How to Style a Modern Pompadour

how to style a modern pompadour
PHOTO CREDIT: Static Squarespace

Go for a modern spin on an old classic, and pull off one of the most versatile haircuts around. Our handy guide will tell you everything you need to know on how to style a modern pompadour hairstyle, from sleek and short looks to long and wild ones, and even a pompadour with a beard.

Read more Men’s Hair features and check out our Store.


What is a Pompadour

So, first of all, what is this weird sounding haircut, and where did it come from? Well, if you’re not a fan, blame Elvis. He may not have been the first person in the world to style it, but he was definitely the most famous; he set the bar for sleek bold hair all over the world. The basic hairstyle involves trim sides with a long middle that’s swept backwards to create a voluminous look.


Men’s pompadour hairstyles can be personalised to suit different looks, with variations in lengths and textures. Elvis kept his fairly traditional, with a large sweeping front that was the main focus of the look and trim. The sides were not buzzed, though, the sides were kept in place with hair wax. He also fully embraced the sideburns, creating a unique style that’s now become iconic.

Despite Elvis’ continued popularity, a lot of modern men didn’t fancy the idea of going that full on with their look, and thus the modern pompadour was created. The look takes aspects of the classic pompadour and the undercut and combines them to create an alternative, sleek style that’s become a barber shop speciality. Now enter the David Beckham pompadour. Like Elvis, David Beckham rocked the haircut and boosted its popularity, making it a mainstream classic.


Beckham styled the modern pompadour in his own personal way, keeping the sides cropped yet still fairly thick, and leaving a large amount of hair in the middle that was kept raised and swept back. There are, however, shorter and longer versions of this style that many men have enjoyed experimenting with.

The Pompadour Fade

One of the variations of the modern pompadour is the pompadour fade, a clean look that accentuates the cropped sides of the pompadour by taking it one step further and buzz cutting it. The middle part of the hair can vary, with some men keeping it long and sweeping and creating a strong contrast between the sides, and others maintaining a short middle to keep the overall look more subtle and easy to manage.


This is a great cut if you’re dealing with thin or straight hair, as you can easily sweep your hair back with a little wax or clay. It’s also possible to maintain it yourself if you get yourself decent hair clippers. We’d recommend heading to the barbers to get it cut in the first place and to learn a few maintenance tips.

The Short Pompadour

The short pompadour is a little like the pompadour fade, but there’s no need for the buzzed sides, and therefore the contrast can be a little less intense. It’s great if you want a clean, sharp look that doesn’t require a lot of maintenance, just a lot of hair product. If you’re planning on getting a short pompadour look then there are a few different things you should work out before you head to the barbers.

  1. Do you want there to be a strong contrast between the sides and the top? If the answer’s yes then choose a short middle, but get the sides either trimmed extra short or buzzed.
  2. Do you want an accentuated parting? If so, make sure that your hair is carefully sectioned before the sides are cut or buzzed, as once it’s cut it’s very difficult to rearrange the parting until your hair grows out.
  3. Do you want the swept back look? If you want to be able to sweep the middle of your hair to the side or back then you’re going to need enough hair to do so. Decide on the kind of volume you want to achieve and leave more or less hair in the middle depending on this.

The Side Part Pompadour

The side part pompadour is essentially what it says on the tin. It’s a sleek modern pompadour with a clean accentuated side parting. This ensures that the middle part of your hair sweeps cleanly to the side and can easily be combed into place. Because the hair follows the curve of the head it’s easier for it to lie smoothly and is great for men who have hair that’s difficult to manage.

Use a lightweight clay to keep your hair in place, and make sure that you keep your parting clean and straight so that the overall look maintains its modern and angled look. It’s important that your side parting is one of the main focuses of the haircut.


How to Style a Pompadour

The pompadour can seem like a daunting cut to get, but if you’re worried about hair maintenance just know that it’s not as hard as it looks. All you really need is a little product and a comb. Here’s a basic guide on how to do a pompadour.

  • First, make sure you’ve blow-dried your hair straight, angling the dryer up so your hair is styled around the curve of your head.
  • Depending on what look you’re going for, start to comb your hair back over your head, or to the side as it dries.
  • Take a little clay or pomade, the best hair product for a pompadour, warm it in your hands and smooth it over your hair
  • Use your fingertips to make sure the product is evenly distributed, then use your comb to smooth out your hair in whatever direction you want.


