-on. 

If your face already has a square-like appearance to it, there’s a good chance that a flat top would simply exaggerate it instead of balancing it out. 

Overall, it won’t lead to a very balanced end outcome. 

Flat tops are better suited to those with face shapes that have more rounded contours. For example, round, oblong, or oval face shapes. 

The straight and sharp appearance of the hair on top will add balance and contrast. 

Crew cuts are a lot more versatile when it comes to face shape. The hair on top is just about long enough to add some height. 

This is beneficial for those with round faces who feel that a shorter, induction-style buzz cut simply makes their face look even rounder. 

But it’s also short enough to not elongate the face so much as to prevent those with longer face shapes from choosing it (eg. oblong and diamond). 

So, go for a crew cut if you want a style you can go for with practically any face shape. If you were keen on a flat top, consider your face shape first. 

3. Maintenance

Flat tops are generally harder to maintain than crew cuts. This is due to the sharp and precise contours that flat tops usually have. 

As the hair grows longer, the boxy edges of the flat top will start to round off and look untidy. Eventually, it’ll start to look like a completely different style altogether. 

People who want to maintain a flat top often find themselves visiting their barber for a touch-up around every 2 to 3 weeks. 

Crew cuts aren’t as intensive to maintain, simply because the contours are more natural. A few millimeters of growth here and there isn’t going to ruin the shape. 

You could afford to go a couple more weeks without getting a haircut before it becomes an issue. 


There you have it. Hopefully, everything you needed to know about crew cuts and flat tops. You now know how they’re different, as well as how to choose between them.