Monday, February 28, 2011

The Art of the Flat Top

The Art of the Flat Top

The flat top is a work of art at JTown Barber Shop of Louisville, KY

One of JTown Barbers of Louisville, KY professional services the flat top is done with electric clippers to cut the side and back hair to or near the scalp, and then more intricate cutting is done on the top hair to achieve a level plane. The flat top can be achieved in various forms or styles. Starting with the sides and back, the length can vary from half an inch to totally bald. The bald look flat top must still be blended into the top with no shadow or line seperating the two areas. The top can be at various lengths as well, depending on the clients hair and how easily their hair stands up.

Maintaining a Great Flat Top

The key to a great flat top is making the hair stand straight up before the final square look is achieved. A good stiff gel is a good tool to use to give the hair support -- to get it to stand up. At JTown Barber Shop in Louisville Ky. we sell many great products including REDKEN FOR MEN –STAND TOUGH hair gel as the best for this purpose. STAND TOUGH gel will help the flat top “stand up” but won’t flake and is water soluable. REDKEN STAND TOUGH GEL is used in small amounts to achieve the goal but won’t be felt in the hair. The hair is blow dried –completely dry --to stand straight up. All water must be dried out of the hair before final cutting or the hair will fall and perfect ion will not be achieved. Wax can be used to stiffen the front of the flattop and to achieve a “line across the front if desired.

Because the shape of a flattop is, by definition, not compatible with the round shape of a human head, there can often be a spot on the very center of the top that is buzzed shorter to achieve a flat surface, almost to the point of being shaved. This area is called the "landing strip," because this area of the head with shorter hair resembles a grassless aviation landing area. The flat top can also be styled longer to achieve a more natural look.

Because the haircut is so short and quickly grows out of its precisely-cut shape, maintenance haircuts are required at least every few weeks, and many flat top wearers get haircuts as often as once per week.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Cut those sideburns, Marine!

Cut those sideburns, Marine!
Written by Bob on October 2nd, 2009

YUCAIPA, CA – My first thought when I saw the older man walking along Yucaipa Boulevard was, he’s an ex-Marine. His haircut gave him away. We called it, The Jarhead flat top, buzzed short on the sides, flat on top.

Every career Marine – “Lifers,” as we short-timers called them – wore a flat top. And that included the First Sergeant of Marine Air Group 31 of Beaufort, South Carolina back in 1968.

I was a lowly 19-year-old PFC (private first class for all you civilians) with one lonely stripe on my shoulders. The First Sergeant had a chest full of medals and his sleeves were covered with stripes.

The man must have been in the Marine Corps for at least 50 years.
The First Sergeant was all Marine. Big, burly, square jawed with bushy eyebrows, and of course the top of his head was as flat and short cut as possible. Probably the most impressive flat top I’ve ever seen.

I worked in the squadron office down the hall from the First Sergeant as an orders clerk – a glorified typist. I didn’t fit the typical depiction of a “real” Marine.

In our office, Warrant Officer Knepp, our commanding officer, was somewhat easy going on regulations. He didn’t mind if our hair got a bit longer than regulation, or if our sideburns crept below mid-level of our ears.

But the First Sergeant did. Every day we had to walk by his office. And invariably he would stop someone dead in his tracks with, “Get in here Marine.”

That deep throated, course voiced command usually meant he didn’t like the looks of your uniform or your grooming habits.

One day he stopped me as I tried to sneak by his open door.

“Those sideburns look a little long,” he said with a glower. “I want those sideburns trimmed by tomorrow.”

I admit that I had let my sideburns grow past mid-ear. But long hair and sideburns were all the rage since the arrival of the Beatles. And the Beaufort girls liked long hair. So us young Marines were always pushing the limits of our hair and sideburn length.

Tomorrow came and why I’ll never know, but I had forgotten to trim my sideburns. And of course I had to walk by the First Sergeant’s open door.

“Get in here, Marine!” he ordered. At that moment I “remembered.” I nearly peed my pants and my knees quivered in fear.

“Didn’t I tell you to cut those sideburns!” he said with a glare.

Just then his phone rang. “I’ll talk to you later,” he said.

I didn’t hesitate. I rushed out of the squadron door at full sprint to my barracks a quarter-mile away. I grabbed my razor from my locker and ran to the shower. I cut those sideburns half way on my ears and raced back to the squadron office.

All done in record time. I should have been awarded an Olympic medal for that kind of speed.

About an hour later, the First Sergeant comes by our office and spots me sitting and typing away at my desk.

