The Flat Top

The flat top is one of the basic barber haircuts. It is the foundation for many of today’s modern short haircuts. If you look at photographs from any period in American history  the flat top is a hairstyle that you will often see.Proficiency with the flat top will give you a good understanding of the principles behind a man’s haircut. You will gain an understanding of a square shaped haircut and the concept of leaving weight in the corners. You will also learn how to master the clipper over comb technique.

LEARNING OBJECTIVES
  • Understand the concept of putting a square shape haircut on a round object.
  • Understand how to have a consultation with the customer to determine exactly how they like their flattop.
  • Describe the correct order of steps to cut a flattop
  • Demonstrate the clipper over comb technique.
  • Demonstrate a flattop haircut.
  • Demonstrate a hot lather neck shave.
STEP BY STEP GUIDE
  1. Determine the desired length of flat top through client consultation. Would they like to see skin showing through on the side or not. Does the client like to have some length to work with on top or do they prefer more of a military style with skin showing through. The military style is sometimes referred to as the horseshoe flat top because looking at it from the top you can see skin in the middle and a ring of hair around the round of the head that resembles a horseshoe.
  2. Once determination is made begin with the desired length on the sides and back. Usually we start a haircut on the top but in this case unless there is too much hair to work with start with sides and back.
  3. Start on the right hand side and for this example we will be using the 3 ½  (3/8”) blade on the detachable blade clipper. Using the blade on skin technique run the clipper up the side of the head to the temple area. Take an imaginary line parallel to the head straight up from the round of the head until you run out of hair. This will avoid leaving a line that needs to be blended out. Make sure not to follow the contour of the head at the parietal area.
  4. Work the clipper around the head until you get to the back. Run the clipper up to the crown and round it off slightly. Even though this haircut is square in shape the back needs to be rounded off slightly for proper balance. You will have a better understanding after watching the video.
  5. After the back continue on around the opposite side as in step 3.
  6. Next, blend the sides and back to the top. Even though the top has not been cut yet the corners need the square look from a front and back view. It will be much easier to cut the top flat when there is less hair to work with. Use the clipper over comb technique and either a 1 or 1 ½ blade depending on the thickness of the hair. Use the shorter blade for thicker hair. Hold the comb parallel to the head and take an imaginary line straight up in the air until you run out of hair to cut.
  7. Move on to the semi-finish. Use the appropriate blade to start the 45 degree bevel on the outline. The appropriate blade will be determined by the blade used on the sides. Usually drop down about ¼ inch blade sizes before switching to the adjustable.
  8. Finish the taper with the adjustable clipper working down from the longest to shortest setting.
  9. Complete the finish with the t-trimmer using it correctly as demonstrated in tools of the trade lessons.
  10. After these steps are completed move on to the top. Depending on length, thickness, and growth pattern gel or wax may be needed. If so, work the necessary amount of product through the hair and dry the hair so all of it is standing straight up. You will find some hair types will stand up on its own and product will not be necessary.
  11. Using the large flat top comb and a clipper over comb technique with the 1 blade. Begin in the front and work towards the back unless the hair has a strong growth pattern from front to back. In this case you will have to start in the back and work forward. Keep the comb parallel with the floor and comb through the first section in the center.  Very small sections will be needed to avoid clipper marks or lines. Move the comb very slowly toward the back angling the comb slightly downward to meet the guide from the sides and back zone. (Use a 000 blade on the detachable clipper or the adjustable clipper in the closed position for a short military style flat top. The shorter the blade the sharper the cut. The longer the blade the softer the cut.)
  12. Move to either the right or left side of the center section and repeat the process. Make sure the center guide and previous guide are visible. This will help to keep the correct speed and sectioning with the comb. Take as many sections as necessary to meet the guide on the sides.
  13. Repeat the above step on opposite side.
  14. When rough cut is complete re-dry the hair with more product for the fine-tuning. Check from every angle in both the wall and hand mirrors.
  15. Touch up any areas that need it.
  16. The final step of the finishing area is the straight razor shave on sideburns, around the ears, and back of the neck. Apply shaving cream on the areas to be shaved. Start on the right sideburn and grip the side of the head with the palm of your hand. Place your thumb on the side burn and stretch the skin. Shave the bottom of sideburn using a free hand stroke. Next shave the right side of the neck below the ear with a freehand stroke. Move on to the hairline using the freehand stroke all the way across. Use your backhand stroke for the opposite portion of neck below the ear. Lastly use your backhand stoke again for the opposite sideburn. Wipe off excess shaving cream with a clean towel and apply aftershave.
REVIEW QUESTIONS
  1. What should be determined before you begin the flat top?
  2. What section should you begin the flat top on?
  3. What technique should be used to blend the sides and back section into the top section?
  4. What section should be cut next?
  5. Which clipper should be used to complete the finish?
  6. What blade or adjustable blade position is used for a flat top with a softer cut?
  7. What blade or adjustable blade position is used for a flat top with a sharper cut?
  8. What needs to be done when the rough cut is complete?
  9. What is the final step to complete the finish area?

AUTHOR’S COMMENTARY
The flat top is one of the hardest haircuts to do. You are putting a square shape on a round object and no two are alike. Cutting a perfectly blended and square flat top is something to be very proud of. It is something only a small percentage of people in this industry can do. It will definitely take some practice but it will be well worth it in the end.