Should I get an undercut?
February 8, 2018 10:50 AM   Subscribe

I'm a lady with a long bob and I am considering getting an undercut in the back or on the side.

I work in a fairly conservative office (although we are "smart casual" so it's not like we're all in suits). I am in my early 30s and I dress pretty boringly. For the past few years I have wanted an undercut and had a million ideas for tattoos - I guess I finally hit a rebellious phase.

My office is not a concern - my position is secure enough that my "fit" is not in question, even if I become some kind of mild punk.

I have kind of a round face - maybe if Denise Crosby had less fine features? I don't have a useful celebrity doppelganger.

Mainly I think I want someone to talk me into an undercut. Or if you have a growing it out or maintenance horror story, that would be relevant. I have had a boring haircut for a long time (made more boring by the fact that I used to have rather wild curls and medication changes swung the pendulum to occasionally wavy, if that).

Advise me, please!
posted by Emmy Rae to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (27 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I have a friend who went from a long bob to a side undercut. She loves it! She has a round face with plump cheeks, and it suits her. Another friend with hair to below her shoulders got an undercut in the back, so when her hair's down, you don't really see it. She did say growing it out is challenging, because it means she constantly has to wear her hair down, or it looks weird.

I watched a coworker with almost a fauxhawk grow her hair out over the course of a year. She had her head shaved on both sides. She cut her long hair shorter so it turned into something that looked like a pixie cut, and then trimmed her sides occasionally so it wouldn't look too wild. She'd also slick it down with hair product so it wouldn't look too wild at work.

Maintenance is pretty intense, so I'd think if you were only going to sport an undercut for a short time, you might decide the maintenance period wouldn't be worth it.
posted by Everydayville at 11:02 AM on February 8, 2018 [1 favorite]

I am a guy with uniformly short hair, but everyone I know who has gotten an undercut, across the gender spectrum, liked it and maintained it for a long time and/or to the present day.

Do it!
posted by papayaninja at 11:02 AM on February 8, 2018

Undercut bobs are awesome! I have a chin-length bob, and I have a side undercut. I think that if you look good in a bob, you will continue to look good with an undercut. I really like having an undercut, for the following reasons:
-if I keep hair untucked, it looks pretty conservative
-if I tuck it back behind my ears, or use some product to style it back, it looks bad-ass
-it's faster to blow-dry in the morning
-it's easy to maintain a side under-cut with some beard trimmers

I have not tried to grow it out yet (because I love it), but I think it would mostly be hidden by the regular hair during the awkward growing-out period.
posted by frau_grubach at 11:05 AM on February 8, 2018

I have an undercut in the back and I love it! When my hair's down it's invisible. I got it done by a hair stylist the first time and I have been trimming it myself with my husband's beard trimmer - I put a headband around my head right at the hairline I want and shave right up to it. My hair is hot and heavy, and having a bare neck feels sooo good! I also kind of love the feeling of control that trimming it myself gives me.
posted by beandip at 11:11 AM on February 8, 2018

I also have an undercut/side shaved bob (which I am growing longer)--I love it! It makes my hair a lot more manageable, and it is pretty easy to hide at work depending on where I part my hair, but also I can wear it in more interesting ways when I go out. I have a round fat face and I think it looks ok! I get it trimmed every 4-5 weeks. I seriously love it so much and think you should go get one immediately!
posted by leesh at 11:11 AM on February 8, 2018

I have a long bob and had an undercut (in the back) last summer. I loved how cool my neck felt in the summer, plus my updos looked extra cool.

I decided to grow it out in the fall (I got tired of the punk-y aesthetic and the maintenance) and am still months -- maybe even a year -- away from being able to wear my hair up again without those stupid short hairs poking out. I love a good topknot but it looks incredibly stupid on me right now, so I'm limited to half-updos and messy nape-of-neck updos.

For me, the benefits were not worth the growing-out pains, and I wish I hadn't gotten it in the first place. But if you're planning to keep it around for longer, or if you don't care much about updos, you might feel differently.
posted by schroedingersgirl at 11:15 AM on February 8, 2018 [1 favorite]

I have long hair, and got an undercut last summer. I am not fashionable at all, I just got it for comfort and convenience (I have a lot of thick heavy hair that gets frizzy in the summer, and I spend a lot of time running / exercising in the heat). It's been a lifesaver for me! I love that when I wear my hair down, no one can tell I have it - but I also like the way it looks when my hair is up.

