A step haircut is a layered hairstyle that doesn't blend the different lengths of hair. A normal layered haircut, by contrast, might have varying lengths of hair, but they're blended, so the different lengths aren't noticeable. In a step haircut, the different lengths are noticeable on purpose. Step haircuts include mullets, jagged cuts, choppy layers and clipped layers.
A short step haircut can be a style that includes obvious layers, versions of bobs and sudden changes of hair length with bangs. Longer step haircuts are less obvious, negating some of the aim in choosing a haircut that is obviously layered. Shoulder-length haircut styles, however, can be stepped by cutting hair at different levels without blending the layers with one another.
Stepped haircuts have the tendency to show off hair textures or color variations more than blended hairstyles because the sudden change of layers can correspond with a sudden change of color. For some people, this is excellent because it allows for chunky color combinations or highlights to be accentuated. For people who have curly or wavy hair, stepped haircuts might be lost in the variation in hair length and texture unless the steps are larger and more obvious than for people who have straight hair.
Haircuts that might have blended layers can also be stepped haircuts in the case of lengthening A-line bangs that swoop down on one side of the face. One can have the bang length blended with the rest of the head, or the style can be a stepped cut if the difference between the bangs and hair behind the ears is a drastic change. When the curve of hair changes direction, a step is often desirable from the perspective of many hairdressers because it takes a natural occurrence and makes the conflicting directions aesthetically pleasing.
In choosing a haircut, one should consider face shape, hair texture and desired length. The amount of maintenance required for that particular haircut style also should be considered. Often, the maintenance requirements of long hair will encourage some people to explore layered cuts such as step haircuts because these styles are considered to be among the lower-maintenance haircuts for longer hair. In general, stepped haircuts are for mid- to shoulder-length hair.
A mullet technically is a step haircut. It has very short hair on the top of the head and very long hair in the back. The mullet, however, takes step haircuts to an extreme and usually is not what people are referring to when they talk about stepped haircuts. A mullet is considered by many people to be in a class all by itself.