“What is the perfect men's hairstyle for me?”
Every man has this thought, but your barber and friends will be hesitant to give advice – it seems so subjective.
The unspoken truth is the best haircut for you will be partly dictated by style but also by the state of your hair and whether you are balding or not.
Unfortunately, thinning hair or even balding can become noticeable as soon as your late 20s. Two out of three guys will experience some form of male pattern baldness by the time they’re 35.
In today's article I'm going to explain why balding occurs and how to delay it for as long as possible. Then, I recommend a hairstyle I think you should try at least once in this decade of your life.
I'm also going to tell you exactly which haircuts to avoid at all costs!
Why Do Men Go Bald? The Nine Factors
In 2013, Plastic Reconstructive Surgery published an article that studied the factors influencing male hair loss.
The researchers took an interesting strategy to investigate genetic and behavioral factors: they studied a set of 92 identical male twins, looking at:
- Testosterone levels were in their saliva
- Digital photographs of their hair (or lack of it)
- Precise measurements of front, side, and top of head hairlines
- Observer judgments of hair thinning in each part of the head
- Questionnaire regarding their lifetime of behaviors
Then, each man’s hair loss was correlated with their behaviors over a lifetime, and compared with their identical twins.
The theory is, each identical twin has roughly the same genetics, but different behaviors, so researchers could see how ‘nature and nurture' tend to influence hair loss. Here are their nine findings:
#1 Genetics & Balding (It's Up To Chance)
Unsurprisingly, genetics played the biggest factor in losing the hair on top of the head (but not on the sides).
Simply put, if hair loss is in your genes, you are more likely to lose your hair.
#2 Age (Older = Hair Loss)
Again, not surprising: the older a man was, the more likely he was to have hair loss.
This was true on every part of the head.
#3 The Number Of Children (More = More Hair Loss!)
Maybe this one isn’t surprising to parents: the more children a man had, the less hair he had.
This is possibly due to the increased stress associated with having children (but they’re worth it anyway, right?)
#4 Diet & Hair Loss (Specifically Caffeine & Alcohol)
More caffeine was correlated with more hair loss.
Men who drank more than 4 alcoholic drinks in a week had more hair loss.
Confusingly, the men who completely refrained from alcohol also had more hair loss.
#5 Smoking (Spoiler: It's Not Good For You)
There are already plenty of reasons to give up this habit but men who smoked were found to have more hair loss on top of their head.
The researchers theorized that smoking restricts blood flow to hair follicles, and this makes the follicles die.
#6 Skin Disease History & Balding
Men who had a history of skin disease lost more hair on average on the sides and top of their head.
#7 Clothing (Hats Prevent Balding)
Here’s a surprise: wearing a hat actually protected men from hair loss on the sides of their head.
Researchers suggested that hats protect the scalp from sun damage and this could explain reduced hair loss.
#8 Stress (More = Less Hair On Top)
Increased lifelong stress led to less hair. Here’s another interesting twist though: this was only true on the top of the head, stressed men studied had more hair on the sides.
However, I expect this will be little comfort to most men.
#9 Hormones & Hair Loss
Interestingly, twins with more salivary testosterone than their twin counterparts had more hair on the sides of their heads.
Clearly, you can't choose your genetics or stop the aging process and I'm not here to tell having kids should be avoided!
There are six clear ways to prolong balding:
- Cut back on caffeine
- Quit smoking
- Drink in moderation (I recommend less than four drinks a week)
- Wear a hat
- Reduce stress (I know, easier said than done!)
- Increase your testosterone intake
How Men Should Deal With Balding
So what does this mean for you? It means if you're being realistic…
Make the most of your youth while you still have it. Grow your hair long, try experimental styles. Young people are expected to be a little rebellious! Nobody in school, at the skate park or your college campus will think twice if you try something different. When you leave college and you're a little older, a range of mid-length styles will work for you.
Finally, when you find yourself at the age when you're sitting at the end of a board table, a shorter and more conservative cut will lend gravitas. It will also disguise any thinning or balding. The trick is having a haircut that looks intentional, not like some of your hair has upped and left without you noticing!
So let's kick off with the perfect men's hairstyle for teenagers!
Worst Haircut: Frosted Tips
This hairstyle was alarmingly popular in the 1990s and early 2000s but mercifully this trend has been mostly eradicated. Unfortunately, some celebrities (Guy Fieri, I'm looking at you) refuse to let this trend die.
I beg you, stay out of Flavortown – don't fall victim to this. If you do, cringing at school photographs later in life awaits you…
So what do I recommend the young man starting out?
The Perfect Men's Hairstyle For Your Teens: The Blowout
Your teens are your best chance to experiment, take risks and try new things. Some will work, some won't. With a little bit of hairdryer and product finesse, this will be one of the wins.
The blowout is going to give you a fun, creative and energetic look. It also has an attractive windswept and “I woke up like this” aspect to it.
Little do onlookers know, your style was carefully created. How to get this haircut?
What To Ask The Barber For
The blowout is achieved when the back and sides of your hair are tapered from the scalp to 1 cm from the hairline.
The hair on top should be at least two to three inches long but any longer than that and it can be cut to a length of your preference.
Comb your top hair and the hair on the back of your head upwards and backward.
