It started out with a hint of the extreme, with overtones of an attitude that said “I play a six string” and the Devil may care. But like so many things, the return of the quiff to popularity has eventually seen it evolve into something more refined. Scrap that. Refined is totally the wrong word. The style of quiff may have changed but this is still an attitude-infused hairstyle, it just happens to be a very different attitude. One where the six string doesn’t matter, the Devil doesn’t get a show in, and the look sits somewhere between the moody and the broody. Think James Dean and a desire to get laid and you’re on the right track.

So in 2012 the quiff deviated from something solely early-rock to include a variation that is a whole lot less Gene Vincent and a whole lot more Elvis. Yes, Elvis was probably of your parents’ generation, but a combination of hair and hip thrusting made him stand out and, as it stands as a men’s hairstyle in 2013, that’s precisely what the quiff is about: standing out with the hope of hip thrusting.

After the break we’ll take you through the two interpretations of the quiff made big in 2012, giving plenty of pictures, how tos and hints for the fashioniser who wants to make this hairstyle his own. You can read on for that – but if you’d like to keep up to date with our forthcoming 2013 trend guides, be sure to subscribe to Fashionising.com’s newsletter or RSS feed.

mens quiff

Where it’s come from.
And who it’s for.

One of the key things to know about any men’s hair trend is that each of them work best for a particular style be it a style of clothing or the way in which a guy carries himself. As the slick, parted style is perfect for those with ambitions of living a Don Draper life – mistresses and adulation in tow – so too does the quiff work best for those with a particular mindset and taste.

The revival of the quiff as a men’s hairstyle a few years back had its roots in the rebirth of all things mid-20th Century Americana. With the saturation of the appeal of Ralph Lauren cross-Atlantic prep look international appeal those into Americana began to look for something different, something less polished, something with rugged overtones, something that said alpha male and not prim male. What they turned to was an American look that continues to see hiking boots hit the pavement (or sidewalk if you’re so inclined), Levi’s the denim of choice and canvas backpacks carried with such fervour that you’d swear a massive chunk of the male population had decided to go camping for the new few years. Like so many men’s styles, though, it’s been rapidly appropriated. Like Ralph Lauren borrowed from the polo playing set on both sides of the Atlantic, so too have other designers and labels taken inspiration from this new rugged Americana set with the likes of Dolce & Gabbana and Tom Ford (by way of Jon Kortajarena in A Single Man) propelling it into the mainstream. And the quiff? It’s come along for the ride and become the hairstyle of choice to complete any look that has mid-20th Century, American influences.

What does that all add up to? The quiff being a hairstyle for those who don’t want to indulge in the strict conservatism of a slicked part, who want a hairstyle that requires confidence, and who, all the while, want something with classic overtones.

The quiff style in 2013.

The latest interpretation we’ve dedicated a tutorial guide to: sported by Alex Turner and spotted on the 3.1 Phillip Lim runway, it’s a modern take on the Elvis.

arctic monkeys

men: the modern take on elvis hair you can rock right now

Men: the modern take on Elvis hair you can rock right now

The Arctic Monkeys' Alex Turner is the poster boy for the style in 2013: the modern take on the Elvis quiff that's a little more gritty and messy than it was in the past. Here, we take you through the steps on how to create this modern men's greaser style for yourself.

The quiff style in 2012.
One quiff, two styles.

We’ve seen it cut mid-length, we’ve seen it cut long, but for all the variations on a theme the quiff boils down to only two distinct looks in 2012: the slick quiff and the rock quiff.

The slick quiff is the quiff for the year and it’s defined by one, dominant attribute: it’s for straight hair. Or it’s at least for those guys who know their way around a blow dryer or a set of GHD irons in order to make their hair straight.

The rock quiff will prove to be the rarity of the two styles. It’s for those guys daydreaming of living a post-Elvis rock star life or embracing an untamed biker boy look. With its just-out-of-bed appeal it’s still a striking look, and we list it as the rarer of the two hairstyles for one good reason: it’s the more extreme of the two. And whenever it comes to the extreme in menswear, you’re guaranteed a rarity. That’s why you’ll continue to see the rock quiff on the likes of song-man Alex Turner and in editorials aplenty, but with far less gusto on the street.

