Side Parts are often an essential component of men’s short hairstyles. Indeed, the Side Part is a clean and neat way to conservatively style your hair. However, how your part your hair can greatly determine the image that you project.
You will now learn about Side Parts, what they are, and how to part your hair in this men’s guide:
- What Is A Side Part?
- Side Part History
- Different Side Part Styles
- How To Part Your Hair
- Will A Side Part Suit My Face Shape?
Simply use the links above to jump ahead or scroll down to read it all.
What Is A Side Part?
A Side Part is necessarily a hairstyle itself but is usually the component of one. Although often associated with short hairstyles like a crew cut, a side part can be featured on medium-length hairstyles too.
As the name suggests, a Side Part is simply a parting in your hair that’s on the side. Usually, it follows the natural growth of your hair from the cowlick and finishes somewhere near the temple. While a side part can be styled in way that exudes a classically cool persona, it can also be a recipe for disaster and look like a square.
Before we talk more about how men can part their hair with effortless style, we’ll quickly look at the side part’s history!
Side Part Hairstyle History
The Side Part has seen something of a renaissance in the last 7 years. Between the late nineties and the turn of the century, the Side Part was a pariah of men’s style and combing your hair to the left or right was for geeks and nerds.
Not only have we had a strong vintage revival but geeks are cool again. This newfound freedom of follicle expression has brought along a plethora of different approaches to the Side Part, which has modernised the timeless style and enabled pairings with others.
The Side Part is particularly reminiscent of the 20th Century following the 1st World War. From the Roaring Twenties all the way until the rise of the Beatles, perfectly defined parting were almost uniform among men.
This was often accompanied by a heavy dose of pomade or Brylcreem to ensure both shine and hold. Different Side Parts are representative of different eras with individual characteristics stemming from the 30s, 40s and 50s.
Side Parts were especially prevalent in music such as rock & roll as well as jazz culture. African-American artists felt the pressure to conform to white standards.
In turn, many undertook a procedure called Conking to obtain the look, which became fashionable for nearly half a century.
This was a process for chemically straightening the hair using corrosive sodium hydroxide, which caused severe burns to the scalp as well as hair loss.
With Malcolm X’s condemnation of this painful practice during the 1960s civil rights movement the fashion eventually died out. However, it has recently begun to re-emerge in women’s fashion.
Types Of Side Part Hairstyles
A classic Side Part is achieved by combing the hair then blow drying, waxing or gelling into place. It can be a natural look with a soft part or heavily styled with a hard part.
A hard part is a technique where a barber uses razor blades down the parting. This makes your hair more pronounced by creating contrast as well as being easier to style.
Hard Parts are often paired with more stylised cuts where the sides are heavily faded or feature an Undercut. The top itself can feature other styles such a Pompadour or even be slicked back.
The different iterations of the Side Part make it a style that can be adapted to any occasion. Classic Side Parts combed and held in place with product can appear very conservative. However, if the hair is short and well-styled with a fade, this formal look can appear professional and chic.
Some more modern Side Parts have less of an accent on the parting itself but concentrate on how the volume on top is expressed. These full and wild iterations are more often referred to as Comb Overs. You can read more about these on our Comb Over page.
How To Part Your Hair
Ever wondered how to get that perfectly defined Side Part like Don Draper? It’s easy once you’ve learned how!
Where To Part Your Hair
Firstly, you may be surprised but your scalp does have a natural parting, which is determined by hair growth. Feel for the swirl at the back of your head (the Cowlick) and take note in which direction the hair grows. A clockwise growth means that your part is on the left. If it’s counter-clockwise, that’s right, your part is on the right.
The height of your parting depends both on your natural growth as well as your face shape, which we explain below. However, opt for a parting that finishes in the corner where your top and sides meet at the temple. Avoid a parting that’s too straight and try to aim for a slight diagonal or it may look like a wig!
How To Style A Don Draper Classic Side Part
Simply follow these steps to part your hair:
- Start with clean hair and damp after a shower so it’s easy to manage.
- Massage your preferred styling agent into the hair and make sure it’s evenly distributed.
- Comb the hair neatly forward in the area you’d like your side part until it creates clear lines revealing scalp.
- Aim for a slightly diagonal line that starts just under the Cowlick at the back and ends near the temple towards the front.
- Using the comb, separate the hair along one of the lines to create the parting.
- Come and style the sides and top as desired.
