Disconnected Haircut Guide for Men

Your blueprint to the disconnected haircuts for a dapper look

Disconnected haircuts have been very popular as of the last 5 years, starting with the ever-so-present undercut haircut and finishing with the trendy executive contour haircut. However, there seems to be some kind of confusion over the range of disconnected haircuts, so not only would I like to make it clear what a disconnected haircut is with this guide but I’d also like to give cover the main 4 disconnected haircuts that are killing it as of now. As usual, I will be including pictures in this guide and you’re free to ask any questions that you may have on these types of disconnected haircuts.

What is a disconnected haircut?

First and foremost, let’s start with defining a disconnected haircut and thus leave it clear here on the internet (and for once and for all) what on earth this type of haircut is!

A disconnected haircut is a type of haircut that abruptly decreases the length of the hair on the sides and back of the head from the hair on the top. A disconnected haircut will finish on the hairline of the sides and back of the head with a short hair clipper length. Thus, a disconnected haircut is not a scissors-only haircut, but, rather, a disconnected haircut is a hair-clipper haircut or a haircut blend involving scissors and a hair clipper.

A picture at a barbershop of a guy with side parted hair in a cool disconnected haircut

The goal of a disconnected cut is to sharpen up and “clean” up the hair bulk on the sides and back of your head. Ergo, a rapidly-tapered hair length needs to be achieved on these areas of the head (sides and back) so that the hair bulk is only concentrated on the top of the head. This visual emphasis towards the hair on the top of the head actually enhances your chosen hairstyle (for the hair on the top) and is the reason for the current popularity of the disconnected haircuts.

Following from the above and in other words, if you decide to slick back the hair on the top with a disconnected haircut instead of with a regular scissors-only haircut, your slicked back hair will look even better with the disconnect as opposed to with an evenly-trimmed haircut (i.e. scissors-only haircut).

So, now that I’ve described to you what’s a disconnected haircut, let’s go through the 4 main disconnected haircuts for men!

Undercut haircut

If you’re under the age of 30, you probably know about the undercut haircut. This disconnected haircut rose to popularity in 2011 with the TV show Boardwalk Empire. In this TV show, Jimmy Darmody (one of the show’s characters) wears a classic slicked back undercut that quickly gained a huge fan-base among cosmopolitan males between the ages of 18 and 30 as the retro dapper look of the 1930s took over the men’s fashion industry. Even in 2015 and going on to 2016, the undercut hairstyle as a disconnected haircut continues to enjoy plenty of popularity as the haircut will improve the aesthetics of just about any hairstyle that you could think of!

A barbershop picture of a guy with an undercut haircut and slicked back hair covering his tattoos

When it comes to styling the undercut, there is a huge range of styles that you can choose from. The most famous and epic undercut hairstyle is the slicked back undercut which has been dubbed the “Jimmy Darmody hairstyle” and even the “SS haircut” or “Nazi hairstyle” as the undercut haircut was one of the haircuts allowed for military men in Nazi Germany during the Second World War. However, at the time, the undercut haircut with slicked back hair had been a very-popular hairstyle for men in the 1930s in both Europe and the United States, so it wasn’t just a hairstyle limited to Nazi soldiers and SS troops (unlike what most people seem to think).

A picture of Jimmy Darmody with a slicked back undercut hairstyle for his straight hair

An undercut haircut could be described as the perfect disconnected haircut. In an undercut, all of the hair on the sides and back of your head is buzzed with a hair clipper and with a single (short) hair clipper length (anywhere from a “number 0” to a “number 3”). What such a short hair length on the sides and back means is that the division between the hair on the top of your head and the hair on the back and sides of your head will be quite extreme. To give you an idea of how discrepant the lengths are between the top and the sides/back, with a slicked back undercut you would have the hair on the top with a length of 6 inches while the hair on the back and sides would be buzzed to a “number 2” hair clipper length (about 0.25 inches or 0.5 centimetres).

A barbershop photograph of a male client with an undercut haircut done with a number zero hair-clipper length

As for the hairstyles to choose for your undercut, the slicked back undercut hairstyle remains the king of men’s hairstyles suited for the undercut, but you may also choose to shape your undercut hairstyle with a side swept, a quiff, a brush-up style and even with a messy top. The great thing about the undercut is that it truly enhances the styled hair on the top, so you can get as creative as you may want and really end up with an aesthetic hairstyle.

Executive contour haircut

The executive contour haircut has been a trendy disconnected haircut since 2013 as such a haircut was adopted by hipster males as a spin-off of the undercut haircut. By 2013, the undercut had really hit its peak in terms of popularity, and, as the hipster sub-culture took off in the same year (2013), it was decided that the stereotypical hipster haircut would be the executive contour haircut. Another popular hairstyle name for the executive contour haircut is a mid contour haircut or a contoured cut.

