The Most Stylish Haircuts In Cinema History
Mr George Hamilton in Act One (1963). Photograph by akg-images
Five of the most iconic barbershop scenes on film.
No grooming ritual can match the illustrious on-screen history of the haircut. Nail clipping, for example, doesn’t quite have the same cinematic clout. There’s something about the mix of razor blades, barbershops and idle conversation that has produced a spate of legendary scenes, from Mr Clint Eastwood shooting some bad guys from under his apron in High Plains Drifter and Mr Johnny Depp sending clients to their doom in Sweeney Todd to Mr Eddie Murphy snipping the hair of, er, Mr Eddie Murphy in Coming To America. But none of those films matches the intoxicating blend of elegance and style that the following five do, in some of the most iconic barbershop scenes to have splashed their aftershave on the silver screen.
Mr Robert Redford in The Sting (1973)
Photograph by Universal Pictures/akg-images
The Sting is one of those movies where you could pick any frame at random and find an image worthy of a glossy men’s style magazine. The barbershop scene, which was shot at a real-life barbershop in an elegant Chicago train station, is notable for something beyond Mr Robert Redford getting his golden locks trimmed. He gets a manicure, too – part of his prep for assuming his role in the film’s great con.
The hairstyle: the mop top
Mr Jack Nicholson in Chinatown (1974)
Photograph by Paramount/Collection Christophel/ArenaPAL
If you can count on your barber for one thing, make it your hair. Obviously. But if you can count on your barber for a second thing, make it hilarious, if sometimes inappropriate, dirty jokes, such as the one told to Jake Gittes (Mr Jack Nicholson), which he unwittingly repeats in his office in front of a key client. No scene is wasted in this film, and seeing Mr Nicholson’s private detective visit his barber shows the care he takes of his visage, which, ironically, meets a brutal fate later on at the hands of a tough guy played with casual sadism by the film’s director, Mr Roman Polanski.
The hairstyle: shave and a punchline, two bits
Mr Elvis Presley in Jailhouse Rock (1957)
Photograph by Topfoto
In the early days of rock ‘n’ roll, pop stars weren’t meant to just sing and dance. They had to act on screen, too. Given the circumstances, Mr Elvis Presley exceeds expectations as the popular, if banged up, rock ’n’ roll singer Vince Everett. (Any resemblance to Mr Presley is purely coincidental.) He also manages to receive the most generous buzz cut in the history of the penal system, one that miraculously leaves his famous pompadour intact. In a case of life imitating art, Mr Presley’s iconic real-life haircut came a cropper a couple years later, when he got buzzed upon joining the US Army.
The hairstyle: the most famous pompadour since Madame de Pompadour herself
Mr Billy Bob Thornton in The Man Who Wasn't There (2001)
Photograph by USA Films/Photofest
You can get more at a barbershop than a shave and a haircut. You can also find real inspiration, even if the shop itself is fake. So it went for Messrs Joel and Ethan Coen, who came up with the idea for this movie on the set of The Hudsucker Proxy, where a vintage poster of old-school hairstyles got them wondering about the barber behind the cuts. Their creation, Ed Crane, played masterfully by Mr Billy Bob Thornton, is a troubled soul. Sample monologue: “An undertaker had told me once that your hair keeps growing, for a while anyway, after you die, and then it stops. I thought, what keeps it growing? Is it like a plant in soil? What goes out of the soil? The soul? And when does the hair realise that it’s gone?” It makes for one darkly comic, existentialist tone poem of a film, all shot beautifully by newly minted Oscar winner Mr Roger Deakins.
The hairstyle: take your pick. Per the opening monologue, Mr Thornton’s shop offers kids “the Butch, or the Heinie, the Flat Top, the Ivy, the Crew, the Vanguard, the Junior Contour and, occasionally, the Executive Contour. Adults get variations on the same, along with the Duck Butt, the Timberline and something we call the Alpine Rope Toss”
Mr George Hamilton in Act One (1963)
Photograph by akg-images
Mr George Hamilton is underrated as a man of style, due, perhaps in part, to his mid-career turn to making a joke of his own handsomeness. But he always had impeccable panache, and his performance here as legendary playwright Mr Moss Hart was one in an early string of reputation-defining roles. His barbershop scene here includes something that might have shocked the audience in 1963, never mind the crowd in the 1920s and 1930s when the film is set: a man receiving a pedicure. For what it’s worth, Mr Hamilton’s assessment of this film reveals him to possess that oft-overlooked element of style: integrity. “Dore Schary [the screenwriter and director] de-ethnicised the entire production and took out the brilliance for good measure,” he said later.
The hairstyle: the oil slick