Now, comb the sides backward too. Don't comb your hair directly against your skin to give it volume.
Use mousse or styling cream to keep your hair up and accentuate the left and right angles. Less is more when it comes to product but the longer your hair is, expect to use more product.
Don't forget though, the unplanned nature of this look means if a little hair falls out of place nobody will know.
Worst Haircut: The Man-bun
The bun has an interesting history, appearing on the back of male heads in China's Ming Dynasty, then in the west on Vandals, Goths and Lombards.
However, these days this is a questionable look even on celebrities like David Beckham that try to pull this off. Unless you have traveled back in time 500 years and moved to China I recommend giving this haircut a miss.
The Perfect Men's Hairstyle For Your 20s: The Short Crop
By contrast to the man-bun, the short crop is a really practical style that won't get in your way when playing sports.
This is still a cut you can style though and one of its best attributes is it won't look out of place on campus OR your first job.
By the way, this style in particular works for men of a variety of ages, it's not just for men in their 20s! If you are older, dust ask for a higher fade or taper on the sides and go shorter on top.
What To Ask The Barber For
Ask for a low or mid skin fade on the back and sides that naturally transitions into the hair on top of your head.
You want to keep 1-3 inches on top, depending on preference. The more hair you have, the more there is to style. Conversely, the shorter the cut, the less maintenance is required in the morning.
Blow-dry your hair and gently rake your fingers through your hair to add texture.
Finish with a tiny bit of styling cream or matte mud for a natural look. Work it into your hair from the back to the front, lifting your fringe up.
Worst Haircut: The Mullet
Some think the mullet died off in the 1990s. They were wrong. Naming no names, some magazines are claiming that a modern, acceptable version of a mullet is making a comeback. Don't let this happen. This one needs to remain stuck in 90s B movies on VHS tapes in your mom's attic where they belong.
The mullet is special for incorporating a short frontal section of hair while transitioning into a longer style in the back. In my humble opinion, men can look good with long hair and they can look good with short hair – but not both at the same time. This hairstyle is also totally incompatible with hair loss due to requiring more hair on top and at the back where this is most likely to start.
What would I go for instead?
The Perfect Men's Hairstyle For Your 30s: The Side Part
Think of the side part as the grown-up version of the short crop. You can pull it off with the same three inches of hair on top so it isn't long enough to expose a little thinning you might start to notice at this age.
Style your hair once in the morning and then enjoy the rest of your day without having to worry. This cut is good-looking and professional but functional – the ability to have a wide degree of hair lengths on top means you don't need frequent haircuts.
Plus, every barber on the planet knows this haircut. Tell them what you want then sit down and let them go to work!
What To Ask The Barber For
The only thing you need to decide is if you want a natural taper on the back and sides or do you want a low fade beginning close to the nape of your neck. Either should work here with the former look slightly more professional and clean-cut.
You will need at least 3-5 inches of hair on top for the volume needed here.
Should your barber shave the parting for you? The advantage here is it's easier to find your parting in the morning. However, I recommend not doing this as it takes away from the versatility of the look and makes it permanently more formal.
Part your hair on one side, you can choose which. Now, comb away from the part, combing your fringe up for a modern look or swept straight across for a vintage vibe.
Comb the hair on the sides of your hair backward, staying close to your head.
To keep your side part looking good all day, put a little wax through your hair.
Focus on getting a good parting that will stay in place. Then, just reinforce however you've chosen to keep your fringe.
Your 40s And Beyond
Worst Haircut: The Comb-over
The dreaded comb-over occurs when men with less hair attempt a side part, brushing longer hair on one side over their bald spot. Don't let this be you.
There's a reason I suggested a side part for men in their 30s and not their 40s.
Are you are one of the many men that suffer from acute baldness? Embrace it – shave that head. Use it to your advantage. Studies show men with bare heads appear more dominant and masculine than others.
What would I suggest for a man with thinning hair?
The Perfect Men's Hairstyle For Your 40s: The Caesar Cut
Silver screen legend George Clooney has really taken this style and made it his own. There's a reason for that.
Remember what I said about a haircut needing to look intentional? The Caesar cut is a short style that doesn't require long, flowing locks of hair to pull off and will hide a small bald spot.
Legend has it Julius Caesar himself was balding and used this cut to disguise it. If it's the perfect men's hairstyle for the emperor of Rome, it's good enough for you and me.
What To Ask The Barber For
For a structured, formal look you can ask for a taper on the back and sides, aiming for half an inch or less. For a more informal look, keep your hair the same length all over.
Your hair length on top should be 0.5-1.5 inches, keeping it short but still giving you some hair to style.
This is a hairstyle with minimal maintenance required. That said, to look your best brush the top of your hair forward and upwards slightly to add a little volume.
Similar to the blowout hairstyle mentioned earlier, this is a more natural-looking hairstyle so don't try to force every hair to go where you want it.
For such a short style, very little product if any will be required. Use just a tiny bit of pomade or matte mud here to hold your hair and any curls in place.
I had a lot of fun putting this article together. The perfect men's hairstyle can feel elusive but these are a great place to start. Experiment, try different hair lengths and see what works best for you! Check out ten of the most attractive men's hairstyles here for extra inspiration.