What Styling Agent To Use
In short, there are four different products that you can use when parting your hair. These styling agents consist of cream, pomade, gel, and wax. Each of them provide a fundamentally different finish of the final style.
Firstly, gels will create a glossy and hard finish. As gels become rock hard, your hair can’t be restyled later in the day. Furthermore, hair gel can either flake out or run under the rain. Nevertheless, it’s great for a defined and rock-hard look. Today, American Crew produces one of the best hair gels that you can use for this style.
Conversely, wax is the complete opposite. Indeed, wax very rarely shines and instead produces a matte, natural look. Furthermore, it doesn’t dry and can be restyled throughout the day. TIGI Bed Head produces an excellent wax for more natural side part hairstyles.
Otherwise, creams like Brylcreem are quite rare today but certainly worth mentioning. Unlike both gel and wax, they offer only a loose hold. However, they create a very glossy and healthy shine, which is great for a vintage style. However, they do need regular restyling as the cream doesn’t provide much hold.Needless to say, we have a preference for Bryclreem as it’s the classic option. There are two different types as we detail in this review. Nevertheless, American tube Brylcreem is generally your best option.
Finally, we find that pomade offers the best of both worlds. Not only do you get a firm hold that can be restyled but it produces a rich shine too. Pomades are very old-school and are the classic option for styling a side part. Remember George Clooney in “O’ Brother Where Art Thou?” and his obsession with Dapper Dan? This is exactly what we mean!
Therefore, if you prefer a vintage-inspired side part, we recommend brands like Sweet Georgia Brown for its hold and Royal Crown, which has a lovely jasmin scent.
Will A Side Part Suit My Face Shape?
Being a versatile hairstyle, the Side Part can be used on most lengths of hair. A Side Part provides structure, which naturally flows with the hair’s growth.
It can complement a face shape’s features or even provides texture, which renders the face more angular if needed. The latter is especially useful for men with round face shapes. A hard Side Part that features a Fade or Undercut will provide structure to the face. Furthermore, parting the closer to the temples and away from the top along the parietal ridge will render the face squarer.
We’ve identified 7 individual face shapes, which play a vital role in determining how well certain styles may suit different men. If you don’t yet know your face shape, we strongly recommend you quickly follow our guide here in order to identify it before you continue reading this section.
You’ll discover that we have outlined 7 unique face shapes, which help in determining how well hairstyles suit different men. We highly recommend that you identify your face shape before continuing.
The following face shapes won’t have any problems in styling a side-part.
Oval Face Shapes
Oval face shapes have few qualms when styling a Side Part. The only precaution is to ensure that the top isn’t too tight to avoid a rounded finish.
Square Face Shapes
Square face shapes look particularly masculine with Side Parts. These can be styled with different sides and tops without running many risks in undermining the proportions.
Triangle Face Shapes
Triangle faces can try out side parts but just need to steer clear of high Fades, which will reveal their jawline. Keeping the side low and tight with a slight bounce in the top will ensure a well-proportioned harmony.
The following face shapes can wear a side-part but should follow some of the styling tips that we outline below.
Diamond Face Shapes
Diamond should be careful as too tight on the sides will reveal their ears. Retaining volume along the crown will ensure that the forehead is well set against the cheekbones.
Heart Face Shapes
Heart shaped faces should be cautious styling the sides as aggressive fades will remove the volume needed to counteract their wide forehead for the latter. Keeping the parting along the ridge will avoid widening the face.
Oblong Face Shapes
Oblong shaped faces can benefit from a Side Part as long as some volume on the top and sides are relatively similar. This will shorten the face to make it appear more square or oval.
Round Face Shape
By using a hard parting that is kept low on the temple and climbs up to the crown, Round face shapes should fare well. However, care should be taken that the finishes are angular and that there is enough height on top. Regular touch ups are recommended to avoid the texture becoming soft and rounding off the features.
Now that you have learned about side parts and how to part your hair, check out some of our related resources:
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What a great informative guide on this topic, I being a Barber at Cornerstone truly appreciate the time taken to help us in our daily grind with this informative piece! You never stop learning in this field. I’ve found sometimes the natural part in men’s hair line (cows lick) works to our advantage of tracking lines but with the face shape information has definitely added more value to my craft.
Great to hear and thanks for your insight. Glad that this humble guide has been useful for a professional like yourself.
All the best,
My dad told me if you’re right-handed then part your hair on the left.
I suppose that’s not a bad rule-of-thumb, but it’s likely best to note the natural direction of your hair to determine which direction to part it to.