The classic American crew haircut has been a mainstay in men’s haircuts for more than a century. Why mess with perfection? If you want to rock this quintessential cut, check out the different lengths and variations you can try to make it your own.
We’ve got tons of examples, tips to get the perfect crew cut, and answers to FAQs in this quick, informative guide.
What Is an American Crew Haircut?
- Crew cuts can be short, medium, or long on top
- Crown, back, and sides are always tapered or faded
- Classic cut that looks great on all face shapes and hair types
American crew haircuts – what we all know as ‘crew cuts’ – are classic men’s haircuts that feature longer hair on top with shorter hair on the back and sides.
In this quintessential men’s cut, the hair is cleanly and gradually tapered or faded in length from the long top down to the shorter back and sides. The result is a clean-cut look that exudes confidence, masculinity, and style.
The American crew haircut has been popular since the late 1920s, when Ivy League rowing crews started donning the cut to prevent their hair from blowing around in the ocean breeze. The “crew cut” name stuck and it’s still one of the most popular haircuts for men today.
American crew haircuts feature length graduation up the sides and back, extending to the crown. The top is left a little longer than the crown, back, and sides and is often styled brushed over to the side, brushed back and over, brushed forward, or mussed up with lots of texture.
There are several variations of the classic crew cut (we’ll talk about these in more detail further down), but all crew cuts have a few features in common.
- First, every crew cut features smoothly graduated length accomplished with tapering or fading. If there’s no clean transition from long to short, it’s not a crew cut.
- Second, all crew cuts have longer hair on the top than on the crown, back, and sides. If the hair is the same length all-over, it’s a buzz cut, not a crew cut.
- Third, every crew cut will be a short haircut with a maximum 2 inch length on top.
While short and medium crewcuts will feature length on top closer to half an inch (short) to an inch or inch and a half (classic), the hair on top should be no longer than 2 inches to be considered a true American crew haircut.
Similar Men’s Haircuts
There are lots of mens haircuts that have a similar look and cutting technique as the American crew haircut. Since there are a few length variations, let’s look at the cuts and styles that closely resemble a crew cut.
Butch cuts are similar to short crew cuts, but unlike crew cuts, they feature a single length all-over. Butch cuts are a type of buzz cut, while crew cuts are a type of tapered cut with longer length on top.
Long top, short sides haircuts and taper fades are similar to classic and long crew cuts because they all feature the length graduation up the sides and back. Unlike some taper fades and long top/short sides cuts, crew cuts will always feature tapered length at the crown and clean length graduation throughout.
Haircuts with a longer top and shorter back and sides may not feature a tapered crown and there may be big “jumps” in length that don’t smoothly transition.
Pompadours, long top, short sides haircuts, high undercuts, and long-top fades are very similar to longer crew cuts. But like similar haircuts of shorter lengths, crew cuts can always be separated due to the tapered length at the crown and smooth, even length graduation throughout.
American Crew Haircut Variations
There are a few popular variations of the American crew haircut that offer different length options. By using different combinations of hair clipper sizes (guard attachments), a crew cut can be short, classic, or long on top.
Short Crew Cut: Short Length On Top
- ½” to ¾” length on top
- ¼” to ½” back and sides
- Front may be slightly longer
Short crew cuts are sometimes called brush cuts. Short crew cuts usually feature the same length around the back and sides – roughly a quarter of an inch to half an inch long, though bald fades are common with this type of cut, too.
The top is typically cut moderately longer to be half an inch to three-quarters of an inch long. The front of a short crew cut may be slightly longer to allow for side-swept or brushed-up looks.
Classic Crew Cut: Medium Length On Top
- ¾” to 1½” length on top
- ¼” to ¾” back and sides
- Back and sides may be tapered or faded
Another long-standing variation of the American crew cut is the classic crew cut. In this version, the hair on top is roughly an inch long – as short as ¾” or as long as 1.5” – with a tapered (shorter) crown.