The slick quiff in fashion.
The groomed, the young and the polished.

While keeping abreast of the previous two seasons of menswear at Dolce and Gabbana, we were consumed by their love of a slick quiff with 50s overtones.

straight hair mens quiff
Slick quiff at Dolce & Gabbana F/W 2011

As pictured above, you’ll find it featured in the Italian fashion house’s autumn / fall 2011 look book, where the hair’s length and styling dominated the look.

Get the look:

The key to the styling here is that the hair’s texture has been kept waxy, with plenty of thickening mousse worked with fingers into the roots of the hair. The hair is bent backwards but in an upward direction.

You’ll find more “how to” information below.

If you’re after a take on the quiff with a young Hollywood appeal, then the styling in Blanco men’s autumn / winter 2011 look book should serve your muse. In short, it’s the quiff without the polish. Incredibly vertical, it has a very rough, undone feel to it, one that is textured with emphasis given to the front-part of the head, but it still looks effortless.

young rock quiff
Textured quiff from Blanco F/W 2011

Louis Vuitton gave a sophisticated edge to the quiff on their spring / summer 2012 runway, with a toned down take on the quiff that match the brand’s tailoring without playing to any of the Mad Men themeing that continues to impact upon men’s fashion. With their trimmed, obedient strands held back with sea salt spray and anti-frizz mousse, these boys are strictly on the job. The point of difference is in the directional styling of this look – it’s an important distinction that none of the lads have a vertically erect quiff. It has been steered to the side to create an illusion of tidiness and accuracy. Consider the quiff for a non-chalant day.

side part quiff
Side quiff on the runway at Louis Vuitton, S/S 2012

The other quiff.

The above examples only highlight one half of the quiff hairstyle: the slick quiff. If it’s a little too slick for your tastes or you have the confidence to rock it, then the rock quiff may also be for you. If it is, then be sure to take a look at our rock quiff guide.

If the quiff is for you but you’re unsure as to which interpretation is best, worry not as there are many factors which will influence your decision; be it the hair cut, the texture of your hair or the final styling. We’ll help you through each of these further in the guide. But for now remember this: the only way to wear either interpretation of the quiff is to avoid a wax-laden hairdo, one that emits a wannabe-stud vibe. The quiff is all about attitude, and you don’t want yours to come across as you’ve tried too hard.

The quiff out of the look books,
and off of the runways

The difference between a rock quiff and a slick quiff is essentially in the way it’s styled. Irrespective of the final look you’re aiming to interpret however, the ground level of the two cuts is somewhat the same.

The quiff: how to

To help you get a grasp of both the slick quiff and the rock quiff we asked many a question of Melbourne hairstylist Annika Bowen. For what follows we owe her much credit.

Understanding the style is where it all starts; you need to see what your hair type is and which look from the examples is going to suit your hair. For example, those with intertwined curly locks will find the rock quiff easiest, those with wavy hair will find the Blanco example straightforwards, while those with straight hair can pretty much have whatever they like. Of the two interpretations, the slick quiff has an added bonus over the rock quiff in that it’s more versatile; it can be worn down as a side fringe.

Whichever you pick, though, remember that the quiff isn’t the easiest of hairstyles to maintain. It’s going to take effort in the morning and many a follow-up visit to your hairdresser. From the outset you need to decide if the style’s demands are viable with your lifestyle.

As with all hairstyles that we feature on Fashionising.com we recommend that whether you’re sure or unsure of what you want, save some photos to your smart phone, head along to your hairdresser and have ‘the conversation’. That means finding out if it suits your head shape, your hair and your lifestyle.

rock mens quiff
Rock quiff in DKNY’s F/W 2011 campaign

Hair type

Both styles of the quiff need a relatively fuller hair line at the front, so they aren’t necessarily an ideal hairstyle for those with a receding hairline.

For a rock quiff, the shape of your head is an important factor to consider. The side of the head will be relatively less dense, in terms of volume of the hair, so take that into consideration. It works best with curly or heavily waved hair, and hair that has movement. The rock quiff also needs plenty of texture, so works best on thick hair.