How to Comb a Pompadour

This might seem like a repeat of how to style a pompadour. While styling your hair can require product, and is a little more time-consuming, simply combing your pompadour goes back to basics. It’s the classic image – the young leather jacket wearing youth, casually smoothing back his hair with a comb plucked from…somewhere. He might have a bit of product on the comb, but usually, it’s just a matter of smoothing a few fly aways back down. Check out our best hair products for a pompadour below.


When combing your pompadour it’s important that you have the right equipment. If you have medium to thick hair, a medium tooth comb is probably a good place to start. It won’t be as loose as wide tooth comb, meaning you’ll still have a lot of control over your locks, but unlike with a thin tooth comb, you’ll actually be able to get it through your hair.

If you’re dealing with thinner hair, a thin tooth comb will work perfectly, and damping it with a little water before combing it through your hair will help set your pompadour style if you’re planning on going for a sleek look.

The Long Pompadour

Now before you imagine anything too mullet like, just remember that the long pompadour isn’t too different to the short pompadour, it’s just an easier cut to maintain if you’ve got a lot of hair to deal with.

Essentially a long pompadour is a modern pompadour that really goes for length in the middle, while the sides can be whatever length suits you best. It’s ideal for those with curly hair, as it allows for a lot of natural volume and more possibilities for styling.


One way to style the long pompadour is to embrace the curls and texture of your hair and avoiding the need to tame them with copious amounts of hair wax. You can do this by simply letting your hair go wild, or moulding it with a good hair moose or serum.

Celebrity Pompadours

It can be hard to take the plunge into a whole new cut if you’re not sure exactly what style you want to go for. Celebrities need to be good for something, and giving hair inspiration from their trial and errors is an ideal way to start. From long shaggy pompadours to cropped looks, celebrities from all around the world have been trying out this iconic hairstyle, some pulling it off better than others.

Brad Pitt

When his locks were lobbed off for his role in war movie Fury, Brad Pitt showed exactly how a short pompadour could be pulled off. Due to the military role, this modern pompadour was a no nonsense, clean cut look that showcased razored sides and a smooth cropped top. To add some subtle sophistication he styled it with a little hair wax, smoothing back the middle to create a clean shape.


He also shows how it is possible to grow out a pompadour with style, and how a little product and a comb can really shape this haircut. Rather than attempting a wild, tousled look with his longer hair, Brad created a smooth, ordered style by combing his hair back around his head to pull off a voluminous yet maintained look.

Robert Pattinson

We have to admit that Robert Pattinson’s haircut was effortlessly stylish and great inspiration for a long pompadour. His overall cut has a fairly subtle contrast, with the sides kept longer than most pompadour looks, and the middle emphasising his naturally wavy hair. With a little product used on the sides to keep everything in order, the middle can be left to go wild, creating a stylish, modern cut.

Zayn Malik

While you might not a be a fan of his music, past or present, there’s no denying that Zayn Malik knows how to rock a modern pompadour. Taking the same kind of cut as Robert Pattinson, Zayn changes up the look by the way he styles it.

Instead of creating a wild and untamed middle, he smooths it up with a generous quantity of wax or clay, creating a voluminous yet well-managed look. Because of the styled middle, certain parts can be emphasised which gave way to his temporary blond streak. This style is easy to maintain if you have thick but straight hair, as it requires enough volume to stay up, but can’t be too curly or it’ll lose its shape.

How to Style a Modern Pompadour

  • Short pompadours suit thinner, straight hair.
  • Long pompadours suit curlier, thicker hair.
  • Go for a faded pompadour for an edge or a side part pompadour for a clean look. Invest in a decent razor to achieve this look.
  • Make sure you’re dealing with a strong enough product for your hair. They may cost a few pennies but if you use them sparingly they will last you a long time.
mens brown short modern pomapadour hairstyle
PHOTO CREDIT: All Things Hair

On That Note

Although it can seem like the modern pompadour has a fairly set look, there are actually many variations you can go for. This is a haircut that can work with any hair type, and be styled in numerous ways. Go for a short or long pompadour, show off your curls or tame them, and use as much or as little product as you want to create a range of looks. For a modern hairstyle, this is a cut that’s perfectly versatile and can be pulled off no matter what your age.

Author: Harriet Blake


Written By
Go for a modern spin on an old classic, and pull off one of the most versatile haircuts around. Our handy guide will tell...
" />