Sideburns have been making statements for years, picking up momentum in the late 60s and then reappearing (with a pretty strong following) in the early 90s. Now they’re back with a lot more style and creativity. Whether you’re wearing mutton chops like Elvis or ice picks like Ludacris, the styles keep changing. But the look is always known as simply sideburns. Care should be taken when shaping and trimming sideburns to make them even on both sides. In general, shorter haircuts tend to feature shorter sideburns, and longer cuts feature longer sideburns, though there is always room for creativity if you want to go with a non-standard look. Longer sideburns can help balance a face with an unusually long chin (usually paired with a longer neck-edge in a hair cut), and shorter sideburns can balance a short or or weak chin (usually paired with a shorter neck-edge in a hair cut).
Known alternatively as muttonchops, balcarrotas or greaser sleeves, sideburns have a long and storied past. They’ve stood alone on great historical faces like Charles Darwin, William Wordsworth, Elvis Presley, and Jason Priestly. They’ve also teamed with other facial hair to give people like Henry David Thoreau his unique chinstrap beard and Abraham Lincoln his chin curtain. No other facial hairstyle has carried such diverse interpretations; on James Dean, they were rebellious; on hippies, they screamed slacker; on Napoleonic military men, they were dignified; and in the early San Francisco gay club scene, they screamed “free lunch boys.” They’ve endured thousands of years and will no doubt endure thousands more as a cornerstone of Western culture.
Sideburns – 5 Things You Didn’t Know
1. Sideburns are named after a Civil War general
Ambrose Everett Burnside lived from May 23, 1824 to September 13, 1881. A Union Army general in the Civil War and later a Rhode Island politician, Burnside was well known and well liked. He wasn’t known as a good general, often getting his forces in trouble, but people forgave him because of his freaky facial hair. Two burly muttonchops grew dangerously long and connected to a handlebar mustache. Originally they became known as burnsides, but over time the syllables were switched around.
2. Alexander the Great sported sideburns.
The James Dean of his day, Alexander wore sideburns while conquering most of the known world from 336 B.C. to 323 B.C. While many depictions of him incorporate the ‘burns, one of the most famous is The Alexander Mosaic, which dates back to 100 B.C. Originating in the House of the Faun in Pompeii, the piece depicts Alexander the Great kicking Persian asses, while his sideburns flow triumphantly in the war wind.
3. In Judaism, your sect determines your sideburn length
The distinctive long curls that Jewish men wear as sideburns, or “sidelocks,” are called payots, a Hebrew word that translates into English as sides or edges. The Holiness Code in Leviticus 19-27 forbids the shaving of the corners of the head. Different sects of the Jewish religion put their own flare to payots. The Yemenites call them simanim, which means signs, because they differentiate them from Yemenite Muslims. They wear long, thin and twisted locks, often reaching to the upper arm. The Skver (Hasidic dynasty) twist theirs into tight coils and wear them in front of the ear. The Gur raised their peyots from the temples and tuck them under a yarmulke. The Lithuanian Jews often leave a few short strands uncut and tuck them behind their ears, a style most commonly found among yeshiva students.
4. Elvis Presley loved sideburns more than football
The King’s family moved a lot, making him the continual outsider. When every other boy had crew cuts, the shy, skinny 13-year-old grew his hair long by those days’ standards. The guys on the football team called him Miss Elvis. Eventually, the coach gave him an ultimatum, cut the hair or be cut from the team. By that point the girls had started paying attention to his rebellious look, so Elvis decided to keep his ducktail and sideburns. Without football, he focused on singing and playing guitar instead. Thank God for sideburns.
5. Sideburns become sideburns below the ear
While U.S. Military men may not wear braids, cornrows or dreadlocks, they can have sideburns. This makes sense since sideburns have often been a military fashion. In the 18th century, for example, they grew in popularity across Europe after the cavalry began wearing them.
Of course, there are now strict regulations regarding facial hair: No full muttonchops. The sideburns must be neatly trimmed. They may not be flared and the base of the burn has to be a clean, straight line that does not extend below the lowest part of the exterior ear. The Queen’s Regulations in England are similar. The sideboards, as they’re called there, may not go past the center of the ear.
Joke: I didn’t like my beard at first,…but then started to grow on me..!
The most widely-known style name for sideburns is the mutton chop. Mutton chops are typically grown wide and long; some reach down as far as the chin line. They can be bushy or trimmed close to the face, but in general tend to be longer and wider than a traditional long sideburn.
Friendly Mutton Chops
This is a variation of the mutton chop where the sideburns are grown across the face to meet with a moustache on both sides, creating a continuous line of facial hair. The chin is left clean shaven.