I've maintained it between haircuts using my husband's clippers, which has been very easy. It significantly cuts down on the time I spend washing and drying my hair. And it make summer soooo much more comfortable without sweaty hair stuck to the back of my neck.

I expect that I would be frustrated if I ever chose to grow it out. However, I have no plans to grow it at this point, since it makes my life easier. I'm getting towards middle age (almost 40), so I figure I'll just maintain it until the point that I decide to cut the rest of my hairs shorter anyway.
posted by barnoley at 11:21 AM on February 8, 2018

I had an undercut bob for awhile. It made day to day hair care a lot easier. Much easier and faster to make my hair into some kind shape that made sense daily. And like everyone said it was totally invisible. My aunts and cousins took delight in my new "magic trick" of lifting up my hair. And it was easy to maintain with a short monthly hair salon visit. I wound up growing it out because my commute changed and I didn't have a convenient hair salon anymore. So now the sides especially are looking pretty awkward so I can't wear my hair up at all. But if I felt like getting to a salon I'd do it all again.
posted by bleep at 11:44 AM on February 8, 2018

I'm in my early 30s and have been rocking shaved sides for the last three years. I usually wear my hair down at the office, so most people haven't noticed. Even when I put it up, it's only really obvious when I've just had it shaved (I use a 1/2 guard). My hair grows FAST, but it's still not very difficult to maintain. When I had a baby and wasn't able to get in to the hairdresser for several months, it grew a little haphazardly, but I think it wouldn't be too difficult to grow out - much easier than a pixie. For me, taking a lot of the weight off helped my curls become less of a wavy mess and more defined, so it may even help you get some texture back.
posted by galvanized unicorn at 11:51 AM on February 8, 2018

For the past few years I have wanted an undercut

Follow your dreams!! Hair is at this really fun intersection of somehow both viscerally thrilling to change dramatically and of no real practical consequence. But as far as reassurance goes, I can't think of anyone who's finally made an appearance change they had mind for that long and not loved it.
posted by Gymnopedist at 12:02 PM on February 8, 2018 [7 favorites]

Yes, you should get an undercut.
posted by freezer cake at 12:47 PM on February 8, 2018

I got talked into a "kind of undercut" in January and it's really unpleasant when I try to do a pony tail- I used to have a pixie cut years ago and I think that this is even more annoying to grow out. I have nothing to really anchor a pony tail even though I have tons of hair. And my hair gets bristly at the nape of my neck. I need to wash it every day for it to look okay- and that was the opposite of the "low maintenance, I have 2 toddlers and no time" request to the stylist... so there is my growing it out horror story.
posted by catspajammies at 12:54 PM on February 8, 2018 [2 favorites]

Do it. Hair grows back. Growing back an undercut is significantly less annoying than growing out a completely shaved head since you'll still have hair to cover up the area.
posted by joan_holloway at 1:03 PM on February 8, 2018

I have an undercut with a very short chin length bob that is shorter in the back (instagram in my profile). It's only visible from the back or if I put it up. It's the only way I can manage my hair. It looks like I have a LOT of hair, and I do. Even though at least half of it is shaved off. I literally couldn't have short hair without an undercut. It has changed my hair-life.

Depending on how long your hair will be, it may not even be seen. I cut my hair myself and it's easy to buzz.

Do it. It's hair. It grows back. It's likely easy to "hide" if you want to grow it back too.
posted by Crystalinne at 1:19 PM on February 8, 2018

I had an undercut with a very short bob and one "growing out" phase of it was my favorite hairstyle ever. I do not think it's really a "racy" choice anymore which I say only to encourage you not to discourage you. You can do this and look nice doing it!
posted by jessamyn at 1:31 PM on February 8, 2018

I have an undercut on the sides and back, so there's no hiding it, and the rest of the length is like a bob. It's very freeing and (thermally) cool, and I really like how it looks. I haven't grown it out yet, but one nice thing about it is that I can just get a cheap, fast neck trim between actual haircuts. Maintenance is simple.

That said, I live in California and am in higher education--I have colleagues with tattoos, piercings, whatever. And yet one still felt obligated to make a puzzled remark about the "lesbian vibe" of my haircut. (I said "thank you." And no, she wasn't flirting!) I feel like 70% of the women I know outside of work (not to mention a bunch of nonbinary friends) have undercuts of on kind or another, so it was kind of funny to me that she felt it was worth commenting on.

In conclusion, do it!
posted by wintersweet at 1:59 PM on February 8, 2018

I have one and yes, everything barloney says.
My undercut is triangle shaped like this, which I think makes it easier to do a ponytail or hide with a low messy bun.

