An Ode to the Undercut, the It-Girl Hairstyle of the Early 2010s

I was wasting time on YouTube the other day, aimlessly hopping from video recommendation to video recommendation. Eventually, I landed on a Beyoncé interview from early 2013. The singer, wearing a body-hugging red dress, is chatting at a press conference ahead of her iconic Super Bowl Halftime show. The video is only a decade old but, somehow, perfectly encapsulates how much has changed since then. Here is Beyoncé conducting a filmed sit-down interview, which rarely happens nowadays. And she’s addressing the allegations she lip-synced at the second inauguration of former President Barack Obama. But perhaps the most nostalgic element of the clip is the singer’s distinctly early 2010s hairstyle. A ‘do that’s emblematic of heavily-filtered Instagrams of latte art and the phrase “YOLO.” Yes, that rocker-flavored hairstyle, the undercut, which Miley Cyrus, Kristen Stewart, Willow Smith, Rihanna, Beyoncé, and countless other style icons wore at one point or another. The clip made me wonder to myself, “Is it time for the undercut to make a comeback?”


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Okay, Okay. Sure, fashion and pop culture writ large are nowhere near close to resurrecting 2010s style codes. It’s all about Y2K right now, with chunky highlights and bleached tips making a comeback. But what if we shifted our eye from 2002 to 2012? The undercut hairstyle— which has yet to be overly “nostalgized”—feels like a novel, but relatively low-stakes, way to differentiate oneself from the crowd.

I shared my undercut nostaglia with my close friend, a black woman. She immediately texted me an old photo of her from around 2012ish, getting her hair styled with an undercut. “I miss mine!” she texted. The message bought back memories of a friend in college asked me to give her slapdash undercut in my college dorm room. “Just use your clippers,” she instructed me, handing over her trust. I obliged. 

The hairstyle was widely popular during the early 2010s for good reason. It seemed to particularly resonate with women of color—who made the look their own by adding in micro braids and cornrows to the mix. But it was certainly not an exclusive or sanctioned look. Everyone took part. And, in my opinion, everyone still can. With its play on dimensions and shape, the sheared look operates almost like an instant face-lift for nearly all wearers. Your cheekbones will thank you later.

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