There’s a reason men’s grooming forums and YouTube channels sound an awful lot like a Sesame Street lesson.
In the summer of 2015, people wouldn’t stop sending pictures of their faces to Anthony Deluca. For months, emails streamed in, and the attached images loaded like Jack-In-the-Boxes, faces jumping out at Deluca through the screen. These people were “incredibly persistent,” Deluca said. If he didn’t respond to someone’s email, he recalled, they’d find him on Instagram and send him a message or poke at him on Twitter. Every one of them asked the same question: what is my face shape?
The flood started in July 2015, after Deluca, who makes men’s fashion and grooming videos on YouTube, posted one that explained which hairstyles look best with which face shape. The trick was that no one could figure out what their own face shape was, so Deluca spent the next couple weeks volleying back responses to guys: oval, diamond, round, round, square, oval, square, diamond. The face shape video remains one of Deluca’s most popular—1.2 million views—and the topic is a top performer for other men’s YouTubers, like Aaron Merino (7.2 million views). On Reddit’s Male Grooming channel, there is an endless stream of guys with variously shaped noggins who want to know if their face is an oval or diamond or square or.
It is safe to say that guys are obsessed with their face shape—or at least with figuring out what shape their face is. Why?
It’s all about hair, Deluca thinks. When talking about clothes or fashion, Deluca found that guys in the comment sections of his videos would tell him the topic was too feminine. But hair is a safe space. “A lot of guys feel like [hair] is the one place right now where they can experiment without being judged by other guys for it,” Deluca said. And without knowing their face shape, guys can feel like they’re stepping into a barber chair without a compass.
But figuring out your face shape holds a special power above and beyond nailing The Right Haircut for You. Your face shape can be a sort of skeleton key that unlocks your whole style—and gives you permission to try things you might not otherwise. By coding themselves as the owner of a face shaped like a square, diamond, hexagon, or football, guys can boil hairstyles (and glasses choices) down to simple math. If I have X face shape, I must get Y haircut. Fashion ceases being about taste—it’s just about algorithm. “When you see a video like ‘The Right Haircut for Your Face Shape,’ it’s reducing getting a hairstyle to a science,” Deluca explained. “It takes away opinion… because there’s been so much research done by the hair community, by stylists themselves showing this will look the best on you.”
This scientific approach is also why face shape videos typically perform better than ones that point out “trendy” hairstyles or ones favored by celebrities. Most guys, smartly, don’t take one look at Brad Pitt and think: now there’s a hairstyle I can pull off. But if they notice that Pitt’s square-shaped cranium can support a buzz or a flowing mane, then it’s fair game.
But Youtube is famously a cesspool, where authority is based on viewership stats, not experience. So I turned to celebrity men’s hairstylist Martial Vivot to see if all this diagramming is worth it—or even useful—when getting a trim. I rambled on about how guys obsessively ask the question on YouTube and Reddit then finally asked, Is it really that important?
Vivot laughed. “Yes,” he said.
The hairstylist told me that the face shape is a guiding force of the haircuts he gives—but, crucially, that’s it’s less restrictive than X shape equals Y haircut. Vivot’s goal is to find a cut that plays off his client’s face shape. “If you have a round face, the game would be to create a more oval shape. So we need to create some height and create some volume,” he said.
Vivot also points out that when a guy knows their face shape, they can use that information to break the rules. “You know David Lynch,” he said, referring to the legendary director. “His face is more like an oval shape,” but in rocking a seriously beefy pompadour, “he’s going completely against what he’s supposed to do, because he’s accentuating the oval shape. Sometimes, when your personality is so strong, you have the kind of guy who is like, ‘I don’t care, this is who I am, I am super avant-garde.”
Not every guy is ready for the sort of Lynchian cut that calls attention to their funny-shaped head, but there is more flexibility than the average joe might think—and that a community like Deluca’s on YouTube is likely to provide. At the end of the day, Vivot said that while he uses face shape to guide his scissors, personality will always play a larger role in the sort of hair styles he recommends a client. And even worst-case scenarios can be averted with a little bit of time. You can’t change your face shape, but hair always grows back.
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