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Seven Ways To Do The Hairstyle Of The Moment

The MR PORTER staff offer themselves up for a short back and sides haircut from session stylist Mr Tyler Johnston

From Mr Gregory Peck to Mr David Beckham, the short back and sides haircut has had a starring role in every decade over the past 50 years. It’s the simplicity and versatility that has seen it stand the test of time. But, as with any classic, there are new twists that can bring it up to date.

“Its popularity is down to how low-maintenance it is,” explains session stylist Mr Tyler Johnston, who has been maintaining the manes of London’s most stylish men (including Messrs Beckham and Liam Gallagher) for the past 15 years.

“If you have a great technical haircut like this, you’ll be able to wash it, dry it and style it with minimal time and effort,” Mr Johnston says.

Looking around the MR PORTER offices, nearly 80 per cent of the male staff have opted for the short, back and sides in some form or other this season. But look a little closer and you notice all sorts of variations of the theme going on, from blends to beards. “It’s a flattering haircut on anyone – you can play around with it to suit your face shape.” With that in mind, we challenged Mr Johnston to tidy up the cuts of seven of MR PORTER’s staff, taking hair type and face shape into account.


Mr Lyndan Linnebank, Lead Communications Project Manager 

Mr Tyler Johnston: “A clean, close cut works best for an angular or squarer face shape. When you’ve got good bone structure, like Lyndan, you want to go as tight as you can on the sides to emphasise it, starting the blend from higher up on the head, so it can taper into a much shorter length around the ears. Straightening and tidying the hairline around the temple and forehead always frames the face nicely and will help strengthen a strong jawline. A general barbering rule, when cutting the back of the hair, is to never start the fade higher than the occipital bone [the lower plate on the back of the skull], so it’s taken it quite low here. It makes it look less like a buzz cut and more like a modern spin on an old-school classic.”

Styling tip: “Work a bit of clay pomade into the top of the hair, as it gives it hold and texture while adding volume.”


Mr Scott Oliver, Assistant Buyer

Mr Johnston: “Scott’s been getting a short back and sides for as long as he can remember, as he knows it’ll keep his unruly curls at bay. As he has an oval-shaped face, he can afford to go very short on the sides. His graduation was already there, but I took it down even more so it was a complete blend from long to short. I free-handed the top section – using scissors and a comb – to work with his hair’s natural texture and reduce some of the weight and length so it’s easier to manage on a day-to-day basis. Taking the graduation quite low on the back and layering it until it reaches the hairline gives it a natural finish.”

Styling tip: “A texturizing spray will add definition to loose curls, but also keep them tame.”


Mr Andrew Cottington, Senior Website Marketing Executive 

Mr Johnston: “Andrew’s hair is quite fine and can get weighed down when it’s longer, which is why I’ve taken length off the top and added in texture – it’s an easy quick fix if you want added height and volume. He’s got a rounder face shape, so the key is to elongate it and not add width. A short back and sides with a quiff helps to achieve this – I’ve taken it in very tight around the sides, starting the graduation quite high so I can really taper the silhouette.”

Styling tip: “A strong wax helps bulk up limp hair. Don’t apply too much though or it will clump together too easily.”

With a quiff

Mr Steven Sion, Digital Designer 

Mr Johnston: “Oval face shapes, such as Steven’s, are evenly balanced, so can pretty much pull off any cut. He prefers having a little more length on top, which means I didn’t go too short on the sides as you want the graduation and fade to be quite natural. If I went any shorter it would have looked more like an overhang – a hipster trademark we wanted to avoid. I blended into his hairline at the back to give it a polished finish. Pulling the hair off the face accentuates bone structure, too, which is never a bad thing.”

Styling tip: “Gel’s making a comeback and Steven had the perfect hair length to pull it off. Apply a pea-sized amount to damp hair and it’ll harden naturally.”


Mr Conor Ayres, PR Assistant 

Mr Johnston: “I kept things military-level precise with Conor as he’s got a square jawline and the face shape to carry off a more severe take on this cut. Taking a lot of length off the top means I could go down to a grade two and then, eventually, a one around the sides and back of the neck. This opened up his face and made his features a lot more prominent. I achieved the whole thing with scissors to make it look more natural and less aggressive. Clippers might have taken this into GI-Joe territory, which we wanted to avoid.”

Styling tip: “For shorter styles, use a matte product to add texture and reduce shine.”


Mr Valentin Hennequin, Designer

Mr Johnston: “I had to be careful with Val as he’s got a slim face and a short beard. If I went too short on the sides, and kept too much length on the top, it would have elongated his face. The trick was to balance it out with a basic layered haircut – using scissor and comb to gradually shorten the length from the temple down, while retaining the length on the top. Cutting it to a squarer silhouette balanced all of his features out. Out of all the guys, this cut is closest to the 1950s classic, but the right styling products and bed-hair texture gives it a contemporary edge.”

Styling tip: Warm a bit of wax in the palm of your hand and distribute evenly all over. Work into the roots to add texture.”


Mr Daniel Guttmann, Grooming Buyer 

Mr Johnston: “Daniel has really thick, strong hair, so it was important to break up the texture and reduce the weight to make it easier to work with. I chopped into the top and back so that I could blend it into a shorter length. Proportion is key to this cut and you’ve got to think about how it’ll look a few weeks into regrowth. As Daniel’s hair was already quite short, I didn’t take it too tight on the sides as it would grow top-heavy. Bowl cuts are a thing of the past – let’s not bring them back.”

Styling tip: “For thick hair, it’s best to use a dry, mattifying product or texturizing spray to create definition and control.”

Hair essentials

  • Oribe Signature Shampoo, 250ml

  • Oribe Signature Conditioner, 200ml

  • Bumble and bumble Sumotech, 50ml

  • Buly 1803 Tortoiseshell Acetate Pocket Comb

  • Malin + Goetz Intensive Hair Conditioner, 118ml

  • SACHAJUAN Ocean Mist Texturizing Spray, 150ml