The back and sides may feature a mid bald fade (shaved cleanly partway down) or tapered in length all the way down. Typically, the sides will be anywhere from a quarter inch to three-quarters of an inch long.
Ivy League Crew Cut: Medium-Long Length on Top
- 1½” to 2” length on top
- ¾” to 1½” back and sides
- Back and sides may be tapered or faded
The Ivy League crew cut is a little longer than the classic crew. It features hair anywhere from 1½” to as long as 2” on top with the crown cut slightly shorter (about an inch). This extra length gives Ivy League crew cuts more options for styling, from parting the hair on the side to styling it brushed back or brushed over.
The back and sides are also a little longer than a classic crew cut, with length anywhere from ¾” to 1½” on the longest versions. Ivy League crew cuts can feature a mid bald fade or taper fade as well.
15 Dapper American Crew Haircut Examples
Now that you’re familiar with the different variations and types of American crew haircuts, let’s see some examples! We’ve pulled together a list of the most popular crew cuts at different lengths to show you the many possibilities of this classic men’s cut.
1. Ivy League Messy Crew Cut
This medium-long option is perfect if you like to try different styles with your hair. You can style it slightly messy as shown with the hair on top brushed over to the side and textured with a little gel.
Or try a slicked-over look for something a bit more polished, style it forward for a playful look, or part the top along the side and smooth the hair down to adopt a dapper aesthetic.
2. Classic Crew Cut
Classically clean-cut and easy to manage, this is the quintessential style that comes to mind when you think of this cut. It works best on moderately dense to very thick hair and doesn’t require much styling to look polished and attractive. Brush it over to the side after washing, add a little gel for hold, and you’re done!
3. Brush Cut Crew
For guys who like to keep things super short for the ultimate ease and minimal styling requirements, this is the cut. Brush cuts are like short buzz cuts with tapered, shorter length on the back and sides. It couldn’t be easier to care for this cut – just wash and go.
4. Medium Crew Cut Fade
This is a variation of the Ivy League crew cut, and here, you can really see that signature tapered crown. The length is kept just long enough to part and brush over to the side in true Ivy League fashion. The high drop fade makes it modern and so clean.
5. Side-Swept Medium-Long Crew Cut
If side parts aren’t really your style, try sweeping the top over to the side without one. It’s a more casual look that won’t require as much gel or styling product to stay put. Add a little gel to your hair while it’s damp and brush it over to the side, using your fingers to mess it up a bit for texture.
6. Short American Crew Cut
This is another example of the brush cut – also known as a short crew cut. It’s as simple as you can get for easy styling and minimal maintenance.
The length on top is kept very close to the length down the back and sides for a blended, even look. It’s roughly ½” on top (number 4) and about ⅜” long (number 3) on the back and sides.
7. Brushed Up Ivy League Crew
Channel your inner Ivy League bad boy with this medium-long crew cut! It’s about an inch and half long on top and styled up in a faux hawk with a little lightweight mousse to keep it looking casual and not slicked. The back and sides are short enough to require little to no styling – just deal with the top and you’re off.
8. Medium Tapered Crew Cut
This one is a true classic that never goes out of style and looks great on every guy. The length on the crown, back, and sides is uniformly short with roughly ⅜” of length. The top is slightly longer – around an inch – and slightly longer in the front. Use a little gel to style the front upward like this for an easy, go-to look.
9. Short Crew Cut
This is about as short as a crew cut or brush cut gets, and that makes it the most simple to style and care for. If you want to skip styling and let your mane do what it pleases, this short length with tapered sides is ideal.
10. Mussed Long Crew Cut
On the opposite end of the crew cut length spectrum is the long crew cut with about 2 inches of length on top. This one’s for men who don’t mind working with their strands and using a little gel to mold it into different looks. Add a small amount of light hold gel to damp hair and use your fingers to roughly spike and lift it to achieve this style.
11. Classic Suave American Crew
Dapper, sophisticated, and suave, this version of the classic American crew haircut is a favorite. It’s got just enough length on top to make side-swept, clean-cut styles possible. The shorter length on the crown, back, and sides keeps it polished and easy to care for.