The slick quiff is about transforming the Brit-rock fringe look into an upward standing quiff. The style works best if the hair lacks a parting, however, as shown in the Louis Vuitton example above, it does flatter when styled alongside a side-part.

Hair cut

Even though the hairdresser has the tools for the trade, you still need to be aware of what’s happening up there in order to recreate the quiff.

If you’re going to make the rock quiff your own the best way to visualise this cut is as a teardrop shape at the front with short sides. If you’re after making the look dramatic, as your hairdresser is going to want to trim the sides super short with clippers on number 2 or 3.

For a slick quiff, the ideal length to cut the sides is about 1cm or at fingers’ depth. The cut should be kept square and weight should be kept around the horseshoe area at the front of the head where men recede. Your hairdresser will need to maintain the length at the front of the hair of your head, but have it cut to a point that’ll help in creating the bend and height for an eventual quiff. If you want to maintain long sides, ask to have them blended into the centre of the quiff in the styling stages.

Once done, ensure that you book a follow-up cut for 6-8 weeks after the first cut as it’ll get challenging to maintain and style post that period.

Styling

The cut is merely an asset to the quiff; the real magic lies in its styling. The hairdresser might give you a top-notch style straight after a cut, but you have to be able to re-create it at home.

The main styling step that’s common for all hair types is using a sea salt spray. It gives a dry, matt hold with beach-like texture from the scalp. This is vital, especially when you don’t have time to go through the other styling steps.

  1. Spray sea salt spray all through the hair until it feels rather wet. If your hair is already damp, make sure you work enough product into the strands.

  2. Blast a blow dryer on high and use your fingers to work the hair upwards while drying.

  3. Pull the hair forward and then bend it back so you get the quiff shape, and ensure you don’t miss the roots while drying.

  4. The main trick is to keep working your fingers through the roots; this will create an insane amount of movement from within. You need that.

If you want to stop here, make sure you’ve achieved the desired shape of the quiff before spraying the strands with hair spray. If you’re after more precision with the styling of your quiff, however, keep going with the styling steps below.

For thick, curly hair:
Contemplate relaxing your curls / waves by first stretching out the hair whilst blow-drying. However you can wear it curly too, it all depends on how curly your hair is at the front. Defer to your hairstylist for advice if you’re unsure what works best.

For fine hair:
To give definition to the locks, fine hair requires an incredible amount of volumising mousse and/or sea salt spray in the early stages of styling. Once you’ve created the desired shape, take a dollop of non-shine hair gel (our preference is with American Crew) and work it in the same motion as your quiff. The consistency of the hair gel will hold the style for a long duration. If needed, you can also use some hair spray, though keep in mind that when the hair spray and gel eventually dry up you’ll be left with a brittle feel to the hair.

For frizzy hair:
Start with sea salt spray, shape the hair into the desired quiff shape and then work hair wax or clay from the roots upwards. The hair wax will keep the flyaway hair strands at bay, and it’ll also last longer.

Vintage inspiration

Vintage inspiration

Take inspiration from the ultimate poster-men for rockabilly hair…

Elvis Presley

The official king of the quiff – Elvis and his hairstyle was (and still is) emulated across the globe (and now, not only by cheesy impersonators). Towering and jet-black, his inimitable hair truly turned him into a global icon.

Elvis hairstyle

James Dean

Live fast, die young is the ethos that goes hand-in-hand with the rockabilly spirit and there’s no star that embodies this more than James Dean. Thanks to the abundance of imagery and pop culture mythology surrounding the late-actor, both he and his pompadour are with us forever.

James Dean hairstyle

Johnny Cash

Country music legend and one of the great pioneers of the pompadour, Johnny Cash was one of the most prominent advocates of rockabilly hair during the 1950s.

Johnny Cash hairstyle

Morrissey

This charming man (see what we did there?) singlehandedly resurrected rockabilly hair during the 80s. Amazing tunes aside, Morrissey’s gravity-defying quiff was emulated by millions ensuring his place in the rockabilly hall of fame.

Morrissey hairstyle

Other options

If either of the quiffs aren’t doing it for you, be sure to take in Fashionising.com’s guide to 2012 men’s hair trends. We’ll be frequently updating it over coming weeks.

Co-Author

Co-written by Daniel P Dykes.

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