There’s been an increased interest in the military inspired haircuts for men that have been around for generations. Specifically, we’re going to discuss the cut referred to as “high and tight”.
The “high and tight” style is a standard military look, generally seen in the Marine Corps. However, there are variations of the look that have only subtle differences in
all of the more-intensive branches of the service. But looking at this military style, it can be useful and interesting to see where the parameters come from. This and other military hairstyles are governed by the
military in its directives regarding “Uniform and Insignia”.
Clearly, the military severely limits the way in which men in service can wear their hair, and frankly, there’s a lot of logic to many of the reasons for the restrictions. But for our purposes, it explains why
so many of the “military haircuts” look so similar. It also gives us a major insight to the evolution of the “high and tight”.
High and Tight
I talked with friends who were previously in the service (Marines) and asked them about the “high and tight” cut and its origins. They all basically admitted that they
had no “concrete” citation on the subject, but they felt that tradition was a large part of the style’s popularity. This was believed to be true because after the initial “induction cut” and upon completing Basic
Training, the restrictions on the look of the hair were diminished, but depending upon the group you served with, peer pressure was just as strong a motivator.
The general consensus was that following the guidelines of the regulations, having the hair follow a “tapered appearance” where the “outline of the soldier’s hair
conforms to the shape of the head” seems to require a very short cut. Furthermore, the variation of textures and wave patterns in the hair would also require some individuals to have their hair shorter than
others in order to maintain a similarly “neat” appearance. This led some soldiers to have to have more severe cuts, which resulted in others imitating these severe cuts in order not “compete” with them.
Of course, this is all conjecture, but it does seem logical in its own way.
How to Make the High and Tight Haircut
The High and Tight is, obviously, a clipper cut. It’s similar in many ways to the “high top fade” and “buzz cut” styles. The key zone to consider is the parietal ridge.
This is the point at which the greatest change in length occurs. Below this, the hair is cut to the shortest possible length. In some cases, a trimmer or edger may be employed in place of standard clippers in
order to reduce the length in the areas below the parietal ridge to lengths of less than 1/16th inch. In some cases, the hair is actually shaved (at least partially) in the lower areas.
The “High” part of “High and Tight” (with tight referring to the shortness of the hair) comes from this positioning of the tapering and the fact that the only length to
the hair comes at the top of the head. Even in its longest areas, a ‘High and Tight’ style will probably never be more than 3/8ths to ½ inches, and it may be shorter depending on the texture and wave pattern of the hair.
A practiced barber, who does this particular cut often, can usually create the look for you freehand or using clippers-over-comb. But if you’re looking to do it
yourself (or with a non-professional’s assistance), you can simply take your clippers and line up the guides from the smallest length possible with a guide, to the guide for the length you want as your longest length.
Start cutting the hair using the guide for your longest desired length. With this guide, cut all the hair to the length of the guide, then remove the guide and cut the
lower portions of the scalp to the middle of the parietal ridge with no guide to get the hair as short as you possibly can. If you have a trimmer that has a smaller length setting than your bare clippers, you can
use it on the lowest portions of the scalp to reinforce the tapering effect, should you desire.
Now, at the “transition zone” place the next longest guide on your clippers and cut upward around the head, stopping before you get too far onto the top of the head. You
will want to have decided your “top section” before you start this process so that you can have it in mind where to stop.
Continue to change out your guides, going smaller and smaller, and working around the scalp. Always stop short of your previous stopping point along the top, so that you
maintain the tapering effect. Once you’ve worked your way through all the guides, you can take a fine-toothed comb (an actual barber’s comb would be ideal) and drag it vertically along the tapered section to see
the “steps” that may be left behind by the guides (unless you were successful at sweeping upward in your cuts to blend the lengths). Use your clippers without a guide to carefully clipper off any “points” in the
hair. You can also use your scissors for this purpose.
Once the tapering has been blended, finish the look by using a safety razor (or straight razor if you prefer) to “clean” up the perimeter of the haircut. This includes the
nape of the neck, and the sideburns.