The resurgence of the Undercut was something quite difficult to predict. Many men now choose to adopt the style without even knowing that’s what it’s called. But there are many similar styles and it’s important not to confuse them.
Knowing the name of your haircut may not sound important. After all, you may be visiting the same barber each time and asking for “the usual”.
The problem arises when you change up your barber and you can’t quite express how your old one used to do it for you.
In addition, it’s important to know how the Undercut is different to its similar styles because you may well find that you’re drawn to one over the other.
I’ll be going through many different styles, showing you how they differ from the Undercut to help you choose between them.
Empowering yourself with this knowledge is the key to getting exactly the look you want from your barber, each and every time.
Let’s get to it.
Undercut Vs Two Block
The difference between the Undercut and the Two Block is that the disconnection between the top and sides occurs lower down with the Two Block. With Undercuts, the hair on top is often slicked back, whereas Two Blocks pull it forward into a fringe.
Both of these styles are known for their disconnection.
Instead of gradually blending the sides into the top, the sides are buzzed down short while the top is left long.
This sharp transition in length from short to long with no blending is what makes them look disconnected.
With Undercuts, this disconnection occurs high up – right at the boundary between the top and the sides.
With the Two Block, the sides are also usually buzzed all the way up to the top. However, the hair on top is left long enough to pull most of the way down the sides.
Because of this, the transition from short to long occurs around midway up the sides (or higher), and not right at the top like with the Undercut.
The Two Block also has the hair on top pulled forward into a wispy and sometimes jagged fringe. This gives it a very relaxed and loose appearance that’s gained a huge amount of popularity in Korea.
In contrast, Undercuts usually slick the hair on top backward. This isn’t always the case, however. With Undercuts, you can do anything you like with the hair on top – quiff it up, pomp it up, or tie it back into a top knot.
It’s the high disconnection that makes an Undercut an Undercut.
Undercut Vs Short Back And Sides
While “Undercuts” have a sharp transition between the long hair on top and the short sides, the “Short Back And Sides” has a more gradual, blended transition to the top. The Undercut has a disconnected appearance to it, while the Short Back And Sides doesn’t.
These two styles often confuse people and it’s down to the name.
Yes, in theory, both the “Undercut” and the “Short Back And Sides” have the sides and back trimmed down short.
Undercuts do indeed have a short back and sides.
But the haircut typically called the “Short Back And Sides” (a.k.a the regular haircut or “professional cut”) features hair on top that’s long enough to be combed, with the sides and back trimmed shorter.
This just means shorter than the top and not necessarily buzzed down.
The sides and back are gradually tapered/blended into the top and so the transition is subtle.
The side part is often defined and it’s usually left at that. The hair on top isn’t usually styled into anything too extravagant.
But with Undercuts, the sides are usually buzzed down and not just scissor-cut shorter. Although the sides could all be buzzed down to the same length, a gradual tapering of length from top to bottom is common.
Unlike the Short Sides And Back, Undercuts do not have a gradual transition from the sides to the top. The sharp disconnection is what it’s known for.
Undercut Vs Pompadour
Pompadours have the hair on top swept upward and worn high above the forehead. In contrast, Undercuts usually have the long hair on top slicked back with the sides buzzed down short and disconnected.
Pompadours are known for having a high volume appearance to them, especially the hair at the front.
They’re typically glossy and styled using shiny products such as pomades. This isn’t always the case, as more “modern” pompadours can have a low-shine and textured appearance to them.
But overall, when thinking of pompadours, think big and think tall.
The hair at the sides and back can be kept long or short. But in a typical pompadour, they’re usually blended gradually into the top without a harsh transition.
Traditional Undercuts, on the other hand, usually have the hair on top slicked back. The long hair on top doesn’t usually have the sort of volume that a traditional pompadour would have.
The sides and back are buzzed down short and transition into the top sharply, with minimal blending.
But a key point here is that although traditional Undercuts usually have the hair on top slicked back, it isn’t always the case.
The defining feature of the Undercut is the disconnected appearance between the sides and the top due to the harsh change in length.
