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Slicked Back Hair | 10 Styles We’re Obsessed With

Once upon a time, they called it the slick back pompadour, but now it’s just slicked-back hair. And, trust us, it’s never been more in style. Here’s an overview of what you need to know about this classic look.


What Is Slicked-Back Hair?

Image titled Style Guide Slicked Back Hair featuring a guy with such a style in a cutout image on a blue square background

The slick back is seeing a renaissance, but it’s been a touchstone with rebels for centuries. It goes as far back as Madame de Pompadour, a singer and actress in the 1740s and 1750s. Jump ahead, and you’ve got:

  • Elvis Presley
  • David Beckham
  • John Travolta
  • Rosie Huntington-Whiteley
  • Robert Palmer

For some of those celebrities, slicked-back hair was a veritable way of life, and the style is still as relevant as it ever was. Slicked back hair remains a style that necessitates a density in the hair.

Its look exudes a strong sense of balance and confidence. The look’s best for low to medium hair density. When the hair’s too thick, it can be difficult to slick back and hold the shape.

Slicked Back Hair Inspiration: 10 Styles We Love

You might have a thought in mind of what slicked-back hair looks like, but the style is likely to surprise you with its versatility. These ten inspiration images will give you a good idea of what looks you can pull off with slicked-back hair.

1. Modern Slicked Back Style

Guy with slicked back hair in a red hoodie holding a gaming controller up

Phoenixns/Shutterstock

This look embodies the modern interpretation of the slicked-back style. The sides are shorter than the hair on top to emphasize the look. He slicked the top back at the roots but texturized it to give it an updated pompadour style.

2. Matte Slicked-Back Hair

Matte Slicked-Back Hair on a guy in a plaid blue shirt

Just Dance/Shutterstock

This is a perfect slicked-back hairstyle to accentuate a casual look. A matte product makes the hair look natural even though it’s brushed straight back from the roots. The sides are extremely short, so the slicked-back style pulls your eye upwards.

3. Wet Slicked Back Look

Man with traditional slicked-back hair reminiscent of an 60s Mad Men hairstyle

WEExp/Shutterstock

While the previous two examples used wax and pomade with matte finishes, this approach embraces the wet finish of gel or oil-based products. You can see how the sides are longer with this look.

If you like the wet style, it works well for longer hair. When you comb back the sides as well as the top, you have more hair to spotlight with shine.

4. Short and Tight Slicked Back Style

Short and Tight Slicked Back Style

Everett Collection/Shutterstock

In the wet slicked-back look, you could get an idea of how long his hair was. This tight-slicked back style works great for shorter hair. You have to use more product to keep it flat, so you won’t get as much volume as the previous looks. But it looks sleek and professional.

5. Slicked-Back Hair With Undercut

Guy With Slicked-Back Hair With Undercut Getting shaved from a set of red electric clippers

Vikafoto33/Shutterstock

You don’t need to have shaved or buzzed sides to rock slicked-back hair, but it makes your style more noticeable. This inspiration features a pompadour on top, with wax providing plenty of volume and a matte finish. He shaved the sides and let it fade into a slightly longer buzzcut near the crown.

Read Next: Undercut Inspiration

6. Tousled Slicked-Back Hair

Tousled Slicked-Back Hair

Ben McGarry/Shutterstock

The slicked-back look works best with straight hair, but you don’t have to forfeit this style if you have naturally wavy hair. This inspiration shows how slicked-back wavy hair gives a casual tousled look.

7. Red Carpet Slicked Back With a Part

Red Carpet Slicked Back With a Part

Everett Collection/Shutterstock

If you love your current haircut but want to try out slicked-back, use this as your inspiration! Best of all, you won’t have to cut your hair or shave the sides to get a classic slicked-back style. This image shows you how to comb along your natural part and use products to hold your hair in place.

8. Women’s Center-Part Slicked Back Bun

Women's Center-Part Slicked Back Bun

Nataliya Turpitko/Shutterstock

Women can rock the slicked-back look, too! This inspiration also follows the natural part to create a relaxed appearance. A matte product keeps the hair looking clean, but it stays out of the face while being securely tucked into her elegant bun.

9. Women’s Slicked Back Ponytail

Women's Slicked Back Hair Pulled Into a Ponytail

Joaquin F. Ruiz/Shutterstock

A bun can look sleek and pulled together, but ponytails are also a great look for women. When you slick back long hair, you elevate your ponytail from a casual style to a sophisticated look.

10. Women’s Loose Slicked-Back Hair

Woman with slicked back hair in a blue tinted image

Olga Brik/Shutterstock

Just because you slick your hair back doesn’t mean you have to put it in a bun or ponytail. Use products to pull your hair off of your forehead but leave it loose and natural down your back for a unique look.

Things to Consider

As much as we’d love to recommend this look for everyone, it isn’t necessarily the best look for certain types. Here are a few things to consider before going slicked back.

Face Shape

Good news! The hairstyle works well with most face shapes. You may have to consider which style works best with your particular face. That’s a powwow to have with your stylist. But we’re sure a pro (or you!) can figure out how to make the style you prefer work.

Read Next: What Haircut Should I Get (Men)?

