crew cut


a haircut in which the hair is very closely cropped.



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Origin of crew cut

An Americanism dating back to 1940–45


crew-cut, crew·cut, adjective Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2020


What else does crew cut mean?

A crew cut is a short men’s hairstyle, with shorter sides and a longer top. The style was popularized by Ivy League crew teams in the 1930s and is still associated with preppy fashion today, though it is an extremely widespread male hairstyle.

How do you pronounce crew cut?

[kroo kuht]

Where does crew cut come from?

To understand the history behind the term crew cut we have to go back to the 1570s. That’s how long we’ve been referring to a group of people as a crew (it originally referred to soldiers in the 15th century). By the 1690s, we had narrowed that definition a bit, with a crew as a group of people working together at some common task, especially crewmen on a ship.

The term crew cut was first recorded in the 1930–40s to describe the hairstyle of Ivy League students on the crew team (rowing). They cut their hair shorter on the sides and longer on the top to streamline their appearance (and performance). According to Yale University publications, it was student rower John Hay Whitney who asked for a German-style haircut in the 1920s. His barber supposedly suggested a more American name for the haircut, given that all things German were understandably unpopular at the time. The crew cut was born.

As with all fashion, crew cuts have come in and out over the years since the term was coined. In the 2000s, interest has risen in it as men’s hairstyles tend toward the short end of the spectrum, à la David Beckham.

How is crew cut used in real life?

Crew cuts often find themselves on lists of top men’s hairstyles. It’s not all David Beckham and Zayn Malik, though. Women like Katy Perry and Emma Watson have also rocked a crew cut in the past few years.

The crew cut hasn’t fully grown out of its Ivy League roots. In fact, this hairstyle is still considered preppy.

You can also, though, expect to see men’s crew cuts associated with straight, unstylish white dudes. The implication is that because the style is so easy to maintain and popular, men who don’t put that much effort into their appearance opt for it out of laziness.

Women with crew cuts, on the other hand, are sometimes seen as edgy for going against gender norms. Other times, women with crew cuts are stereotyped as lesbians and, most often in the same breath, denigrated as too liberal or outspoken.

Humans aren’t the only creatures that can rock a crew cut. Sometimes, pet haircuts are referred to as crew cuts too.

More examples of crew cut:

“Growing up, [Timothy] McVeigh didn’t appear to stand out, working at Burger King and a security guard. With his crew cut, the son of a automobile factory-line worker and homemaker looked the part of an all-American and even joined the military, where he became a decorated Army veteran before leaving the service…Pictures show him with blond hair, blue-green eyes and chiseled features, dressed in a preppy style.”
Greg Botelho, CNN, July, 2011


This content is not meant to be a formal definition of this term. Rather, it is an informal summary that seeks to provide supplemental information and context important to know or keep in mind about the term’s history, meaning, and usage.

Example sentences from the Web for crew cut

British Dictionary definitions for crew cut

crew cut


a closely cropped haircut for men, originating in the US

Word Origin for crew cut

C20: from the style of haircut worn by the boat crews at Harvard and Yale Universities
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Idioms and Phrases with crew cut

crew cut

A closely cropped haircut, usually for a male, as in The boys all think crew cuts are cooler in summer. This term presumably originated in the navy (crew referring to a ship's crew), where such a haircut was mandatory. [c. 1940]

The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.