Technically, you could do what you want with the hair on top and still call it an “Undercut” as long as that disconnectedness is there.
So, the “pompadour undercut” is a thing. It’s where you’ve got a typical pompadour shape with the hair on top – big, tall, voluminous, and shapely. But the sides and back are buzzed short and not blended into the hair on top.
In other words, it’s got all the features of an Undercut, except instead of having the hair on top slicked back (as is usual), it’s formed into a pomp.
So, you could think of the Undercut as not a separate style in itself, but as a feature that you could incorporate into many different styles.
Undercut Vs Fade
With fades, there is a gradual increase in length as you go up the sides before eventually blending into the hair on top. In contrast, with Undercuts, the sides are often buzzed down to the same length before sharply transitioning into the top with no blending.
Both the “undercut” and the “fade” should be considered features that can be incorporated into many different styles, and not styles in themselves.
With both Undercut styles and fade styles, the longer hair on top can be trimmed and shaped in many different ways. Having said this, the “traditional” Undercut does usually have the hair on top slicked back.
But in a looser sense of the term, you can do what you want with the hair on top.
The key difference between fade styles and undercut styles is what happens with the sides.
With Undercuts, the sides are often buzzed down to the same length. There isn’t usually a tapering of the sides so that the hair gradually increases in length as you go up toward the top.
In addition, as you reach the top, the transition into the long hair on top is sharp with no blending.
With fades, the sides gradually increase in length as you go up. This blend of different lengths is intricate and with no harsh lines – it does require some skills with a pair of clippers.
The hair then eventually blends into the hair on top so that the top and sides look connected and not disconnected like with Undercut styles.
Now, fades have “transition points”. This is the point at the sides (and back) where the hair starts to transition and blend into longer lengths as you go up. Below this point is the shortest length.
This point could be low, mid, or high.
“Low fades” are where the transition point is around an inch above the ear. “High fades” are where the transition point is very high and near the temples.
“Mid fades” have the transition point somewhere between where you’d expect a low fade and a high fade.
At the risk of confusing things, Undercut styles can incorporate a fade as well. In other words, the sides gradually increase in length from bottom to top in a blended fashion.
What sets them apart from usual fade styles is that the sides are still disconnected from the top.
Let’s compare some specific fades with the typical Undercut.
Undercut Vs Skin Fade
Skin fades gradually increase in length from shaved sides at the bottom, to longer hair that eventually blends smoothly into the hair on top. Undercuts just have buzzed sides that sharply transition into the hair on top.
Skin fades are very popular as they’re eye-catching. The change in length at the sides is more noticeable because you’re literally starting off with shaved skin.
Skin Fades can be low, mid, or high, depending on how high the point where the length starts to increase is.
They’re also pretty tough to maintain. You’ll need to keep the bottom shaved regularly in order to keep it looking neat and clean.
Undercuts are usually lower maintenance. Although the sides can increase in length as well, they’re often just buzzed down to the same length and not necessarily shaved (although they can be).
So, all you have to worry about is styling the hair on top as you please.
Undercut Vs High Fade
High fades are where the sides start to increase in length near the temples before smoothly blending into the hair on top. Undercuts have short sides that also transition into the top high up, but they transition sharply and not smoothly like with high fades.
Both high fades and undercuts are eye-catching because of the contrast in length between the sides and the top.
With high fades, most of the sides are short because the transition into longer lengths occurs very high up.
But Undercuts are arguably more eye-catching and attention-grabbing because of how sharp the transition is.
That can be appealing to men looking to really turn some heads. Neither of these styles is subtle, but because of the smooth blend at the top, high fades may be considered a little more so.
Undercut Vs Low Fade
Low fades are where the sides start to gradually increase in length around an inch above the ear in a very blended fashion before smoothly transitioning into the top. In contrast, Undercuts do not blend smoothly into the top and transition harshly and sharply.
Given the gradual increase in length from a low position and smooth transition into the top, low fades are much more subtle than Undercuts.
Undercuts transition in length much higher up the sides and the contrast in length is more drastic.
