25 Haircut Buzzwords to Know Before Seeing Your Stylist
Invisible layers. The clavicut. A hair dusting. Lobs and bobs and “bixie” cuts – oh my. The sheer number of haircut terms being thrown around these days could warrant its own addendum tab on Urban Dictionary. The only difference: these are real, commonly used buzzwords that can actually be quite helpful in explaining what you want to your hairstylist . . . so long as you’re in the know.
That’s why we’re getting back to the basics. Trends come and go, but the long and layered look is forever. (Or was that the short and textured? Ugh.) To make the entire journey easier on everyone, we’ve asked the industry’s top hairstylists for an extensive guide to all the classic haircut terms, including the names to a few new edgy styles as well as some of those insider techniques that can level-up your look. That way you can get the exact cut you’re after at your next salon salon appointment.
From the many different variations of the bob haircut to a comprehensive bang breakdown, study up on our A-Z guide of haircut buzzwords to bring to your next appointment – and step out happy with the results, every time. Because bad hair days? You don’t have to know them.
Bangs (aka Fringe)
Bangs can vary in style and length (blunt, curved, side-swept – more on that in a second), but generally the hair is cut from the outer corner of each eye and the ends just graze the edge of or right below the brows. Allow us to break down a few of the most common subcategories.
First popularized by burlesque dancer Bettie Page in the 1950s, this supershort fringe falls somewhere between the hairline and the brows. Another perk? This cut also looks especially flattering on rounder face shapes. “Soft, short bangs can actually open up the face and elongate it,” says Devin Toth, a hairstylist at NYC’s Salon SCK.
Looking for a more low-maintenance twist on the style? It doesn’t get more noncommittal than curtain bangs, which are split right down the middle and swept to each side. “A more modern twist would be to make the bangs a little shorter and textured in the center, so they can also be worn as a full textured fringe on days you want to change it up,” says Michael Bowman, a stylist at NYC’s Rob Peetoom salon. “This will also make it easier to grow out when the next trend hits.”
Blunt bangs are typically cut straight across from the outside corner of each eye. “You can also make [fringe] heavy or soft,” John Barrett stylist Dhiran Mistry explained. “You can make it softer by cutting more into it and using a smaller section, so it’s less hair falling in the face.”
Wispy, undone, and downright sexy – this is when you’re after a straight-from-bed bangs look. “You want it to feel light and fall naturally,” says Kathy Benghanem, a hairstylist at NYC’s Gemini 14. She adds that wispy bangs work best on someone who has at least a three-inch-long forehead, but it’s not a total dealbreaker if yours is a little shorter.
The bob has lived many lives – first in the 1920s as a symbol of rebellion for women, then on just about every celebrity since. The cut itself falls just under the chin, but there are many different iterations to explore, from A-line and blunt to asymmetrical and more, depending on what you’re after.
The A-line bob – also called the “graduated” or inverted bob, depending on how dramatically the cut follows the occipital bone in the back of the head to create a wedge shape – features hair that is longer in the front and shorter in the back, with a V-line that hits the nape of the neck. “This is softly layered as well for motion and movement,” says master hairstylist Warren Tricomi.
A slightly shorter take on the trend, the French bob haircut just skims your cheekbones, which also gives them a more pronounced look. It works on curly, straight, and wavy hair textures, and instantly gives your look a touch of attitude.
An asymmetrical bob is exactly as it sounds: the cut is slightly shorter on one side than the other. (Hey, don’t knock it till you’ve seen it on Beyonce.)
This is a bob where the hair is cut without layers, making the hair the same length from all angles. (It’s also been called a “broom” bob haircut, in that the bottom is cut bluntly across.) It works best on people with naturally straight hair. “If your hair is thinner and you get a blunt cut, it can make it look thicker if it’s one length,” Dhiran says. “But when someone with a blunt cut wants their hair curled or styled, it won’t last as long as someone who has layers because with layering there’s less weight in the ends.”
If you’ve been seeing the “bixie” cut – the combination of a bob and a pixie – everywhere, you’re not alone: the style has been everywhere. As for what it is? “It’s shorter than a bob, longer than a pixie, and with the hair off the neck and midface,” says April Peele, a hairstylist at Salon SCK in New York City.
