If you are thinking about trying a haircut that’s short on the sides and longer on top, you should definitely consider getting either an undercut or a high and tight haircut. But in order to be able to decide which one you should get, you should first know the differences between them.
Another reason to learn the differences between these cuts is that you don’t want to go into the barbershop and ask for one when you really want the other.
As you can understand, this can be a major bummer, especially if you end up getting the shorter cut when you really wanted the longer one. The longer one can always be trimmed, but if you get the shorter one, all you can do is wait for it to grow out.
But don’t worry. In this article, we will explain the undercut vs. high and tight haircut differences so you know exactly what to expect.
Table of Contents
What is an Undercut?
An undercut is a haircut that is very short in the back and on the sides of the head and longer on top. The back and sides may be closely cut or completely buzzed (the 1 on the sides style is a standard choice for an undercut), while the top is typically at least 2 inches long.
Beyond these ground rules, anything goes. The hair on top can be spikey or pushed back pompadour style. It can be long enough to hang to the chin over the shaved parts, curly or straight.
The undercut rose to popularity in the 1920s and quickly became a favorite as it offered style and practicality. It was worn by everyone from soldiers to jazz performers to businessmen. Nowadays, it continues to be very popular as it provides a fashionable yet edgy look emphasizing hair volume and facial features.
It’s also quite versatile. People who wear it can do just about anything with the hair on top. They can perm it, or even wear it in a mohawk. This gives the cut plenty of styling power.
Related Article: Undercut on Thin Hair: How To Do It [With Photos]
What is a High and Tight Haircut?
Like the undercut, the high and tight haircut is very short on the sides and back (from no guard at all up to 2 on the sides) and longer on the top, with the transition between them being very sharp. However, the hair on top is shorter, typically between ¼” and 2 inches, and must be at least two guards longer than the hair on the sides and back.
The high and tight is a military variant of the crew cut and is commonly worn by men in the U.S. armed forces. It is also a popular cut for police officers and public safety workers.
It became popular with military members in World War II. Before then, servicemen often wore their hair longer. However, shorter hair eventually became a preferred choice, mostly for hygienic reasons and also because it did not get in the way during strenuous activities and did not get caught under helmets or gas masks.
Related Article: Two Block Haircut Vs. Undercut: Differences & Similarities
What are the Differences and Similarities between Undercut vs. High and Tight Haircut?
There are several differences and similarities between undercut vs. high and tight hairstyle. Here are some to consider.
1. Overall style
Both cuts are short on the sides and back of the head, with longer hair on top.
2. Same Length on the Bottom
The undercut and high-and-tight both call for the hair around the sides and back of the head to be all one length. However, the undercut can be worn with a fade variation.
1. Length on Top of the Head
The biggest difference between an undercut vs. a high and tight haircut is the hair length on the top of the head.
With a high and tight, the hair must be between ¼” and 2”. It must also be at least two grades longer than the hair on the bottom. With an undercut, the hair on top can be any length beyond 2”, and there are no guidelines pertaining to how much longer it can be than the hair on the bottom.
2. Amount of Versatility
Another major difference is that you are a lot more limited in what you can do with a high and tight when compared to an undercut. With a high and tight, you are pretty much limited to a flat horseshoe top which involves the hair being cut to look somewhat like a landing strip or the recon cut where much of the hair is cut very short, and what’s left is shaped into an oval shape.
With an undercut, there’s no end to what you can do with your hair. You can spike it, or you can wear it long, so it falls to around chin length, or you can style it into a pompadour or even a mohawk.
You can also make your undercut a fade. If you try to do the same with a high and tight, it would simply be considered a fade because you wouldn’t have followed some basic rules of the high and tight haircut.
3. Military Regulation
The high and tight is an accepted cut for the military. It is preferred over the undercut, which could get in the way. However, this can vary depending on how long the hair on top is.
4. Men With Receding Hairlines
Men with receding hairlines will be better off with the high and tight as opposed to the undercut. The high and tight is very short, so it masks thinning hair, while the length of an undercut makes thinning hair more obvious.
Related Article: Undercut Vs. Combover: Differences & Similarities [Photos]
Should You Go for a High and Tight Haircut or an Undercut?
Undercut vs. high and tight, which one is best for you? If you are not sure which one to try, here are some things to consider.
1. Your Personal Style
An undercut is edgier than a high and tight. Therefore, it’s best for someone who has an alternative style. It also gives you more hair to play with which is ideal if you like to change things up. On the other hand, if you prefer more conservative looks, a high and tight is the safest bet.
2. Your Level of Activity
The high and tight is a military haircut because it stays out of your way when you are moving around a lot. This also makes it an ideal hairstyle for people that are very active.
3. A Receding Hairline
If you have a receding hairline, it’s advisable to wear your hair very short. A high and tight is your best option. An undercut won’t be as flattering due to the length.
4. Your Facial Features
Because a high and tight is very short, it really emphasizes your facial features. It’s a great haircut if you feel confident about your face and your features are in proportion. However, if you have a large forehead or a scar you want to camouflage, you should probably wear bangs or something similar, which is possible with an undercut, not a high and tight.
5. Your Hair Type
A high and tight may be best for people with very straight, thin hair or very curly hair. If your hair is straight and thin, it may look straggly if you try to grow it long. And if it’s very curly, it may puff up and get out of control when it starts to grow. A high and tight will keep curly hair neat, and it won’t make thin hair look thinner.
6. Look at Pictures
Looking at pictures of others may help you determine which cut is best for you. Browse the internet (or just our website) to find people with similar hair and face shapes and look at the hairstyles they are wearing. This should give you some clue as to which will look good on you.
If you are still unsure of which to get, it’s best to start off with the undercut. That way, you can always cut it shorter gradually to find out if you will be comfortable with it at a very short length. If you start with the high and tight and decide you don’t like it, you will need to wait for it to grow, and that could take a while.
High and tights and undercuts are very similar hairstyles. Now that you know the difference, you can decide which is best suited to your needs. Which one will you choose?
Russell is the founder of themensattitude.com. He is a barber a beard enthusiast and he is obsessed with trying men’s lifestyle products and blog about them. If you have any questions you can hit him up via the contact page.