“Didn’t I tell you to cut those sideburns,” he commanded as all the typewriters in the office stopped clicking. And all eyes starred at the First Sergeant, expecting him to launch into Otto like a Pit Bull attacking a helpless Poodle.

“I did First Sergeant,” I said, mustering all the bravado I could.

He looked first at one side of my head and then the other. He stared at me for what seemed an eternity. I’m sure he knew what I had done.

“I better never see those sideburns long again. Do you hear me, Marine!”

And for the remainder of my duty at Beaufort, my sideburns stayed regulation. Regardless if the Beaufort girls liked them or not.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

How to Give a Flat Top Haircut

How to Give a Flat Top Haircut

The flat top is a short hairstyle that became very popular in the late 1950s and early 1960s. It is still very popular among men who need to keep their hair short, such as those in the military. While not seen as often today as in the past, it is still important for barbers and individuals to know how to give a flat top haircut.

In order to give a flat top hair cut, one must first cut the hair on the sides and back of the head very short, no more than a quarter inch in length. The next step is to start at the top of the head and work outward. The hair at the very top of the head will be cut to about a quarter inch in length, like the sides and back. This is done with a comb and scissors.

As one works out from the top of the head, the hair will be left in increasing lengths, though still short enough to stand straight up. None of the hair should be left at a length over a half inch. When the haircut is completed, the top of the head should have the appearance of a flat surface.

One important key to cutting a flat top properly is the person receiving the hair cut must not move the head. If he does, a bad cut can occur that spoils the effect and forces the hair to be styled differently, probably in a true buzz cut. Many people use a straight edge, such as a ruler, to check the way the hair stands and verify that it ends in a flat surface on top of the head.

The flat top is a haircut that requires little effort in the area of grooming to prepare for the day. Basically no products are needed to style the hair as it tends to stand up on its own when cut this short. It is, however, considered a high maintenance hair style because the hair must be trimmed at least every two weeks in order to keep it short enough to stand up and form the flat tabletop surface.

This entry was posted on Monday, December 14th, 2009 at 11:08 pm

Saturday, July 17, 2010

As Short as it Gets- the Shaved Landing Strip

Just yesterday, when I was getting my FT tightened up for the week, I told my RB (regular barber) when he started to cut the top, "Cut it as short as you can up through here," pointing with my finger to the "landing strip area" at very top of my head. Rubbing those hairs, I said, "Get it bald right there."

My RB complied as best he could with his clippers, and at the end of the cut, he asked me if it was short enough. The cut did look great, and I left it at that. My RB is happy to whip out the lather and razor for a back-and-sides shave, but I've never seen him go for shaving the "strip" - perhaps someday I'll ask him and see if he would try it.

I've gotten a lot of flattops over the years from a lot of barbers all over the country. I've had only two who would actually use a razor and lather to shave the landing strip. One was at the Beachcomber Barbershop in Oceanside, CA, (that barber no longer works at that shop - I wish I knew where he went, I think his name was Frank) and the other was at U.S. Cavalry near Fort Campbell, on the TN/KY border.

Both of these barbers shaved my landing strip without me asking specifically for that - it was part of their service interpretation when I asked for a "flattop as short as you can cut it." Man, that was my favorite part of the cut - feeling the barber lather up the entire back and sides of my head with warm cream, plus the very center of the top. It's truly as close as you can get to a shaved bald head with some real barber cutting artistry left on the noggin. When I walked out of those shops, I was 100% convinced that those barbers had truly given me the shortest possible FT that any barber could possibly cut.

Let me step back a second for anyone who may be confused about the use of the term "landing strip" here. Commonly, the term refers to a shaved style of women's pubic hair. However, it also has a different meaning with men's flattop haircuts. To me, other than the horizontal flat plane of the haircut, there is nothing that more distinguishes a flattop cut than the landing strip. When I'm walking around in public and see a guy who I think might have a FT - but I'm not sure if it might actually be a high-and-tight, butch cut, crewcut, etc. - I look for the dude to tip his head so I can see his landing strip. If it's the shortest at the very top, I know he's got a flat.

This is really what we call a "horseshoe flattop" (my personal favorite type of FT) - meaning that, if you were to look at the haircut from above (or on a tilted down head), you'd see nothing more than a horseshoe-shaped ring of hair on the man's head with the rest being either shaved bald or a few days growth of stubble.

When I'm wearing a flattop, it's almost always a horseshoe, and I'll write about that in another post. But amazingly, the U.S. Marine Corps has explcitly banned a shaved landing strip. Sadly, this has been misinterpreted as a ban on all short flattops (more on that later).

