Sideburns are a very important part of your look and for the most part are very underrated. They can be worn in many different ways and can enhance your look or stand on their own. This style can be subtle or make a statement and that’s the great part about them. Unfortunately they are often forgotten and don’t get the attention they deserve.
In this guide you will learn about the history, how to grow and style, what face shape they suit and much more.
If you’re looking for more facial hair style inspiration check out our Top Beard Styles.
What Are Sideburns
Sideburns are defined as facial hair that grows on the side of the face and extends from the hairline all the way down parallel to the ears and beyond. Sideburns can have a wide variety of styles and can be thin, thick, long, short ect. They can be effective to cover up negative facial features while bringing out positive ones for you. People often forget that your sideburns can ruin a good hairstyle or beard if done wrong.
The history dates all the way back to the American civil war. It was a general named Ambrose Burnside that started the popularity of the style. Although the style he wore would be considered Friendly Mutton Chops today back then it was know as side whiskers.
His beard style became popular after being featured in the Philadelphia Telegraph when the writer referred to his style as Burnside Whiskers. After this the beard style became very popular with different world leaders and they all had their own take on the style.
During this time in London having hair grown on the cheeks was referred to as Mutton Chops or Piccadilly Weepers. After the term side whiskers had changed to burnside whiskers the press eventually just started calling the style sideburns in around 1875.
Modern Sideburns Styles
Sideburns were not very popular in the beginning half of the 20th century. Most people attribute this to the world wars since you could not have a beard and seal a gas mask properly as well as grooming rules in the military. The style made a major comeback though starting in the 1950’s with notable celebrities such as Elvis Presley, James Dean and others wearing the style. Because of this sideburns became associated with rockers, greasers, and Bikers.
In the 1960s sideburns kept rising in popularity because of huge bands like the Beatles and others. Many men involved in the hippie movement were wearing sideburns and the style was associated with freedom of expression. This influence kept the ball rolling for the sideburns style and its still a very popular style today.
We consider there to be four main sideburns styles in play today with one honourable mention at the end.
Long sideburns are ones that come down below your ear and can take on a few different forms. If you want to wear this style it’s recommended to keep them well trimmed and clean. Unless of course your going for a more wild and bushy look.
Short sideburns are great for the man that wants to keep a formal look. This style will only come down to about the middle of the ear at most. Some people wear them very short where there is almost no sideburn even there. Even in this more formal approach there is room to show some personality. Just experiment with the angles of the sideburns, length and also possibly a taper.
With a tapered style the longest hair is closest to the top of the ear and the hair gradually tapers down to a chosen point in the face. Some people taper just from the top of the ear to the bottom of the ear, some blend this into a full beard, and some have a long sideburn that tapers well below the ear. The best thing about this style is there are so many options.
If you’re looking to elongate your face then skinny sideburns can be a great option. This can be a great looking style paired with slicked hair and a clean cut look. They do require fairly high maintenance though and will have to be trimmed every few days with beard trimmers and a regular razor to finish off the lines.
We really consider Mutton Chops to stand on their own as a beard style but they deserve a mention in this article. Mutton Chops and the friendly alternative have had a bit of a comeback in the last 20 years or so. We feel this is due to a few things. One being that the Wolverine character played by Hugh Jackman wore the style and that was hugely popular. Of course you have to mention Lemmy Kilmister of the band Motorhead, he was famous for his Friendly Mutton Chops. Also something to mention is countryside pub culture in the U.K.. Check out our full guide on Mutton Chops to learn everything.
What Face Shape?
The great thing about sideburns is that they can suit many different face shapes. The key to picking the right style is to keep in mind that sideburns can alter the look of your face in two ways, by widening it or elongating it.
If you grow bushy thicker sideburns this will help widen your face. This is very helpful for people with Oblong faces as it will help widen the face and will reduce the face length. This can also be helpful for people with a triangle face shape since it can offset the wide jawline.
If you grow thinner longer sideburns this can be used to elongate you face. People with round faces can greatly benefit from this as it will help straighten the cheeks and elongate the face.
There are a few face shapes that may struggle to find the perfect style. If you have a heart shaped face you need to be careful as long sideburns can emphasize the small chin. A short sideburn style is best suited for this face shape. If you have a diamond shaped face you can wear short sideburns but make sure they are trimmed as you don’t want to widen your cheekbones. If you want to soften the features a bit grow a long sideburn with this face shape.
How to Trim Sideburns
Trimming sideburns is actually quite easy compared to some other beard styles. It can speed things up if you have some beard trimmers. The attachment you use on your trimmers depends on how thick you want to keep your sideburns. If you have average length sideburns we recommend starting with a #3 and work down from there.
Once you get the burns trimmed to the desired length use a regular razor and shave the lines nice and clean. If you’re not one that likes to use trimmers a comb and scissors can be used. Just use the comb to hold the hair up then trim with the scissors.
Celebrities That Have Worn The Style
Many celebrities have worn sideburns. A few notable people come to mind when thinking of the style such as Elvis, James Dean, Hugh Jackman, The Blues Brothers, Luke Perry and of course many more.
Sideburns can very fun to experiment with as there is such a wide variety of styles. If you want to start with a long style of sideburn that can always be trimmed down to find your ideal length. Ultimately you just need to find what works and looks best on you that compliments your hairstyle and face shape.
Check out the video below on growth and care of sideburns, as well as this article.
Drop a comment below and let us know what you think of this simple style.