The bowl haircut, especially popular among European men from the twelfth through the fifteenth centuries, is one of the simplest of styles to create. It is a plain short haircut, with straight bangs on the forehead, and the rest of the hair left the same length all the way around. The cut got its name because it was originally done by actually placing a bowl on the head as a cutting guide. Most medieval men who wore the bowl haircut style also shaved the backs of their heads and shaved their sideburns.
The length of men's hair varied considerably during the Middle Ages (c. 500–c. 1500), with long curls being popular during some decades and shorter lengths coming into style during others. The Crusades, a long campaign of religious wars that lasted from 1090 through 1300, had brought both military and religious styles into popular culture, and the modest bowl haircut had elements of the shorter hairstyles of both soldiers and religious leaders. However, men of the Middle Ages did manage to add their own personal style to bowl-cropped hair by wearing fashionable hats and head coverings, which were quite complex and ornate during that era.
Though the bowl cut has an ancient history, it has reappeared throughout the centuries, often among poor people in rural areas who could not afford barbers. During the 1960s the popular British rock group the Beatles introduced a modern version of bowl-cropped hair, which became so popular it changed men's hairstyles around the world.
Payne, Blanche, Geitel Winakor, and Jane Farrell-Beck. The History of Costume. 2nd ed. New York: HarperCollins, 1992.