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Tony Trabert wearing a flattop.

A flattop is a type of crew cut where the hair on the top of the head is graduated in length from the front hairline back through the crown to form a flat deck, of level, upward sloping or downward sloping inclination.[1][2][3][4]


  • Styling 1
  • Flat-topping 2
  • See also 3
  • References 4
  • Bibliography 5
  • External links 6


German general Paul von Hindenburg with flattop, 1914.

When a flattop is viewed from the front, varying degrees of squarish appearance are achieved by the design of the upper sides as they approach and round or angle on to the flat deck.[5][6] Possibilities, somewhat limited by skull shape, the density of the hair and the diameter of the individual shafts of hair include: boxy upper sides with rounded corners; boxy upper sides with sharp corners; rounded upper sides with rounded corners; rounded upper sides with sharp corners.[5] The hair on the sides and back of the head is usually tapered short, semi-short, or medium.[6][7]

A flattop might be graduated in length on the top of the head from one and a half inches at the front hairline to about a quarter inch at the crown to a half inch as it starts curving down the back of the head, tapering to the skin near the middle of the ears.[8] A variant form known by several names including flattop with fenders and flat top boogie has long sides known as fenders with or without a ducktail.[9][10] Flattops are traditionally groomed with hair control wax, commonly referred to as butch wax. Since the haircut is short and quickly grows out of its precisely-cut shape, maintenance haircuts are required at least every few weeks, and some flattop wearers get haircuts as often as once a week. Flattops have almost exclusively been worn by men and boys, particularly those of high school and college age, being most popular among athletes, at times very popular and at times rarely seen, peaking in popularity among Western young men from the 1950s through the mid 1960s.[3][11][12]


Roger Maris, flattop; U.S. President John F. Kennedy, regular haircut.

The haircut is usually done with electric clippers utilizing the clipper over comb technique, though it can also be cut shears over comb or freehand with a clipper.[7][13] Some barbers utilize large combs designed for cutting flattops. Others use wide rotary clipper blades specifically designed for freehand cutting the top of a flattop.[14] When cutting a new flattop or when cutting a flattop with full boxy or boxy rounded upper sides or a flattop with fenders, the hair at the upper sides and top has to be boxed in. If the hair on the upper sides is initially contoured, it may not be possible to achieve a squarish effect.[6] The hair at the crown is cut from about one quarter to one half inch while the barber stands behind the patron. He then positions himself in front and cuts the top hair to about two inches in length and then to the desired height across the top from side to side while progressing back to the shorter hair at the crown. The exact lengths are dependent on skull shape and the style of flat top.[7] Intricate cutting of the deck and upper sides follows to achieve a specific inclination and squarish effect. Natural skull shape and certain deck inclinations and heights often leave an area at the center top of the head where the scalp is visible through the hair. This area is called a "landing strip", a metaphor for the landing strip on the deck of a flattop (aircraft carrier). Some flattops are designed to cause a landing strip to show to varying degrees.[6]

See also


Johnny Unitas, who wore a flattop during much of his NFL career
  1. ^ Thorpe 1967, p. 133-134.
  2. ^ Trusty 1971, p. 110-111.
  3. ^ a b "MANNERS & MORALS: Teen-Age Moderation".  
  4. ^ Victoria Sherrow (2006), Encyclopedia of hair,  
  5. ^ a b Thorpe 1967, p. 134.
  6. ^ a b c d Trusty 1971, p. 110.
  7. ^ a b c Thorpe 1967, p. 133.
  8. ^ "The Flat Top", Boys' Life, August 1961 
  9. ^ Trusty 1971, p. 111-112.
  10. ^ "The Flat Top Boogie", Boys' Life, July 1961 
  11. ^ Kaminsky (10 May 1974), "Long Hair-Style Trends Cut Short", The Cornell Daily Sun 100 (Number 141) 
  12. ^ "Jamborees Remembered", Boys' Life, July 1961 
  13. ^ Trusty 1971, p. 110-112.
  14. ^ Trusty 1971, p. 111.


NASA astronaut Walter Cunningham with a flattop
  • Thorpe, S.C. (1967). Practice and Science of Standard Barbering. Milady Publishing Corporation. 
  • Trusty, L. Sherman (1971). The Art and Science of Barbering. Wolfer Printing Co. 

External links

  • Flattop, boxy, rounded corners
  • Flattop, boxy, sharp corners, landing strip showing
  • Flattop, rounded, rounded corners
  • Flattop, rounded, sharp corners, landing strip showing
  • How to give a flat top haircut
  • November 12, 1956. Includes photos.LifeHow To Square Flattop Hair
  • Information on flattops and list of famous flattop wearers
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