I did it on a whim and it does not (alas) have the sunflower pattern. Maybe next time!

My only complaint is that the short bits are a bit itchy under my bike helmet. YMMV.
posted by jrobin276 at 2:23 PM on February 8, 2018 [1 favorite]

Do it! I've had an undercut in some form or another for about 7 years. Currently on one side and back. It's practical for both summer and winter. Summer because it cools your neck, winter because you can wear a scarf without it frizzing your baby hairs.
posted by FirstMateKate at 2:35 PM on February 8, 2018

I already had a haircut scheduled for Monday, so I'll post a picture of whatever I decide to do then. I'm thinking back for sure, maybe back and side?

There are a bunch of little hair shops in my neighborhood so that is convenient.

Thanks for all the input! I will read any new comments that come in too.
posted by Emmy Rae at 2:45 PM on February 8, 2018

I am cheering for you! Better to try something than be unhappy with what you’ve got. Your thirties are a perfect time to bust out of boring stuff (hell, I got a mohawk at 40). Go to someone you trust or a salon with a good reputation. Your stylist will probably be excited for you, too! Be honest if you don’t like the way it looks and they can fix it before you leave.

Maintenance depends on the texture and thickness of your hair. Some fancy places will do a free neck trim in between appointments.

If you decide to grow it back it can be done. There are a lot of transitional styles.
posted by mrcrow at 2:59 PM on February 8, 2018

I had an undercut in the 90s (the rest of my hair was waist length) and that hair grew back in extremely curly. It's probably because when I got the undercut I was a normal teenager but when I let it grow back in I had gone through premature menopause. Hormones can change hair texture.
posted by xyzzy at 3:41 PM on February 8, 2018

My default answer is "why not?", but in your case, there don't actually seem to be any drawbacks at all. So yeah, definitely go for it. You'll regret it if you don't.
posted by kevinbelt at 3:45 PM on February 8, 2018

Realistically, it will about double your chances of being read as a lesbian by strangers. If you don't care about that (and there's no particular reason why you should, but I guess if you were (a) heterosexual and (b) hitting the dating scene hard, it might be counterproductive), go for it. If you don't like it, it'll grow back quickly enough.
posted by praemunire at 9:31 PM on February 8, 2018

I had an undercut for a while. Growing it out is a pain, but not much worse than growing out bangs. I would say don't get the sides done, at least not yet. Just the back will be easier to cover at work (a secret rebellion!) and if/when you decide to grow it out.

Growing it out does take a long time and it might be easier to do if you have shorter hair. If you're open to cutting your bob a bit shorter in the future so there's not such a discrepancy in length then you'll have an easier time.

My favourite style of undercut looks like a triangle.
posted by kinddieserzeit at 12:47 AM on February 9, 2018

Had a friend cut a triangle undercut on me on a whim in September. I felt immediately, transformatively freed of some attachment to traditional long-hair femme beauty that I didn’t even realize I was carrying as a 29-year-old West Coaster. A weight lifted. Bonus: my partner’s surprise; felt like he was looking at me with new eyes.

Growing it out has been NBD. Maybe it looks silly when I put my hair up but...I don’t care? Sometimes people notice and say “Are you growing out your undercut?” And...that’s it.
posted by amaire at 8:04 AM on February 9, 2018

I have an undercut bob (and a round face) - triangle at the back, and sides are from about the height of the top of my ears. I really love being able to have a bob and also being able to get my hair off my face and neck when exercising. When it's tied back, it's definitely a more butch and less put-together look on me, which is fine. I have a ton of dead straight hair, and this has made the bob even easier to take care of.

The only downside is that it looks a bit crap when it's half-back, just because it distributes the weight of my hair strangely. I tend to leave the shaving to my stylist who does my roots every 4-5 weeks anyway, though my partner has buzzed it (under mild duress) sometimes too.
posted by carbide at 6:44 AM on February 10, 2018

I decided to start with the bottom and work my way to the side when it is warmer out maybe. My stylist always has her hair dyed all crazy, tons of tattoos, very cool lady, and when I told her I wanted an undercut she said her assumptions about me were all wrong. I think she is going to start suggesting more interesting hairstyles.

Turns out it is really hard to get a good picture of the back of your head - here is my best result. [instagram link]

Thanks for all the advice!
posted by Emmy Rae at 6:57 PM on February 12, 2018 [1 favorite]

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