The movie Fury comes out today, and folks are talking about it for a variety of reasons, not least of which is the hairstyle Brad Pitt is rocking in the film. Short on the sides and long on the top, it’s called the curtain cut or undercut, and it has a distinctly vintage-looking vibe. According to Wikipedia, the curtained hairstyle has its origins in the Edwardian Age, and became popular “as a more practical solution to the longer hair and sideburns fashionable from the 1840s to 1890s.” (Interesting, though one struggles to understand what exactly was impractical about sideburns.) The undercut is often associated with 1920s gangsters, as epitomized by the character Michael Pitt played on Boardwalk Empire. It has also earned the unfortunate moniker of the “Hitler Youth” cut, for its perceived popularity amongst Nazis.
Yet in spending a long time looking at pictures and portraits from all of these time periods, very few examples of the undercut, as it is done today, can be found. I could locate zero Edwardian fellows sporting it (they indeed curtained their hair, but the sides were not too much shorter than the top), only a couple Jazz Age gangster types, and while some Nazis did adopt it, it was far from universal. (It was also not exclusive to the Axis powers — one can find a few American soldiers and sailors who did something similar, though not quite like Mr. Pitt’s style.)
So generally speaking, something akin to the modern undercut can be found here and there, but almost none have the sides as short as typically done in the present age. It thus seems more likely that the undercut is a modern twist on a vintage hairstyle, and is part of an image of how we imagine the past to be in popular culture, rather than a straight reflection of it.
Last updated: November 28, 2017