Texan gets FT every week for 30 years

Friday, July 31, 1998

Surviving wacky hair trends, barber shop celebrates 50 years

By NORA GARZA / The Monitor

PHARR, Texas -- Carlos Vargas walked out of Serda's Barber Shop with a fresh flat top.

"No one else puts up with my type of haircut," said Vargas, 36, as he ran a hand through his thick, shiny black hair on a recent Saturday.

Vargas has been going to the small white frame building in Pharr each week for the past 30 years. He likes his hair cropped short on top and shaved at the sides.

He is in good hands at Serda's. Its founder, Gabriel Serda, was known as the "Flat Top King" in the late '40s. He learned the technique by trimming a friend's crew cut. Pleased with the results, his friend gave up his weekly trips to Brownsville and let Serda groom his head.

With his quiet nature and easy smile, Serda, 78, has been winning over customers for nearly five decades.

His 14-by-22-foot shop on 132 E. Bell has changed little since it was built in 1948 on a foundation of old-fashioned virtues of family, mutual respect and hard work. Since then, the business and the business owner have become beloved Valley institutions.

On Sunday, family and friends will honor Serda and his wife, Coleta, with a reception celebrating the shop's 50th anniversary. Among invited dignitaries invited to pay tribute to the Serdas are U.S. Rep. Rubn Hinojosa, state Sen. Eddie Lucio and Judge Ruben Ramos.

During the festivities, 11-month-old Brendan Michael Palacios will get his first haircut, becoming a fifth-generation Serda's customer. Brendan's grandfather, Oscar Palacios, lived in the neighborhood. Now a San Juan attorney, Palacios still comes to the shop for a $6 haircut.

Palacios used to pick cotton with Serda's children.

"I always felt comfortable with them," Palacios said. "You have to understand, we're old families here. My mother was born in the house she lives in now. I was, too."

Gabriel Serda, 78, knows the neighborhood and its people well. He was born four blocks from the site of his future barber shop. Serda and a friend, Joaquin Barrera, son of a barber, used each other to practice cutting hair. At 16, Serda got good enough with his father's old hand clippers to set up shop under an orange tree and charge 5 cents a head during the Depression.

The enterprise planted the seed that perhaps he could do something other than seasonal migrant work for a living.

Later, Serda joined the Civilian Conservation Camp and during World War II was drafted into the Army. In 1942, he was captured by the Germans in North Africa and spent 26 months in prisoner-of-war camps in Germany. He was selected to be one of the barbers for the camp.

After the war, he attended barber school under the G.I. Bill and got his barbering license. He and Coleta married in 1946 and settled in San Antonio. They moved to Pharr two years later, building the barber shop across the street from their first home.

In the beginning, Coleta Serda helped with the business by washing the towels. She stayed home to raise their children -- Angel of McAllen, Javier of Pharr, Gabriel Jr. of San Antonio, Esperanza Garcia of Pharr and Patricia Garcia of McAllen.

"It seems to me if you work, you have more problems," Coleta Serda said. "You don't know where your kids are."

The Serda children often could be found at the barber shop, usually working. The family laughs at the story of Gabriel Serda chasing his sons through Bell Street waving a strop, or leather band for sharpening razors. But they got away with "no mas una nalgada (a spanking)," Javier Serda said.

Javier and Gabriel Jr. eventually became barbers. While Javier, 50, has been in the family business for 30 years, Gabriel Jr. left for a teaching career.

Wearing a starched blue smock, Gabriel Serda is particularly proud of his immaculate shop, where bright orange and lime painted cabinets hold supplies. The shop is decorated with antiques. On the walls are pictures of customers, and a map of the United States dotted with colorful push pins to mark the home towns of his customers.

The shop is homey, usually filled with a steady stream of customers and genial conservation, and very often, live music. When the Winter Texans are in town, the shop becomes a mini recreation center. Javier Serda keeps a guitar handy for jam sessions to accompany a visiting accordionist or fiddle player.

The shop survived the '60s hippie era and the '80s high-styling trend. Isreal Rebollar, 41, was one of the long-haired teens who took the roundabout route to school to avoid Serda's admonitions. "One of these days," Serda would tell him, "I'll grab you guys."

"We wore our hair long," Rebollar said recently, as he waited his turn at the shop. With the exception of his hippie days, he has been coming to Serda's since he was a boy.

Serda's specializes in the kind of services older men prefer. They shave around the ears and the back of the neck, and give facial massages. Gabriel Serda also makes house calls to disabled customers.

