It can be difficult to keep up with hairstyle trends—one day, the flat top is all the rage, and the next, we’re back to buzz cuts. While I’m not a professional barber, I can recognize a good (or bad) haircut when I see one. So, regardless of what’s currently in style, I’ve compiled a list of ten different evergreen hairstyles for black men—you might just find your next cut below.
The Flat Top (Box Fade)
The flat top or box fade is an iconic hairstyle for black men, and it first made its name in the 1950s and ’60s. Most people can recognize the flat top hairstyle on sight: as the name suggests, your hair is cut into a square shape, with the top of it being flat across. To do this, your barber will clip your hair on the sides, and work in a straight line. The height of the flat top can vary, with some of them being up to three inches high.
Once it’s completed, your hair should look “boxy,” hence it also being called the box fade. It’s important to note that this square-shaped hairstyle often looks best with people who have a square face shape. For black men that may have round or triangular-shaped faces, you might want to check out something similar.
Keep in mind that this isn’t a haircut that you can get, and then just forget about. Since it has such a specific shape, you’ll probably need to check in with your barber at least once a month (or more frequently) to maintain it.
The Buzz Cut
The buzz cut needs no introduction. While it’s most popular as a military haircut, it also works for any black man who’s looking for something relatively low maintenance. The buzz cut gives you a clean look, and it works for just about any face shape.
However, there are a couple of different ways that you can wear it. A standard buzz gives your hair the same length all over. It doesn’t take a lot of skill to do the standard buzz, and some people might not even go to a barber for it. This is what people often think of when they hear “buzz cut,” and it’s what you’ll get in the military.
You can also do a buzz fade and add detailing along the side of your scalp. Side clippings can add a fresh twist on a common haircut among black men. Of course, if you do opt to add detailing to your buzz, you’ll probably want the expertise of a professional barber.
The Natural Afro
The natural afro is a classic hairstyle that was probably most popular during the ‘80s, but celebrities like Donald Glover have continued the trend. In the past, barbers often styled the natural afro into a circular shape, but many men keep it organic nowadays. While natural afros can grow to be several inches high, they can also be cut close to your scalp too.
Unfortunately, growing an afro isn’t as easy as just refusing to cut your hair for a couple of months. The afro works best if you’ve got tighter curls (usually in the range of III or V curls). Depending on how tight your curls are, you might need to grow your hair several inches to officially gain an afro.
People with Type V curls will probably need around five inches of growth while someone with Type III will only need three inches. Based on how fast your hair grows, you could be looking at a minimum of at least six months to achieve the natural afro.
A couple of other tips for growing a natural afro include making sure your hair is the same length before you begin, not using a comb, and keeping your afro moisturized, so it doesn’t get too dry. The good news is that once you’ve taken the time to get your hair to the right length, maintaining it doesn’t take tons of work.
The Shape Up (Line Up)
Much like the buzz cut, the shape up is meant to be a time-saver. If you don’t have the time to mess with your hair every morning but still want something that looks stylish, the shape up might just be the right choice.
The shape up is cropped close to your scalp and straightens the hairline. The end result is a hard line across your forehead, sometimes with extra detailing. Of course, there is some variation to the shape up. A soft shape up still straightens your hairline, but usually leaves the hair around your temples slightly longer. A hard shape up really defines your hairline and is impossible to miss.
As far as personal maintenance goes, you’ll probably want to make sure that you groom it with a bristle brush and moisturize it regularly. So, while it does require some maintenance, it’s usually not any more than what black men already have to do for their hair.
If you’re looking to experiment with your hair, you can always try going for a braided hairstyle. Once again, there’s a lot of variation here—from tightly-knit cornrows to fish braids with interesting patterns. Depending on how well you can braid, you might not even need to visit the barber for your braided style.
Perhaps one of the most popular braided hairstyles is cornrows. These tight braids lay close to the scalp, and you can achieve them in as little as fifteen minutes. However, the more intricate your cornrows are, the more time it’ll take to braid them.
A more laid back braid is the twisted braid. Here, your hair may be “floppy” on the top of your head but still maintain a precise braided look.
When a lot of people think of dreads, they picture the free form dreads that Bob Marley sported. While Bob Marley might have made dreadlocks his signature look, this hairstyle has been around for thousands of years. They have their roots in Ancient Greece, African cultures, and the Aztecs. Dreadlocks form rope-like pieces of matted hair on your head.