“The bowl cut is the purest extension of a bang,” Toth says. “It’s easy, it’s fun, it’s bold, and it’s also celebrity driven. I think a lot of people will do it just because it looks so good on Charlize. Make it less extreme and more wispy and choppy, like Rihanna‘s red-color bowl cut from 2010. Even if you cut some texture into a bowl cut, it’s still super thick-looking, which is cool and really in right now.”
As so eloquently demonstrated by Florence Pugh at the Met Gala: buzz cuts can be damn cool (and are very on-trend right now, according to Larry Sims, celebrity hairstylist and co-founder of Flawless by Gabrielle Union). This is characterized by hair that’s been completely buzzed off, or left with at least an inch in hair length from the scalp.
The clavicut is an appellation for where the hair hits and is the best of both worlds: short enough to pass as a long bob but long enough to wear in a ponytail. “The clavicut is a collarbone-grazing style that [looks good on] all hair types and face shapes,” says Tricomi. “This style features back strands resting on the nape of your neck, with the face-framing strands dipping an extra inch or two until they kiss your collarbone – an edgy yet sophisticated hairstyle, all at the same time.”
Some call it a trim, others call it a hair dusting, but the biggest differentiator is that the latter takes off even less length. “Hair dusting is cutting a very small amount of hair,” says Leonardo Manetti, a master stylist at Rob Peetoom Salon Williamsburg. “It’s similar to a trim, except there is less hair that is cut.”
Animal-inspired haircuts have been everywhere of late (and we’ll get to another one further down on this list) but no style is as edgy as the “jellyfish” cut. This is defined as a half-short, half-long style that’s between a bowl cut and a mullet. The shape is meant to look exactly like the outline of a jellyfish, featuring two disconnected sections. The top portion sits on the outer layer of hair and looks similar to a bowl cut, typically ending around the middle of the ear, and mimics the bell-shaped body of a jellyfish. The bottom and second part of the cut is a longer inner layer that mimics the tentacles.
Layering is a cutting technique where the hair is cut into many different lengths. If you want something more subtle, hairstylists often add “invisible” layers to create the illusion of more volume for hair that is long and flat. It can also be used to remove bulkiness in thick, curly hair. Layers are a popular way to achieve the tousled, shaggy style.
The length of your layers depends on your face shape, hair type, and length. “If your hair is down to your chin and you want long layers, it’s going to be just an inch above the length,” says Dhiran. “Whereas if you had hair down to your stomach and you want long layers, even if it was layered up to your breasts, it’s still going to be considered long layers.”
The long bob hits just above the collarbone. “As it’s growing down the neck it’s still a bob, and then it gets to a certain point where it bounces off the shoulders in a weird flick,” Dhiran says. “As it gets past that, it will start settling again, and you’ll start entering midlength hair space.” That’s when you’ve reached lob territory.
With pixie cuts, hair should be cut around the hairline and fall just over the ears. “To make a woman’s short haircut feminine, you still have to have some length on the edges,” says Dhiran.
Typically it has short layers for a more tousled effect, but this is not always the case. (It’s best to ask your stylist which is best for your face shape.)
The updated version of a pixie is full of texture, says celebrity hairstylist Laurie Heaps. “It is a beautiful, roughed-up style with dimension and movement. For this cut, you want more length on the sides and back. This shagginess is created by having hair longer than a traditional pixie.”
Quite possibly the biggest trend to emerge in 2020, the shag haircut is a nod to the ’70s – but there are different variations. “The two popular shag styles are the ultra curly, ultra layered and then straight with long curtain bangs that sweep,” says Toth. “The curly shag is very round with a pure release of texture. It will be a seamless transition from bangs to short layers to long layers to bottom length. The straight shag can be styled however you want, but it generally has longer layers with the focus of the style being the bold curtain bangs – sweeping but not fully connected to the rest of the style.”
The “wolf cut” has taken social media by storm, essentially marrying two fan-favorite styles: the shag and the mullet. It combines the length and volume of a mullet with the choppy layers of a shag for an edgy but approachable look.
Originally a men’s haircut term, the undercut has its merits in women’s styling, too. The term refers to shaving the head along the sides or in the back, leaving the top of the hair long. Dhiran suggests using a slight undercut to reduce the amount of volume on thick hair. “There are things you can do that are more technical, and then there’s the more visual, which I feel like nowadays it’s more cosmetic and people do it to be seen.”