Angel Serda marvels that his father became a successful businessman, despite discrimination directed toward Mexican-Americans by both Anglos and wealthy Mexican-Americans. With only a sixth-grade education, Serda built his own business and owns property.

Angel Serda called his parents his idols.

"They've instilled the work ethic, and very strong and sound moral values," Angel Serda said. "They're the wind beneath our wings, they really are."

They set the example for family togetherness, taking care of the elderly, the importance of education and living within their means, Angel Serda said.

"God has given me so much, more than I deserve," Coleta Serda said. "My children are always there when I need them. They spoil us a little more than I deserve."

The Serdas met in the San Antonio zoo, by the monkey exhibit.

"It's been a nice marriage," Coleta Serda said. "It's been a long time."

Garbriel Serda has cut his work week to three days, though he works full time when his son is on vacation. But he still shows up each Sunday to clean the shop. He cannot even begin to estimate how many customers have filed through his door.

"Whew, I'd go crazy if I tried to count heads," he said.

But he knows for certain that becoming a barber was divine destiny.

"That's what God wanted me to do," Serda said. "To be good, you have to like what you're doing. I like to cut hair and talk to people."

It was in the Army that he learned how to talk to others, for the first time seeing that people of different races and ethnic backgrounds were treated with equal respect.

He took with him the lesson that "I'm the only one keeping myself down."

He developed tolerance for his customers, who represent all walks of life, from professionals and blue collar workers to field hands and clergymen. They come from all corners of the United States, as well as other parts of the globe.

"I hear different ways people think," Gabriel Serda said. "I'm going to let people live the way they want. I respect the opinion of every individual.

"If you want to live a good life," he said, "mind your own business."

That he has lasted this long in the business impresses even Gabriel Serda.

"When I worked in San Antonio, the barber told me he had worked there for 30 years. I thought that was too long," he said.

His longevity may be explained by his philosophy on how to treat customers.

"You have to be nice to them," Gabriel Serda said. "They're the ones who put the bread and butter on the table. Every man who sits in this chair is my boss."

Exercise and staying away from food that disagrees with him keeps him healthy, he said. He gets up at 5:30 every morning and walks one to one and half miles, and does push-ups.

"Thanks to God I lived this long," Gabriel Serda said. "The people have treated me right. I have no complaints."

He prefers working to traditional retirement hobbies like golfing and fishing.

"I'm not ready to retire," he said. "In the first place, I'm not sick. You have to keep moving or you go down. But, 78, that's getting pretty close to old-timer."


The public is invited to attend the event, set for 4-8 p.m. A special ceremony is scheduled for 6 p.m., including a special presentation by the Pharr Chamber of Commerce.


Distributed by The Associated Press

Flattop cutting video - music, no clipper sounds

The Art of the Flattop (Flat Top) Haircut#

The Art of the Flattop (Flat Top) Haircut#

The Art of the Flattop (Flat Top) Haircut

By Paul Edmondson

The Art of the Flattop (Flat Top) Haircut76
rate or flag this pageBy Paul Edmondson

Best Flattop of All-Time
Who had the better flattop
Jack Nicholas in a Few Good Men
Tom Hanks in Forrest Gump
Kid from Kid N Play
Chris Mullin from the Golden State Warriors
Grace Jones from View to a Kill

Flattop (Flat-top) Crewcuts

If you aren't familiar with flattops or flat-top haircuts, they are cut very short on the sides with an oh, so slight taper until you get to the top of the head. Then the perfect flattop is about 3/4 of an inch long in the front, but may be a 1/8 of an inch long at the pinnacle of your scalp depending on the shape of your head. The skilled barber will make it perfectly flat with a landing strip that comes down the middle and fades into the front hairline. The landing strip is the hair on the top that is cut shortest and runs from the front to the back. The whiteness of the scalp has less of a shaddow from the longer hair on the sides and looks like a perfect place to land a toy plane.

Don't confuse flattops with a punk style cut ( These are pure clean cuts. Although, nothing screams March Maddness like a freshly cut flattop. A flatop is a very special haircut that few barbars have mastered. In fact, I've only found one. For $7 in San Luis Obispo you can get the world's greatest flattop at Ray's Barbershop. I've been going to Ray and his daughter Page since I was a little kid. He's worth the trip to San Luis Obispo alone.

The flattop became popular in the 1950s and remains popular with the Marines and midwestern basketball players. We all saw hoosiers and I think a perfect flattop is a prerequisite to a smooth as butter jumper.