Because of this, Undercuts will be more eye-catching and some men will find this appealing. They’re also less common than low fades which are very frequently a feature of many different styles these days.
If you’re looking to choose between the two, consider the difference in subtlety when making your decision.
Undercut Vs Taper
A taper is a very low fade, where the sides start to increase in length from around the top of the ear before eventually blending into the top. Undercuts have all of the sides buzzed down short with a sharp transition into the top.
Tapers are very subtle and are a great option for men who love fades but don’t want anything too obvious.
Because the shortest hair starts to transition into longer lengths so low down the sides (around the top of the ear), most of the sides are quite long. Because of this, there isn’t much of a difference in length between the sides and the top.
Undercuts usually have much more of a contrast between the short sides and the long top. Tapers also aren’t disconnected from the top, while Undercuts are.
Undercut Vs Buzz Cut
A buzz cut is a style where the hair is clipped short on the top, sides, and back. In contrast, an Undercut is a style where the top is left long, the sides are buzzed short, and there is a sharp transition between the two.
So, the main difference is what you do with the top and how the sides and top relate to each other.
While buzz cuts are short all over, Undercuts only have the back and sides clipped short.
In addition, unlike Undercuts, the sides and back blend smoothly into the top with buzz cuts.
The term “buzz cut” actually refers to a number of different styles. It’s more like an umbrella term for a variety of different short styles that are dependent on the use of a clipper in some way. They differ in how the sides look relative to the top.
For example, with induction-style buzz cuts, the top, sides, and back are all clipped down to the same, equal length.
With crew cuts, the top is left longer, graduating from long to short as you go back. It’s also often scissor-cut while the sides and back are buzzed down with clippers.
Other buzz cut styles include Ivy Leagues and Butch Cuts. They’re all short styles that are in some way dependent on the use of a clipper.
But what separates all of these buzz cut styles from Undercuts is how the sides transition into the top.
With Undercuts, the sides are disconnected from the top. With buzz cuts, the sides are connected to the top.
In addition, although some buzz cut variations can have slightly longer hair on top (like crew cuts), with Undercuts, the top is much longer than the short sides.
Undercut Vs Comb Over
In a comb over hairstyle, the hair on top is brushed over from one side to the other and usually blends smoothly into the sides. In contrast, an Undercut usually has the hair on top slicked back and disconnected from the sides.
Comb overs can take many different forms. They can be tall and shapely, resembling pompadours but with a more prominent lean to one side.
They can also be flat and slick like a slick back – but again, slicked to one side and not directly back.
But the hair on top usually transitions smoothly into the sides, unlike Undercuts where the transition is sharp, harsh, and disconnected.
Having said this, there is such a thing as a “comb over undercut”, where the hair on top is combed over but disconnected from the sides as any other Undercut would be.
This goes back to the fact that an Undercut is a feature and not a style in itself. As long as the top is disconnected from the sides due to a sudden change in length, it can reasonably be called an Undercut.
Although traditional Undercuts usually have the hair slicked back, you could comb it over to one side instead if you wanted to and still call it a “Comb Over Undercut”.
Undercut Vs Mohawk
A mohawk is a style with a narrow central strip of longer hair along the top of the scalp and a shaved head on either side of it. In contrast, Undercuts have long hair across the entire top that is disconnected from the shaved or buzzed sides.
It’s an interesting comparison as both styles feature a sudden shift in length, from longer central hair to shaved or buzzed sides with no blending between the two.
The difference comes down to the proportion of hair that’s long compared to hair that’s short.
Mohawks have a very characteristically narrow strip of longer hair from front to back, traveling across the center and often spiked up for added effect.
Everything apart from this narrow strip of long hair is shaved or at the very least buzzed down very short.
Because of this, most of the head is shaved or buzzed, giving a lot of prominence to this narrow strip.
It’s become an iconic symbol of non-conformity, gaining a lot of attention during the punk movement of the ‘70s.
Although Undercuts also feature this sudden shift from long hair to short hair, the entire top (or most of it) has long hair and not just a narrow central strip.