A hair salon photograph of a male with a cool executive contour haircut and a side part hairstyle

“Rogelio, dude, but what the heck is an executive contour haircut?” I hear you ask. An executive contour haircut is a rapidly-tapered haircut (on the sides and back) that ends up in an undercut. Thus, you have the first 2 to 3 inches of the upper sides and back of your head trimmed with scissors to a much shorter length than that of the hair on the top (i.e. the hair is tapered with scissors only) and then the rest of the hair on the sides and back (below the scissor-tapered hair) is buzzed with a single hair-clipper length as per a textbook undercut haircut. Ergo, the main hair-cutting difference between an undercut and an executive contour is that an undercut only uses a hair clipper while an executive contour can use both scissors (i.e. barber shears) and a hair clipper.

A barbershop photo of a male sporting a mustache and with side part hair cut with an executive contour haircut

Just like the undercut haircut, the executive contour haircut isn’t anything new. An executive contour cut is also called a regulation haircut in the military, and the regulation haircut has been used for many, many decades. In fact, the regulation haircut was used in both the First World War and the Second World War, and Adolf Hitler was a keen enthusiast of the regulation haircut. So much for the undercut being called Nazi haircut!

Short taper haircut

The taper haircut is what we call a classic haircut. The hair in a taper haircut is decreased in length progressively (i.e. tapered) across the vertical length of the sides and back of the head by using scissors, a hair clipper or a combination of both hair-cutting tools thereof. However, there are several lengths that can be chosen for a taper haircut, and, for a disconnected men’s haircut, the short taper cut is the absolute winner.

A barbershop picture of a male with a pompadour hairstyle and a short taper haircut done with a hair clipper

A short taper haircut is a hair clipper haircut, with the hairline (of the sides and back) being finished with one of the lowest lengths available for the hair clipper (usually a “number 1” or “number 2”) except for a “number 0” since a “number 0” (i.e. shortest hair clipper length for all purposes) would otherwise turn the haircut into a fade haircut (see the next disconnected haircut below). Therefore, in a hair-clipper taper haircut, as soon as the hair starts on the upper sides and back of the head, it is buzzed with a high hair-clipper length and, as the hair clipper moves down towards the hairline of the sides and back of the head (i.e. ears and neck), the length used for the hair clipper decreases gradually and without leaving sharp lines.

In a short taper haircut, you would start with a “number 4” (or similar) at the top of the sides and back of the head and then end with a “number 1” or “number 2” hair clipper length on the hairline of the sides and back. Since the hair will be tapered with 4 different hair clipper lengths (or even more!), the haircut must be buzzed smoothly and without leaving any visible lines or “hair ridges”. In fact, you can tell if your barber is a good barber or not based on how good a taper haircut he gives you.

A picture of an Asian male with a cool short taper haircut blended with a quiff hairstyle

Because of the extremely-short hair lengths buzzed with a hair clipper in a short taper haircut, many guys mistake this type of disconnected haircut for an undercut. I’ve actually seen websites mislabelling both the undercut and the short taper cut and getting both haircuts wrong. This poses a problem for many of you as you may show a picture of a labelled undercut to your barber while the actual haircut in the picture is a short taper cut, all while you wrongly assume that you’re going to get an undercut as the website that you got the picture from labelled the haircut as an undercut. Thus, you risk your haircut by getting something that you didn’t want to just because some website didn’t bother to correctly name the haircuts. Caveat emptor, guys.

Fade haircut

A fade haircut is a great all-round haircut for men with any type of hair. As a matter of fact, a fade haircut shares the same progressive-haircut pattern of the taper haircut, only that there’s a very-important difference between a fade haircut and a taper haircut: a fade haircut is tapered down to skin, meaning that the hair is buzzed at the hairline with no guiding comb (i.e. the attachable clipper lengths) in what’s known as a “number 0” length.

A hair salon picture of a white guy with a sharp fade haircut on the sides and back of his head

There are several types of fade haircuts, from a high fade to a low fade, and the main difference between these types of fade haircuts is where the fade ends “to skin” on the back and sides of the head. Just as their name suggests, a high fade will end quite high on the sides and back, while a low fade will end quite low and very close to the natural hairline of the neck and ears.

A great illustration of a guy with the perfect high top fade haircut shaped with a step on the hair

With a fade haircut, the hair on the top of the head is left to be styled in any way you may desire as well as with any hair length that you may prefer. A timeless hairstyle for a fade haircut is the high top fade haircut. With this type of fade, the hair is left long on the top of the head and with at least 3 inches of length. Such a length, when done on kinky curly hair (i.e. the typical hair type of black males), will allow the hair to stand up naturally and without much styling manipulation, just as you can see in the picture above of a neatly-styled high top fade haircut.

Conclusion to our guide on disconnected haircuts

As you have learnt throughout this guide, the range of disconnected haircuts is vast and diverse. However, they all share one main trait that sets them apart from other men’s haircuts: the hair on the sides and back of the head is much shorter than the hair on the top, with the hair on the sides and back being “cleaned” up so that the visual emphasis remains on the hair at the top only!

All the best, gentlemen.

Rogelio

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