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How To Ask For A Crew Cut

Crew cuts are classic. They look good on almost anyone, and they’re an easy-to-maintain haircut. The trick is learning how to ask for a crew cut so that your barber can give you the exact variation that you want.

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What Is A Crew Cut?

Crew cuts are the hairstyle that you’d get if a buzz cut and a fade had a baby. 

They’re short – usually none of the hair on your head will exceed an inch in length. But the top is just slightly longer than the sides and back. Buzz cuts look similar, but they tend to be shorter than crew cuts. And fades are usually longer than crew cuts or tapered more dramatically.

You should consider getting a crew cut if you don’t like to style long hair, but you don’t like the look of super short hair. Crew cuts strike a good in-between. They’re relatively low-maintenance, but you still have enough hair on your head to look young.

How To Ask For A Crew Cut

Crew cuts are extremely easy to accomplish for guys who like to cut their own hair, but if you need the help of a barber, follow these pointers.

  1. Bring a Photo

You can skip almost every step below this one if you bring a clear photo that shows your barber exactly what you want. 

I highly recommend taking a selfie from the front and back when you get a haircut that you like. That way you can use it for your next visit – it sets realistic expectations for what makes you look good.

If you have a great, descriptive photo, congrats! You can safely skip steps 2-6. But if not…

  1. Know your clipper guard sizes

The easiest way to get exactly the crew cut you want is by knowing your clipper guard sizes and telling your barber which ones to use. Here’s the lingo:

0 GUARD = 1/16 of an inch

#1 GUARD = 1/8 of an inch

#2 GUARD = 1/4 of an inch

#3 GUARD = 3/8 of an inch

#4 GUARD = 1/2 of an inch

#5 GUARD = 5/8 of an inch

#6 GUARD = 3/4 of an inch

#7 GUARD = 7/8 of an inch

#8 GUARD = 1 inch

If you tell your barber exactly what guards you want him to use, you can help him take the guesswork out of your haircut. The chance that you’ll miscommunicate is much smaller.

  1. Tell the barber how long you want the top

Now that you know your guard sizes, let the barber know which guard he should use on top of your head (most guys use number 6, 7, or 8). Since you’re getting a crew cut, he’ll use the clippers to buzz it to the length you want.

If you want your hair longer than an inch, you should probably ask for a taper fade haircut instead. In that case, your barber will probably clip the top of your hair with scissors.

  1. Tell the barber how long you want the bottom

Remember, with a crew cut, the hair on top of your head is slightly longer than the hair on the bottom of your head. So let the barber know the smallest guard size you want him to use around the bottom and sides of your hairline.

  1. Ask for a fade (or not)

A fade haircut makes that transition from short-hair-on-bottom to long-hair-on-top look smooth. Your barber will use multiple guards to create “layers” from short to long hair.

Let your barber know whether you want a fade or not. Some guys prefer that smooth taper, and other guys like the look of an even cut on the sides and back, with more hair on top. 

This is where it’s also good to know the difference between a skin fade vs bald fade vs zero fade. If you want skin peeking through along the bottom, you should ask for a skin or bald fade, and your barber will use a razor to shave off the hair near your neck. 

For guys who like some hair on the bottom ask for a zero fade. That refers to the guard size – the zero guard leaves 1/16 of an inch of hair behind. You can also give your barber a different guard number, if you want more hair near your neck.

  1. Optional: get it lined up

A “line-up” is when the barber helps clean up your hairline and neckline. You might want the hair near your temples to look straight, and maybe you have a preference on whether the back of your hairline is square or rounded. (Personally, I like the hair on the back of my neck to be squared. I think it makes a guy’s neck look more muscular.)

This is where you can also ask for any designs you want shaved into your head. Bring photos so that the barber doesn’t have to guess what you’re trying to describe.

  1. Schedule your next visit

If you want to maintain a clean crew cut, you’ll have to schedule haircuts every 1-3 months, depending on how fast your hair grows. Plan ahead so that your hair doesn’t grow messy.

Frank Edwards is a men's grooming & style expert who is "internet famous" for being able to simplify complicated grooming routines into easy, yet effective rituals any man can do. As a professional analyst, he has spent years researching the biggest brands, products, experts, best practices, and breaking news in the space. He takes this analysis, tests it out on himself, and then documents everything in his writing. As a result, his experience-based articles are considered by some to be the gold standard in men's grooming and men's style.