The sides and back are shaved or buzzed and are not blended into the hair on top.
Although the drastic shift in length these two styles both have is bold, the mohawk is by far the more attention-grabbing.
The mohawk is just much less common than the Undercut. As such, it’s a better option if you’re looking to make a statement or you’re drawn toward styles associated with counterculture movements.
Undercut Vs Quiff
The quiff is a hairstyle where the long forelock is brushed upward, standing tall and away from the forehead. In contrast, Undercuts usually have slicked back long hair on top that is disconnected from the buzzed sides and back.
A quiff has the hair at the front (the forelock) longer and standing taller than the shorter hair that lies behind it.
As such, the hair at the front is given a lot of prominence. This is what makes it different from the pompadour, where all of the hair is brushed or combed upward and backward, not just the forelock.
Undercuts can, of course, take many different forms. But unlike quiffs, the hair on top is usually slicked all the way back.
The forelock isn’t usually given much prominence.
Quiffs are usually also styled on hair that’s connected to the sides, with the hair on top blending gradually and smoothly into them.
Having said this, “quiff undercuts” do exist. This is where the top and sides are disconnected, just like an undercut, but the forelock is brushed upward into a prominent quiff.
So, it’s possible to combine a quiff with an undercut and this is, in fact, a popular style.
But just note that traditional undercuts do usually have the hair on top slicked back and not styled into a quiff.
In addition, quiff styles are usually connected and not disconnected from the sides.
But hey – there’s plenty of room for mixing and matching styles as you please.
Undercut Vs Bowl Cut
A bowl cut has a straight fringe, but the rest of the hair is longer and the same length all the way around. An Undercut is different from a bowl cut in that the sides are buzzed short and disconnected from the long hair on top.
Bowl cuts are about as out of favor as it gets. Its heyday was back in European medieval times. These days it’s often considered either comical or cute at best, depending on who is wearing it.
It is so named because its shape is literally what you would get if you were to place a bowl on the head and trim around the circular rim. In fact, that’s just what barbers used to do in medieval times.
The bowl cut is very different to an Undercut. The sides of a bowl cut are trimmed short beneath the “rim” of the bowl, but not as short or high up as what you’d expect from a typical undercut.
Overall, an Undercut will always be considered more stylish and acceptable than the bowl cut.
Clearing Up Undercut Confusion
Here are a couple of comparisons that are often made but shouldn’t be. They just don’t make sense – I wanted to clear up the confusion once and for all.
Undercut Vs Uppercut
An Undercut is a hairstyle with buzzed sides that are disconnected from the long, slicked-back hair on top. Contrary to popular belief, an Uppercut does not exist as a hairstyle.
This one is a source of confusion for many.
Although it may make sense for there to be a hairstyle called an “Uppercut” considering the popularity of the Undercut, it just isn’t true.
Styles that are occasionally referred to as “Uppercuts” are done so incorrectly. They’re often completely different styles with their own recognized names.
Undercut Vs Disconnected Undercut
“Undercuts” and “disconnected undercuts” are referring to exactly the same hairstyle. Undercuts are always disconnected by definition, given the drastic difference in length between the top and sides. As such, the term “disconnected undercut” is actually redundant.
This misnomer is great because it’ll save you time.
“Disconnected undercut” is more of a mouthful than just “undercut” – shave off a few seconds each time you say it by removing the “disconnected” part of it.
The reason it’s pointless calling a style a “disconnected undercut” is that you can’t really ever get a connected undercut.
If a hairstyle was connected – in other words, the top and sides blended smoothly into each other – it could never be called an undercut in the first place.
Although confusing the undercut for any one of these styles isn’t really the end of the world, I still think it’s important to understand the differences.
One of the main reasons men are often unhappy with what their barber produces for them is miscommunication.
Knowing exactly what you’re asking for is the key to getting what you want – getting to grips with the names of the different hairstyles is an important step toward achieving that.
You may well have read through these and realized that it wasn’t an Undercut you wanted after all – that’s fine.
Hopefully, you now have a much better idea of what you do want and you’re that much closer to achieving it.