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When it comes to fresh new haircut trends, we're certainly spoilt for choice. There's the stylish 'Sachel' (a cross between the messy shag and the heavily layered Rachel cut of the '90s), the Italian bob (a chunky-ended, neck-grazing style best worn in your hair's natural wave) and the curly crop (a super short style, which looks great on curls).
As we segue into autumn, our obsession with voluminous hair shows no sign of slowing down. If you aren't keen on layers and you don't want to lop off inches, TikTok's subtle U-shape haircut might be your best bet at creating that covetable fullness.
@thelucycao Reply to @monamike my hairstylist did her thing. save this for reference >> I asked for soft layers all the way around, a nice ‘U’ shape for fullness and an overall trim to get rid of dead ends. And no curtain bangs!! #summerhair #longlayers #healthyhaircheck #longhaircut #hair360 #hairtok ♬ Jaydon Lewis kiss it better amapiano remix - Lejeàñ 🕶
What is the U-shape haircut?
Hairdressers will know that the U-shape haircut is nothing new. But in the past few weeks the technique has assumed viral TikTok status thanks to a handful of stylists showing off their recent work (not to mention clients who are obsessed with their new look).
So what exactly is the U-shape haircut? It's pretty much what it says on the tin, according to Stephen Buller, director at Buller + Rice hair salon. "As we have seen before with the wolf cut and curtain bangs, trends on TikTok allow us to revisit an old style with fresh eyes," says Stephen. "The U-shape haircut is very similar to the classically popular V-shape haircut, in that they both involve the back and middle of your hair being longer than the sides." The way the hair falls when dried lends a slightly curved silhouette.
"The U-shape haircut is a more subtle, versatile shape," adds Stephen, "and this allows for layers with a more even outline." In other words, if you do opt for layers, they appear seamlessly blended into the rest of the hair rather than chunky and obvious, as can often be the case.
What are the benefits of the U-shape haircut?
"The U-shape haircut is a good all-rounder," says Stephen. "You can play around with the length, going as short as the shoulder blades to the mid back." One great aspect of the U-cut is that it features face-framing layers, which lend dimension and stop hair looking limp. "You can personalise the amount of layering you want and can even pair it with curtain bangs or a more structured fringe," says Stephen. "This allows for people with finer hair to keep thickness and volume."
If TikTok is anything to go by, the U-shape haircut looks just as pretty straight as it does curly. But the '90s are going nowhere and most stylists are set on a big, bouncy blow-dry to really enhance both the layers and the U curve. If that's not your style, subtle beachy waves also amplify the intended fullness of a U-shape haircut.
Just look to Refinery29's senior social media editor Elli Weir, who we sent along to Buller + Rice for the cut. Not having had a haircut for a long while, Elli's ends were a little straggly and shapeless. Stephen started at the sides, chopping Elli's lengths a few centimetres shorter than the mid-section and snipping in some long layers. The result? Hair that looks and feels thicker and healthier.
Alternatively, the U-shape haircut works if you have thicker hair, says Stephen. "There's the option to include lots more layering throughout the lengths to reduce weight." This also lends thick hair texture and movement so that it doesn't sit heavily on the shoulders.
How do you style the U-shape haircut?
This cut looks incredible on all hair colours but certain highlighting techniques will bring out the layers, says Stephen. "Balayage and ombre hair trends are a staple in the salon currently. This method of dark to light hair works perfectly for the U-shape haircut as the layers and varying lengths showcase the nuances in the colours beautifully."
Stephen favours soft, subtle curls and loose waves — styles that are endlessly popular at Buller + Rice. "Waves will complement the gentle curve that the haircut forms with the ends of your hair," says Stephen. Use a curling wand (Buller + Rice loves the ghd Curve) for a relaxed, textured wave. "Simply take small sections of hair and wrap around the wand at different angles," says Stephen, for the fresh-off-the-beach look. "Before touching the heat, spritz in OWAY Thermo-Detangling Cloud, which nourishes without weighing the hair down," he adds. "It protects all hair types from the drying action of hot tools." Then run through with a wide-tooth comb or a soft bristle brush to create a looser, more voluminous look.
You might be more of an air-dried hair person, though, and Stephen says you can still easily style this cut using a heat-free method. You'll need a sea salt spray. "After towel drying, spritz this into the hair and scrunch — then off you go. Alternatively, use a diffuser for more natural waves and volume without excessive heat."
How do you maintain the U-shape haircut?
"With any layered style it's best to get regular trims to maintain the style," says Stephen, who recommends booking into a salon every six to eight weeks, just to dust away any split ends.
Internal layering (also known as invisible layers, cut in underneath the top section of hair) accentuates the style, says Stephen, instantly adding more volume and texture.
How should you ask your stylist for the U-shape haircut?
Showing pictures or videos of cuts you rate is key. On TikTok, @thelucycao recommends asking for "soft layers all the way around, a nice 'U' shape for fullness and an overall trim to get rid of dead ends". Similarly, @alyssastephanie asks their stylist for a combination of medium to long layers alongside face-framing layers and a U-shaped back. Happily, all qualified hairstylists will be well versed in this particular trend.