The power of a good haircut to transform a guy’s appearance and attractiveness is vastly underrated. I think we’ve all seen a case where someone decided to try a different style, and as a result, practically looked like a new, significantly more handsome man.
But finding that kind of transformative haircut isn’t a matter of chance, as haircuts aren’t one-size-fits-all deals. You know this if you’ve ever seen a haircut that looked good on another dude, and asked your barber to give you the same style, only to find out it looked terrible on you.
Different hairstyles are better suited for different face shapes. What looks good on Brad Pitt could make you look like a grade-A, poindexter dud.
But how do you figure out your face shape, and thus the haircut that complements it best?
It’s easier than you think, and to help guide us through the process, I talked to master barber Thad Forrester, owner of Hudson / Hawk Barber & Shop...
The Common Face Shapes of Men
Here’s a breakdown of the characteristics of each:
Oval Face Shape
Face length is greater than the width of the cheekbones, and forehead is wider than the jawline. The angle of the jaw is rounded rather than sharp. Imagine an upside-down egg.
Square Face Shape
All measurements are somewhat similar in ratio. The angle of the jaw is sharp rather than rounded. This is the most classically masculine face shape.
Rectangle/Oblong Face Shape
A rectangle face shape is like an oval/square shape combo. Your face length is long (like an oval), but your forehead, cheekbones, and jawline are similar in size (like a square).
Round Face Shape
If your cheekbones and face length have a similar measurement, then you likely have a round face. Cheekbone measurement is also larger than the forehead and jawline measurements, which are about the same. The angle of the jaw is soft rather than angular.
Diamond Face Shape
A long face with wide cheekbones and a small jawline. Chin is pointy.
Triangle Face Shape
Triangle face shapes may have different kinds of chins, but they share the characteristics of having a wide, prominent jawline (as measured across the corners/hinges of the jaw). The second-largest measurement is the cheekbones, followed by the forehead.
Heart Face Shape
Your face is longer than it is wide and has a wide width. Your forehead and jawline are a similar width in appearance. Your chin is noticeably pointed.
Which Face Shape Are You?
So those are the primary face shapes. How do you figure out which one you have?
Well, figuring out your face shape can be tricky. You’ve probably never thought about your face having a distinct shape, so when you try to categorize it, you’ll be doing a lot of hemming and hawing: “Well, I guess it’s round, but if I angle my head this way it looks square. Wait. Now it’s a diamond.”
And as Thad told me, a lot of guys that come in to see him have a tendency to think they have the masculine face shape of Brad Pitt. They’ll show Thad a photo of Brad on their phone and say, “I think I have a similar head shape as Pitt. Can you give me the same haircut that he has?”
Thad has to nicely tell these guys, “No, no you don’t. You look nothing like him actually.”
For starters, you can measure it at four key points:
- Jawline: Measure horizontally from point to point at the corners/hinges of the jaw.
- Cheekbones: Measure across your cheekbones, starting and ending at the pointiest part below the outer corner of each eye.
- Forehead: Measure across your face from the peak of one eyebrow arch to the peak of the opposite arch.
- Face Length: Measure from the center of your hairline to the tip of your chin.
Measure those points with a tape measure, write them down, think about the ratios between them, and then go back up to the last section to figure out which face shape you have.
If measuring your face feels weirdly tedious, Thad recommends a more straightforward way to figure out your face shape: outline it on a mirror.
Grab a dry erase marker and stand in front of the mirror. Pull your hair back with one hand if it’s long. Outline your head. Make sure to keep your head as still as possible.
Take a step back and look at it.
“Your outline isn’t going to look like a perfect triangle or diamond,” says Thad. “But look at key points like your cheekbones, jawline, and forehead and how they connect with one another. If you think you see a triangle, draw a triangle within your outline to see if it matches up. If not, try again.”
How to Choose the Right Haircut for Your Face Shape
Two General Guidelines
1. Pick a haircut that will make your face look oval. Regardless of your particular face shape, Thad recommends picking a hairstyle that makes your head look more like an oval: “The oval face shape is sort of the ideal head shape because it’s symmetrical and well-proportioned. So, for example, if you have a rounder head, you’ll want to pick a haircut that will make your face look longer to get a more oval-looking face. If you have a triangle-shaped head, you’ll want a haircut that gives you more width at your forehead so it looks less pointy, and more rounded at the top.”
2. Take your beard into account. “Your beard can also add length or width to your face, so you need to consider that when selecting a hairstyle,” Thad advises. “For example, if you have a long rectangle face, having a haircut with height plus a long beard is going to make your head look even longer, like Beaker from the Muppets. You don’t want that.” Meep meep, indeed.