12. Short Brush Cut
With just enough length on top to brush it forward, this ultra-short brush cut takes on a look similar to the trendy French crop or Caesar cut. But it’s even easier to manage and style with the shorter length!
13. Medium-Long Side-Swept Crew
The extra length on top paired with a side-swept, lifted style gives this look a playful, casual touch. It’s cleanly tapered in length down the back and sides to keep the sides close and tight for the most jaw-accentuating power. All face shapes will look great in this version of the Ivy League crew cut.
14. Buzz Fade Crew Cut
Short enough to look like a buzz cut but tapered like a crew cut, this look is masculine and no-frills for easy styling (read: no styling necessary) and maintenance. The top is roughly ⅜” long with ¼” sides, so all you have to do is remember to wash it.
15. Up and Back Ivy League Crew Cut
This lifted style makes the crew cut look longer than it is by creating the illusion of height. With about 2 inches of length on top transitioning smoothly to ⅞” and ¾” on the back and sides, it’s long enough to try different styles but short enough to be easy to manage.
Tips and Things to Consider
What number is a crew cut? Generally speaking, the back and sides of a crew cut are no longer than a quarter-inch, or number four, often fading down to a one or two.
When it comes to the length on top, a traditional crew cut should be no longer than an inch, equating to the number eight attachment on your clippers. The crew cut is rumored to have been named after Ivy League rowers in the 1930s.
It differs from the buzz cut in that it includes fading on the back and sides while leaving more length on top. For a traditional crew cut, you would go with butch length or a 4 guard on top faded into shorter sides.
- Determine how short/long you want it. Crew cuts can be super short like a brush cut or longer like an Ivy League crew cut. Thinking about your willingness to style will help you decide how short or long to go. If you hate styling your hair, opt for a short or classic crew cut. At most, you’ll just need to brush your hair and apply a little gel for hold if needed. Longer Ivy League crew cuts are best if you like trying different looks (side part, side-swept, faux hawk, brushed over, brushed back or forward, messy, etc.).
- Know the different ways to cut it. You can get an American crew haircut a few different ways. You can try cutting your own hair at home with clippers (as long as you have a good set!) or visit a barber/stylist to get it cut with scissors, clippers, or a combination of these cutting tools using a comb underneath for length control.
- Lay out your clipper guards if DIYing. If you plan to cut your American crew haircut at home, you’ll want to determine the length you want and lay out the clipper guards you’ll need in order. For example, a classic crew cut may use a #8 guard on top (1 inch), followed by a #7 (⅞”), #6 (¾”), and #5 (⅝”) down the crown, back, and sides.
- Learn how to create a fade yourself. If you’re cutting your own hair with clippers and want to pair your crew cut with a fade, you’ll need to read up on the steps and learn how to create a seamless fade. You’ll not only need to use gradually shorter clipper guards, but also learn to work the clipper lever to get subtly longer or shorter lengths with each guard to transition. Here’s our quick guide on doing smooth fades: How to Do a Fade Haircut | Step-by-Step Guide.
- Get a trim 1-2 times per month. To keep your crew cut looking fresh and avoid the unkempt, grown-out look, you’ll need to get regular trims. For most men, that means you’ll need a trim every 2 weeks to 4 weeks, so once or twice a month. If you’re cutting your own hair at home, you can save a lot of money – and it’s worth it to invest in a great set of clippers.
The American crew haircut is one of those classic, timeless cuts that never goes out of style. If you want a polished look that’s masculine and easy to care for and style, you really can’t beat a trusty crew cut.
But that’s not all! By keeping your length short overall with tapered or faded length on the back and sides, your jawline and neck will look more sculpted and angular.
You’ll have less hair to manage and style in the morning and bad hair days will become a thing of the past. If you like that classic, clean-cut look and despise spending more than 5 minutes styling your hair, the crew cut is definitely the look for you.
And while other trendy men’s haircuts come in and out of style, you’ll be rocking a timeless look that outlasts them all and always puts your best face forward.