Coming under the umbrella term of buzz cut (any style that requires electric clippers, rather than a comb and a pair of scissors), the crew cut actually refers to a specific style, with a slightly horizontal top. Technically, this should not to be confused with the more pronounced flat-top. In England, this cut was called the pompadour or brush cut, and dates back at least to the mid-18th century. The French call it coupé en bosse; the German bursten schnitt; and the common name comes from the United States, where the boat crews of the American colleges of Yale, Princeton and Harvard shaved their hair short to keep it out of their eyes while training.
The hairstyle was long favoured by the military for its practicality – mainly to stop hair lice from spreading. After the Second World War, many men chose to keep their hair shorn after being demobbed, and slowly it became an accepted style. By the 1960s in Britain, the look became famous as the skinhead, adopted as a statement by working-class men, drawn not to the hippy ethos, but to the dub and ska music of the Jamaican community. Unfortunately, by the 1980s, the same haircut was also being worn by the far right across Europe, and the term skinhead became linked with racism, violence and aggression. The style fell out of favour shortly after. Over the past 15 years, however, it has come in again, and now the shaved head has become a signature choice for many men including Brad Pitt, Justin Timberlake, David Beckham and Zayn Malik. In the last 12 months or so, women too are reaching for the clippers, and while no one can forget Sinéad O'Connor looking incredible in 1990, nor Britney Spears from 2007, now the likes of Zoë Kravitz, Adwoa Aboah (pictured) and even Kate Hudson have all ditched the locks.