The shag haircut: the one style that anyone can pull off

Words by Tanyel Mustafa
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  • For those who like their hair looks effortless and low-maintenance, enter the shag cut...

    As people are better embracing their natural hair – for all its texture or lack thereof – the 70s shag haircut has seen a revival at just the right moment. It’s a trend that started in 2019 and is set to grow in 2020.

    A sign of the times, the shag cut is messy (in a high fashion way), voluminous, multi-layered and undone. Again, high fashion. It’s imperfect, and it works for just about anyone, no matter the length, fullness or texture.

    It’s seen some updating, though, and isn’t quite the ode to rock ‘n’ roll it once was – breathe a sigh of relief. Instead it’s softened, yet somehow maintains a subtle edge. The cut’s modern take sees full fringes turn to gentle side sweeps, or layers that frame the face; a blessing for commitment-phobes.

    So, what do you need to make it work? (Other than one of the best hair dryers, obv.) We spoke to a couple of the hair industry’s biggest names to get the lowdown.

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    Shag hairstyles: what to ask for at the salon

    Internationally renowned celebrity hairstylist Paul Edmonds suggests you do your research first – ‘go armed with pictures’ when you see your hairdresser, and get their advice too.

    ‘Hair thickness and waves will help determine the length of the layers, and it can be adapted to suit your face shape’, Paul explains. Having that conversation first will make sure that you get a shag cut best suited to your natural hair type and features.

    In terms of variation, Paul says that ‘the ends can be cut blunt, or textured and cut through’. Blunt ends will give hair a fuller, heavier look, which can work well for thinner hair. Once decided, ask for it to be roughly blow-dried and kept shaggy for a true finish on the cut.

    Maintaining the cut is easy, according to Paul. ‘Conditioning needs to be a first priority and a high gloss finish is a must. Shu Uemura Essence Absolue Multi-Purpose All-In-Oil, £33, adds body while protecting and adding gloss’.

    shag haircut Jennifer Lawrence

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    How to wear the shag haircut

    The good news is that it’s very quick to style. ‘It’s an ageless haircut that can be styled with minimal effort,’ Adam Reed, ghd Global Brand Ambassador, tells us when asked why it’s made a comeback.

    ‘Less is definitely more when it comes to the shag,’ he says. ‘Keep it simple; wash and towel dry the hair and apply a primer product. I love a mousse.

    ‘Then use your hair dryer – my favourite is the ghd Helios [£159 at Fabled] as it does all of the work for you. Keep the dryer on a medium setting, and taking handfuls of hair gently scrunch together with the dryer aimed directly into the hair until dry – that’s it if you want an authentic shag’.

    ‘If you want to add detail, pass the ghd Platinum+ Styler, £189 at Fabled, through the ends of random sections of hair and gently press to add definition. Mist with a spray and then you are done’, explains Adam. To enhance the body and hold of the hair, try Bardot Lift + Volume Spray – a product created with Bridget Bardot in mind, an iconic wearer of the shag before it’s official inception.

    Another tip from Paul is to ‘turn your head upside down to get root lift’ while blow-drying. Once finished, dust Maria Nila Style & Finish Power Powder, £19.99 at Sally Beauty, into the roots for more height.

    The style ranges from sleek choppy waves to edgy tousled curls that sit so they just narrowly miss the eyes. How far you take the shag cut is up to you.

    Need some inspiration? Keep scrolling for some celebrities that have nailed shag hairstyles…

    Words by Tanyel Mustafa

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