Hair Type

Here’s the catch: not all hairstyles work with all hair types. If hair’s exceptionally curly, wavy, or coiled, it can be tough to create that stabilized look. Unruly hair is hard to tame as well. Not that it’s impossible. But you have to put a lot more work into maintaining the style.

It also helps if your hair is longer. It doesn’t have to be long enough to pull into a ponytail, but it should be at least four inches long. This works better since you have more hair to comb back and keep in place with the product. Shorter hair might work its way free and stick up over time.

Products

Get your hand on products of high quality. A good pomade is essential. Go light for thin hair and firm for thick. Some experts recommend water-based pomade (as opposed to oil).

It’s easier to wash out. Hair wax can also help you get your ideal style with a matte finish and works especially well on shorter hair. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Caucasian male with hipster haircut on a guy with slicked back hair standing in front of a brick wall

Nemanja Glumac/Shutterstock

Now you have inspiration images for the best hairstyle, and you know what you need to make the look work for you. In case you have any lingering questions, these answers should tell you all you need to know.

How Do I Get My Hair Slicked Back?

Creating a slicked-back hairstyle is relatively easy. Start with clean, damp hair. Comb it and let it air dry slightly. Work the product into your hair and comb it straight back from your forehead. It will naturally stay in this style as it dries.

But you can reinforce it with hairspray. Over time, you can train your hair to stay slicked back. If you style it this way most days, it will get easier and easier to do until slicked-back hair is effortless for you.

Is the Slicked Back Look Bad for Your Hair?

Yes and no. It depends on how you care for your hair. If you keep it clean, don’t sleep with firm products in your hair, and deep condition it periodically, your hair will be fine. Even if you slick it back every day and train it to stay in this style, you’re not damaging your hair.

Use high-quality products that don’t weigh down or strain your hair follicles. It’s also best to use a wide-tooth comb. Fine-tooth combs pull at your hair more and will cause damage.

You can prevent damage by combing your hair along your natural part as much as possible. Find your part by letting your hair dry naturally and see how it falls. Many people have a center part but left, and right parts are also common.

If you follow the part when you slick back your hair, you’re pulling less on the roots and preventing breakage. As they age, men naturally lose their hair. The style you wear usually doesn’t affect this.

However, if you have long hair and constantly pull it back in a tight ponytail or bun, you could break it off near the roots. This is traction alopecia and can lead to bald patches where your hair is under strain as well as a receding hairline.

Read Next: Best Products for Hair Loss

What Products Are Best for Slicked-Back Hair?

There are many great hair care products on the market for men, and all of these work great in slicked-back hair. Some have different effects if you use them on damp hair compared to dry hair, so you can try them in various ways to see what works best for you.

A paste can hold your slicked-back style without a wet look or leaving comb tracks in your hair. Clay holds hair in place to the extent that it hardly moves. When used on dry hair, it gives great texture and volume.

Wax is effective at slicking back shorter hair. It doesn’t distribute well in longer hair, so don’t use it if your hair is longer than six inches. When you apply it, put it on the roots so it will keep your hair slicked back more easily.

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Pomade will keep your style in place, but it adds a lot of shine. It’s typically used on slicked-back hairstyles for men because it works best on shorter hair. How damp your hair is when you apply pomade will impact how shiny the final look is.

You’ll want to use hairspray to ensure your style stays in place for hours, whether you’re at work all day or out on the town all night. You can choose from hairsprays with matte or shiny finishes, depending on your preferred look.

There are also hairsprays with extra-strength hold, guaranteed to keep your style in place for 24 hours. To apply hairspray properly, hold the bottle about eight inches away from your hair.

Spray a light coating evenly all over your hair. Don’t apply too much, or the hairspray won’t dry correctly. If you hold the can far enough away, the product will dry quickly so you can get on with your day.

Is Pomade Better Than Gel?

Yes. It’s possible to use gel and not have that overly-done look from the ’90s, but it usually leaves comb tracks in your hair. It’s also pretty heavy, so it’s better to use gel on the sides of your hair.

This will tame any stray flyaways and give you an overall polished style without the greasy look. Use a pomade on top of your hair to get the classiest slicked-back look. This product is light enough where it won’t weigh down your hair.

You’ll get plenty of volume if you want it, and your hair will look clean all day long. You don’t have to use a gel at all, though. You can use pomade on the sides and top of your hair, so don’t feel the need to stock up on extra products.

How Can I Train My Hair to Slick Back?

The more you style your hair into a slicked-back look, the easier it will be. But there are also things you can do to train your hair to naturally fall into this style. As you’re combing back your damp hair, use a blow dryer to get the roots to dry in this slicked back position.

This helps you use less product to keep the style in place, also. Whenever you’re hanging out around the house or exercising, you can wear a headband to keep your hair slicked back.

Stretchy headbands are so soft and comfortable that you’ll forget you’re wearing them. In the meantime, it will keep your hair pulled back in your preferred style.

Hats can also train your hair to stay slicked back. They work like headbands to keep your hair combed back and firmly in place. Even after you take off the hat, you’ll notice that your hair stays in place.

Is Slicked-Back Hair for You?

Society has always linked slicked-back hair with sophisticated and cool. If you have the right kind of hair, the fortitude to give it the TLC it needs, and want a look that works both professionally, casually, formally, and stylishly, the slicked-back hair is a look that works.

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