Ah, September. It doesn’t matter how many years ago we left education, as the blackberries ripen and the evenings darken, it’s hard to ignore the strong back-to-school vibes. The Pavlovian response is to get a new haircut, obviously. You want to look fresh and sharp for the return to work and for catching up with all the people you’ve not seen all summer. Now normal post-lockdown service has resumed, there’s less of a stampede to get in the barber’s chair than we saw in the spring, so you shouldn’t have to wait weeks to get an appointment.
But where to start? We asked the king of catwalk styling, Neil Moodie, to weigh in on our edit of the top chops for autumn. As one of the UK’s leading hairstylists, Neil is a personal snipper to some notable names including Bridgerton’s Regé-Jean Page, Matt Smith, Nick Grimshaw, Nabhaan Rizwan and Jonathan Bailey, while creating editorials for the likes of Arena Homme Plus, Document Journal and Vogue. Let’s take a tour of the best haircuts around now.
The Bottle Job
This season, the best hair shades come straight out of a bottle. Phil Foden turned his Caesar-style cut into a bleached homage to Gazza at Euro 96, setting off a chain reaction of players past and present hitting the bottle, including David and Romeo Beckham as well as Chelsea’s Jorginho and Thiago Silva.
Off the pitch, it’s a trend that was heavily present during lockdown, and at Burberry’s Spring 2022 collection, so you’ll comfortably pull it off well into next year. Adding a colour, such as bright orange or pastel blue, is one way of taking it to the next level, or embrace a rainbow if you’re feeling truly confident.
“It’s a statement,” agrees Neil. “I think we’re still embracing the ‘why not’ attitude from earlier in the year.” Bleach and colour works for black hair too – just look at the trailblazers who were typically way ahead of the curve: Pharrell and Kanye (blonde), Jaden Smith (pink) and Dennis Rodman (orange). And if you really want to push it, look to Khalid who recently turned his hair purple with giant pink polka dots.
Get The Look
“If your hair is already light blonde then you can apply the bright colours directly to your own hair colour. I would only use temporary dye, so you don’t have to commit and can change the colour regularly,” advises Neil.
“If your hair is darker then you will need to bleach it first. I would recommend having this done professionally because it’s easy to make a mess of it, then get your colourist to recommend a range of semi-permanent colours to use. I like Crazy Colour. Apply all over hair and leave for 10-20 minutes depending on the density of the colour required.”
Jack Grealish is Beckham’s hair apparent in the influencer league. His freshly razored, disconnected undercut looks pure Shelby brother off the pitch. On the pitch, it transforms into an uncanny copy of 1990s curtains with just a hairband.
It resonates because during lockdown one of the easiest home cuts was to fade the sides and back without touching the top. “It’s part curtains, part Peaky Blinders,” says Neil. “Ask your stylist or barber for a skin fade crop around the sides and back, leaving extra length on the top and connect it all up apart from around the front area.”
Get The Look
“This look needs to be styled with a strong-hold wax or gel in order to keep it in place. Dry all the hair back off the face with a dryer and spray liberally with Redken Wax Blast 10 High Impact Finishing Spray. Use a comb to style.”
The Indie Rock
If lockdown gifted you longer hair, there’s no reason to chop it off now. In fact, the catwalks at Saint Laurent to Celine were awash with inspiration to keep those lengths trailing. A rebellious mid-length look rooted in grunge and indie rock, you can channel the originator, Kurt Cobain, or Jared Leto’s shortened locks for inspiration, roughing it up for evenings or the weekend, and smoothing it back for work.
“To achieve this look your hair needs to be longish,” says Neil. “Ask your stylist for some long layers to be cut through your hair. The ends should be razored a little and not cut blunt, so it has a more dishevelled feel – this look is not about neat lines.”
“To go all-in you could have some lighter colour painted on the mid-lengths and ends, so they look like you’ve been in the sun – again not too perfect – to add to the grungey effect.”
Get The Look
To style, Neil recommends Biolage R.A.W. Texturizing Styling Spray: “spritz your hair all over with this spray, to give your hair a more lived-in texture – it’s good for those beachy, surfer waves too.”
Washing is kryptonite to bed-head styles, but who likes the grubby feeling of dirty hair? A water-free cleanser, such as Living Proof Advanced Clean Dry Shampoo, is a good way to keep it fresh without the frizz, or the chalky-white residue that other dry shampoos tend to leave.
Yup, it’s always business up front, party at the back with a mullet. The bad-taste style favoured by Joe Exotic has been slowly making its way back into the 2020s, thanks to a catwalk reboot from the likes of Prada and celebs such as Troye Sivan, Aussie model Jordan Barrett and Stranger Things’ Joe Keery.
Get The Look
“To achieve this look you need to have some length in your hair to begin with,” says Neil. “Then depending on how severe you want to go, you need to ask for the top and the sides to be cut shorter, leaving more length at the back. I think it’s better to have the top of the hair connected to the back with some longer layers, so it still feels like one haircut and not two.”
In terms of styling, Neil advises to let your own texture come through: “for a straight-haired mullet, style with L’Oréal Tecni.ART Super Dust volumising powder, sprinkling a cloud of dust over the shorter lengths to create a drier texture.”
“For a curly mullet, use Living Proof Curl Definer. Apply a small amount all over your hair for non-crunchy curl.”
The Top Heavy Fade
What’s known as type 4 hair in the trade, we call kinky or afro. “Barbering for men’s type 4 hair has reached new heights as the techniques have improved no end from the barber’s point of view,” explains Neil.
“The latest look to go for is the top-heavy fade. What this means is that the sides and back are still faded in, whether it be to a skin fade or low fade, but the top is now being left longer, thus giving the wearer more room to play with their texture. This could be creating braids, twists, curls, dreadlocks (as recently worn by Jaden Smith, Dele Alli and Lewis Hamilton) or just leaving the natural afro texture.
“It’s up to the wearer how they choose to style the top but my personal favourite is the more defined curls, which is achieved by using a mix of leave-in creams, possibly mixed with gel depending on your natural texture to begin with. Eastenders’ Zack Morris has gone for this look by growing out the top of his hair.” Usher has also been rocking a manicured version of this look with a high, asymmetric top.
Get The Look
“To achieve this look you need to ask for a skin fade on the sides and back [your decision on how short] and then leave more length on top. This then needs to be blended into the sides and back. It looks better without a disconnect, and the more dramatic you want it the longer you leave the top.”
Briogeo’s Curl Charisma Leave-in Defining Cream will add definition and provide weatherproof protection.
The Soho Crop
“This street style will always be popular as it can be smart and serious, while allowing a more casual look at the weekend. Keep the top a touch longer to be more creative,” advises Neil.
Fans of this cut include Olly Alexander, Nick Jonas and Anwar Hadid. “The 2021 version of this look is about asking for a short back and sides, but not a skin fade. A No 1 or 2 guard is a good description for the required length. Then leaving a small amount of length on the top that needs to be texturised or point cut so it’s not too blunt.”
Get The Look
“Style by applying Davines Medium Hold Finishing Gum to dry hair. Take a small amount, rub into your fingertips and work through the hair from the back to the front to create texture,” says Neil.