Hairstyles, Hair Care & Fashion

How to Cut a Shag

Q: Can you tell me (or draw a diagram) of how to cut hair like either of these photos?
A: {Note: The photos submitted by the questioner could not be published on our website due to copyright laws. The photos were publicity shots of David Cassidy - an actor/singer from the 1970s television show, The Partridge Family. One featured Cassidy with his traditional long haired look, while the other showed Cassidy with shorter hair.}
Actually, both of these photos are of the same haircut; it is known as a shag haircut. The only difference is in the length of the cut (plus some finishing details in the shorter style). When cut properly, the hair can be raised straight over the head and the ends will create a flat line or "V" shape depending on the length of the cut.
shag haircut diagram
how to cut a shag (Click to enlarge)
To cut the hair in this style, you should section the hair and leave down a 1/2-inch perimeter around the head and whatever area you want to have for the bangs. Starting in the bangs area, cut the bangs to the desired length and move to the back to cut a guide for the desired length at the nape of the neck. Cut your perimeter to create the shape you want the hairline to follow in the finished cut. (In the photos the perimeter is cut at a sharp downward angle along the sides to the desired length in back for the longer style, and at a shallower angle for the shorter style.)
Take down your top section of the hair and cut the hair to the desired length to create the top guide, by combing a slice at the center of this section of the hair upward to the center of the top of the head (make sure to comb from both sides to get it centered) and cutting the stationary guide. You can blend the length of the top guide with the bangs if you desire. Now, work from either the back or front of the head and take thin vertical slices of the hair and comb them straight up. Cut toward the center guide so that the hair is cut in a straight line horizontally. Work your way from back to front or front to back on both sides until all the hairs have been cut to the guide length at the top of the head.
Lower the remaining sections and cut as described, by combing thin slices straight up and cutting them to the guide length. As you reach the bottommost sections of the hair, be sure to blend the lengths of the perimeter to the guide length so that you maintain the shape you were trying to create in your perimeter cut. You may need to switch to an angled cutting line in the back of the hair if you are trying to get create the longer version of this haircut.
When all of the hairs are cut, cross-check the cut by combing the hair outward in horizontal slices and looking for "corners" or "protruding" hairs that may have been missed. Check the cut from top to bottom, working in areas about 3 inches wide. Once you're sure that your cut is even, you're done, and can style the hair as desired. The hair can be texturized using thinning shears to soften the look and allow areas to lie flatter, or by using a razor for a smoother finish. (See the diagram for cutting angles and elevations for this cut.)
Related post: How to cut hair