But beards can also help contour your face into that ideal oval shape, Thad told me. “Let’s say you have a round face, with a not-so-prominent chin. A longer beard and a haircut with some height can help lengthen your face to make it look more oval.”
With those two general recommendations in mind, let’s dig into specific haircut recommendations for different face shapes.
“Guys with oval face shapes look good with any type of hair and beard style,” says Thad. “You can wear a big pompadour, you can wear a nice crop with a fade, you can do an undercut. You can wear a short beard, long beard, or middle beard because the proportions of that head shape allow for it.”
So if you’re a guy with an oval-shaped face, feel free to experiment with different hairstyles.
While the oval face shape allows for a wide variety of styles, Thad did say there are some things you want to avoid: “Don’t pick a style with bangs or heavy fringe. They’ll make your oval face look more round.”
Men with square-shaped heads should go with haircuts with short, tight sides. “Any bulk on the side is just going to make your head look wider,” explains Thad. A standard side part haircut, kept tight on the sides, works here, though Thad particularly recommends going with a haircut that gives some height to your face to lengthen it and give it a more oval look. Haircuts that provide texture on the top like French crops and quiffs will do that. A pompadour with close sides will give you some height as well.
If you want to really embrace the masculine angles that a square shape gives your face, Thad recommends rocking a buzz cut; “Think Jason Statham. That guy has a really square face, and he makes that buzz cut look good.”
“Men with round faces want to pick a hairstyle that gives some length to their face,” says Thad. “You also want to avoid bulk on the sides, as that just makes your head look rounder. So keep things tight.”
French crops, pompadours, quiffs, brush backs, and comb-over styles will give you height. And if you keep the sides short, you can also create the illusion of angles in your face, giving you a more masculine appearance.
“Don’t forget beards if you have a round face,” says Thad. A longer beard will elongate your face and make it look like you have a chin. “Avoid really short beards or stubble if you have a round face,” he adds. “It just highlights the fact that you don’t have a chin.”
“With a rectangle face you’ve got to be careful with a few things because the face is longer than it is wide,” says Thad. “You want to avoid hairstyles and beard styles that make your head look longer and skinnier,” i.e., you want to avoid the Beaker effect.
To that end, Thad recommends avoiding hairstyles that leave a lot of length on top since that elongates your head, as well as haircuts that are really short on the sides since that makes your head look skinnier. Basically, you want to shoot for something that’s not too long on the top and not too short on the sides. Textured haircuts with medium length on the top and the sides will be your best bet. A classic side part works well for guys with rectangular faces, as long as you keep the length on the sides longer. Fringes will add some width to your face, so consider that as well.
If you want to grow a beard, keep it short. A long beard will only make your face look skinnier.
Men with a diamond-shaped face have wide cheekbones, but narrow jaw and brow lines. To make your face more oval looking, Thad recommends going with a haircut that will add width to your forehead. “A guy with a diamond-shaped face kind of has a pointy, narrow forehead head. To reduce that, go with a haircut that adds some bulk there, like a fringe cut or a textured crop.”
One thing to avoid is a haircut with short sides. “That will just accentuate the narrowness of your forehead,” says Thad.
Thad also likes recommending beards to men with diamond-shaped faces. “A nice full beard can expand the skinny jawline on a diamond-shaped face,” Thad told me. “Combine that with a haircut that adds some width to your forehead, and your diamond-shaped face is starting to look more like that ideal oval.”
Triangular faces start with a wide jawline, narrow a bit at the cheekbones, and then narrow even more at the forehead. “You want to add volume and length on the sides to reduce the pointy look of a triangle-shaped face,” says Thad. French crops, textured quiffs, and fringes can do that. Guys with triangle-shaped faces will look good with longer, fuller ‘dos. Think Wayne Coyne from the Flaming Lips. That mad scientist, rock ‘n roll look.
Thad recommends that men with triangle-shaped faces avoid beards. “A beard will just make your already wide jaw look wider and make your forehead look even more narrow and pointy,” he says. If you want some facial hair, just go with some stubble.
In determining your face shape, and the best haircut for it, you can ask your barber/stylist for advice. Unfortunately though, not all of them are actually very adept at making this determination. Better to figure out a plan based on the information above, and go in with a specific request at the ready.
Thanks to Thad from Hudson / Hawk Barber & Shop (locations in Springfield, Columbia, and Kansas City, MO, and Bentonville, AR) for his tips. Credits by: Brett and Kate McKay by AOM, Samantha Lee by WikiHow, Illustrations by menshairstylestoday