There are a couple of ways to achieve this look. The most natural (but most time-consuming) way to get dreads is by neglecting your hair altogether. That means no brushing, cutting, or combing your hair. Eventually, the knots should begin clumping together and separating into dreadlocks. However, going this route can take years before your hair fully embraces the dreadlock look.
If you’re looking to sport dreads as fast as possible, there’s also the backcombing method, where you twist sections of your hair into the shape you want. Some salons may even make “dread wax,” which helps your hair clump together.
Regardless of which way you go about it, dreadlocks are fairly easy to maintain. You’ll probably need to use a residue-free shampoo for washing and apply wax when they feel loose, but that’s about it.
Short Afro with Fade (Afro Fade)
If you’re interested in the afro hairstyle, but you don’t like the way some natural afros look, then the afro fade might be for you. You’ll still need to grow your hair a few inches, but it won’t need to be as long as a natural afro.
If you go to a barbershop and ask for an afro fade, your barber will probably then ask you what type of fade you want. Low fades work best with shorter afros and tend to be more appropriate if you work in an office or professional setting.
However, if you’re looking to spice things up and go for an edgier look, a high fade can add more contrast to your hairstyle. Of course, if you know you want a short afro but can’t decide on a fade, your barber will probably have a good idea of what looks best for your face shape and overall style.
The Hard Parting
You don’t see tons of hard parting hairstyles these days, but back in the ‘80s, it was a staple among black men of all ages. As the name suggests, this style offers a sharp, hard parting down your scalp. To achieve this, your barber will shave a line of hair across your head.
Depending on how sharp you want the look to be, you can make the line deep, or only have it extend a few inches. A shorter line may be more appropriate for professional settings, but a deep hard parting will draw a lot more attention.
Keep in mind that this style does require a bit more maintenance if you want to keep it looking fresh. In the mornings, you’ll want to comb your hair so that the hard part remains visible. If your bedhead tends to be a little hard to handle, you can always use hairspray and apply a tiny bit of wax for overall shine.
While plenty of black men don’t mind putting in hours of work to keep that flat top looking sharp or growing out that afro, there’s nothing wrong with a clean shave either. Just ask Terry Crews or Shaquille O’Neal. Not only is it one of the most common ways for black men to wear their hair, but it also requires minimal upkeep—there’s no daily combing or tons of moisturizing that you have to do.
The clean shave haircut means shaving your head until it’s completely smooth, or bald. However, before you pick up the razor, it’s a good idea to examine your head shape first. The clean shave often looks best on black men that have a natural round head shape.
If you do decide that this cut is for you, you’ll want to buzz your head first until it’s nothing but stubble. Leaving too much hair on your head can clog the razor, and leave a mess behind. For first-timers, you might want to forego trying to do it yourself, and go to a barber instead. They’ll ensure that your buzzed hair is even before they start shaving.
While you won’t need to do more than minimal maintenance for this hairstyle, it’s often recommended to use a dab of shampoo while you shower, and shield your scalp from the sun if you plan to go out. Even with little to no hair, your scalp can still become dry if you don’t pay your head a little attention every once in a while.
Another hairstyle that won’t take hours of grooming is the wave hairstyle. While it does take some time to achieve the look, once you’ve got it, it’s easy to maintain. There are different types of wave hairstyles for black men, but one of the most common are 360 waves. These waves extend across your entire head, rather than just only part of it.
For any wave style, you’ll probably need to get your hair clipped into a thick buzzcut first, and then use a wave brush to begin styling. Keep in mind that it can sometimes take up to a month to completely get your waves, especially if you’re opting for 360 waves. During the formation process, a cap or du-rag can help keep your waves in place.
When it comes to regular maintenance, you don’t need to brush your waves too often, and you’ll want to steer clear of brushing while your hair is still dry.
Whether it was a hit thirty years ago or is just gaining popularity, haircuts for black men are constantly evolving. The good news is that there’s a hairstyle for every length and hair type. Even if nothing from this list jumps out at you, you can always mix and match as you please. You might like the standard buzz cut, but want to combine it with the hard parting.
You might be able to achieve some of these looks at home, but if you worried about botching it, most barbers should be familiar with every single one of these evergreen hairstyles for black men.