How To Grow And Shape Sideburns 

By  Emily Konatella

LAST UPDATED - December 11, 2023

Though often overshadowed by beards and mustaches, sideburns are fundamental to your facial hair. Sideburns with the correct length, width, and overall shape can flatter your face shape and accentuate your other facial hair. That's why we've created this helpful guide to growing and shaping your sideburns. After highlighting a few of the most popular sideburns styles, we'll teach you how to find the best sideburn shape for your face and offer grooming tips to help you achieve the look.

What is Sideburn?

The long strips of facial hair in front of the ears and along the cheeks are referred to as sideburns. Some may refer to them as side-whiskers.

Popular Sideburn Styles

The history of sideburns offers a fascinating glimpse into men's grooming habits. Like beards and 'staches, countless sideburns styles have ebbed and flowed in popularity over the years. And while most men these days don't sport mutton chops, modern styles still draw inspiration from those of decades past.

The Origin of Sideburns

Sideburns earned their name from Ambrose Burnside, a Civil War general and 19th-century senator known more for his distinctive facial hair than his military competence. Before that, they were referred to as side whiskers. Burnside shaved his beard while growing the rest of his facial hair into long strips connected to a full mustache. The impressive beard came to be known as Burnside whiskers, a style that evolved into the mutton chops and large sideburns men sport today.

Mutton Chops

Mutton chops— and their close relative, the lamb chops— are one the most iconic sideburns styles of all time. The infamous look can be achieved by shaving the chin and mustache while leaving your beard long on the sides. Though mutton chops peaked in popularity during the late 19th-century, they've experienced short-lived revivals over the years.

Long Sideburns

Sideburns experienced a significant decline during World War I, as a clean-shaven face was required to create a tight seal on gas masks worn in trench warfare. It wasn't until the 1950s that large sideburns came back into style; only now, they weren't a signal of military enlistment and conservative views. With the help of Elvis Presley, Marlon Brandow, and other celebrities, they became rebellious fashion statements. Their purpose was to identify the wearer with the rebellious 20th-century subculture they belonged to: bikers, hippies, skinheads, greasers, club kids, and more.

Short Sideburns

Technically speaking, any style trimmed above the top of your ear lobes can be considered short, and anything that extends beyond that is considered long sideburns. Compared to the bushy Burnside whiskers of years past, most men sport relatively short sideburns. Short, wide sideburns can help reduce your face length and highlight your cheekbones. Should you choose to sport something short, they should be slightly wider to frame your face.

Tapered Sideburns

Tapered sideburns create a modern, fashion-forward look. Oftentimes, they're paired with a fade haircut with the same feel. Identifiable by their thin, angled shape, they're often paired with a clean-shaven face or pointy goatee. Though stylish, symmetrical tapered sideburns can be difficult to achieve without a good barber.

No Sideburns

Your sideburns should transition smoothly into your beard style if you're sporting facial hair. Even if you're clean-shaven, you'll want to keep at least a little hair in front of your ears. Bald men are the only group that should go fully sideburn-free. Fully removing your sideburns can distort your face shape, making it look rounder and wider than it actually is.

What Shape Should Sideburns Be?

Wondering how to find the most flattering style for your face shape? If you're not looking to make a specific fashion statement, stick with medium length, medium width sideburns with a natural shape. In general, your sideburns should reach the bottom of your ear. Trim at an angle following your jawline or beard line to add style and complement your bone structure.

How to Trim Your Sideburns

The first rule of shaping your sideburns is to trim them conservatively. You can always trim off a little more, but you can't bring back what's already been removed. Plus, you'll probably need to do a bit of back-and-forth to make sure both sides are even.

While it may seem counter-intuitive, you should never use your ears as a reference point. Almost everyone's ears are slightly off-balance, and using them as a guide can quickly lead to uneven-looking sideburns. Instead, use central facial features like your nose and mouth.

Before trimming, comb your sideburns downwards towards your jawline or in the direction the hair grows. This helps create a more precise shape and even thickness.

Shave around the sideburns but leave them far larger than you want. Slowly reduce and trim your sideburns to blend smoothly into your hairline, both in width and hair length. Unless you're going for a specific look, your sideburns should never be longer than the hair right along your hairline.

Tips for Growing Sideburns & Facial Hair

Everyone's sideburns grow at different speeds into different shapes and lengths. It's totally normal to have thin, patchy sideburns, especially if you have trouble growing other facial hair. You'll need to grow your sideburns out for at least four weeks if you're changing shapes. Consider sporting transitional styles that'll keep you looking sharp while making major changes to your facial hair.

Caring for the skin beneath your beard is the best way to support healthy hair growth. Keep your side whiskers moisturized and your skin happy with high-quality beard care products. The proper beard oil softens scratchy whiskers, hydrates your skin, and reduces irritation after shaving.

How To Trim Sideburns For Your Face Shape

face shape

Sideburns are a valuable framing tool to help shape a man's face, and it can elongate or shorten a face based on how you trim it. Here are some of our suggestions:

Diamond Face Shapes

Men with diamond face shapes can use sideburns to soften their angular characteristics. The medium length works the best on this shape, ending right above the mid-ear point. Avoid bushy sides as it can make your cheekbones look wider than it is.

Triangle Face Shapes

Short to medium-length works the best for this face shape as it will add balance to a wide lower face. Men with a wide lower face should opt for short sideburns. Only leave your sideburn a little longer if the wideness occurs most prominently around the raw line.

Round Face Shapes

For this face shape, go for a longer style o break up the roundness and make your cheekbone look longer.

Oblong Face Shapes

Wider and shorter sideburns are recommended for this face shape to help reduce face length. Long and thin sideburns will elongate it. By applying volume, it will widen it.

Oval Face Shapes

Medium-length sideburns that end around mid-ear are recommended for this face shape. Avoid long style as it can lengthen the face and possibly a pointy chin.

Square Face Shapes

For this shape, it's best to go for longer style sideburns that will reach to the bottom of the ear, as this will help your face look narrower and offset a square jawline.

Heart Face Shapes

This face shape is a bit tricky and will require some experimentation. A longer style crosses the face can emphasize the small chin and add width at the bottom. Small styles are the safest option for this face shape.

Sideburns Trimming Tips

Always Trim Down

To trim your facial hair, always trim down and not upwards. Trimming upward will put you at risk of making holes.

Start Small

Remember, you can always trim a little more. But if you take too much off, you will need to wait until the hair grows back.

Never Use Ear As Reference Point

It's very rare for someone to have symmetrical ears. Therefore, you shouldn't use the ear as your reference point. Use facial features like nose or mouth instead.

About the author

Emily is a fashion consultant, designer and creative director with more than 15 years experience creating, designing and developing clothing & jewelry. From managing pageant shows to turning concepts into actual designs, she has experience with almost all fabric types and jewelry designs and is in touch with the latest fashion trends.