Men are obsessed with hair. Where it’s growing, how much you have, how to disguise how little you may have, how to get rid of it when it’s showing up in places it really shouldn’t. People spend literally thousands of dollars per year trying either to grow hair in places where it’s falling out or to remove it from places where they wish it wasn’t.
Yet for all of the attention spent on growing hair or getting rid of it, when it comes to hair cuts and style, guys get lazy. How many of you have had the same hairstyle for years? How many times have you gone to the barber and just asked for “the usual”?
The truth of the matter is, most guys don’t really understand the basics of hair – what type of hair they have, what styles work best for them or even how to find a barber or stylist who knows what they’re doing. Considering the impact a proper hair cut can have both for your look and how people perceive you, it seems silly to treat hair as something of an afterthought. So if you’ve been wishing you could get a better, cooler style but don’t know how, now’s the time to start learning.
Girls Hate Your Hair
The first thing you need to do is understand that the odds are very good that your current hairstyle doesn’t look nearly as cool as you think it does. When it comes to young geeky guys, a number of hair styles tend to crop up more often than others… and they almost never work.
To start with: if you’re rocking any variation of a ponytail, or straight even-length long hair it’s time to lose it. You don’t look like the mighty barbarian king or rock and roll god you think you do. If you’re absolutely determined to keep your hair long – and you have a leaner build; long hair and chubby guys rarely works- then there are layered shag cuts that will look far better than your attempt at James Hetfield-circa The Black Album.
Similarly, if you have a center part, or the high-school era long-on-top, shaved-on-the-back-and-sides… all you’re doing is ruining your chances at sex and making your head look like a mushroom. Buzz cuts, crew cuts and high-and-tights aren’t necessarily much better. They can work for some, but if you don’t have the right facial shape, you’re going to look like you were just trying to save money at the SuperCuts or that you’ve just gotten back from basic training.
Know Your Hair
Before you spend too much time obsessing about what sort of hair style to get, you need to understand the type of hair you have. Hair comes in different textures, thicknesses and growth patterns, and very few hairstyles work across the board for all types of hair. More importantly, you need to embrace and accept the type of hair you have; trying to alter it is time-consuming and expensive, and the results rarely look good or last for very long.
Coarse or Thick Hair
Sometimes it has a natural wave, as though there is an ever so slight curl to it that gave up halfway through. This tends to be the average American white male’s hair, and it frequently works best with shorter, messier, cuts. The thickness adds body and takes texture well. The slight wave can lead to shorter cuts growing out in an uneven mess if you’re not careful.
Jake Gyllenhall, Adam Brody, Jason Sudekis, Chris Evans
Straight Fine Hair
This type of hair is incredibly versatile; the finer texture tends to have a silkier feel to it and it lends itself to a number of styles. This type of hair tends to be found in Hispanics and Latinos, East Asians and white men of Nordic and northern-European descent. However, the thinner hair usually requires a fair amount of styling product in order to control it and add body without letting it flop all over the place.
Chris Hemsworth,Harry Shum Jr., David Beckham, Bradley Cooper
Curly or Kinky Hair
Naturally curly hair in men tends to be thicker and coarser in texture with pronounced curls. When left on it’s own it ends up in what’s normally (and somewhat derogatorily) called a “white ‘fro” or “Jew ‘fro”. Because of the curls and texture, this type of hair doesn’t lend itself as well to many styles; men with this style of hair should try to find barbers or stylists who’re used to curly hair. Frequently found in men of Mediterranean or Jewish descent.
Andy Samberg, Jessie Eisenberg, Adam Grenier
Find Your Celebrity Spirit Guide
A number of factors are involved in a cool hair style, including the type of hair you have, how much hair you have, the shape of your face and the location of your hairline. Trying to keep all of this in mind – and then being able to explain what you want to your barber or stylist – can be maddening when you’re trying to find a style.
To simplify things, you want to find your Celebrity Spirit Guide. This is the celebrity who has the same face shape and type of hair that you have… and preferably one who’s played roles that match the “type” you want to project. This person is now your Celebrity Spirit Guide, and he will be the Virgil to your Dante as you try to find the cool hair cut you want.
You see, trying to visualize a new hair style with accuracy is difficult under the best of circumstances. It’s too easy to get caught up in the fantasy of what you want to have versus the reality of what you end up with. Having a Celebrity Spirit Guide gives you the benefit of seeing how that style – already the product of Hollywood style gurus and incredibly expensive salons – will look… and how realistically you might be able to pull it off.
But hey, speaking of realism…
Know Your Limits
Now that you have an idea of the type of hair you have, it’s time to think realistically about the style you want. Not every style will work on every man and in many cases it’s foolish to even try. If you have thinning or receding hair, attempts to hide this fact through longer or fluffier styles will only make you look ridiculous – better to keep your hair chopped short or even shaved. Similarly, you may lust after Chris Hemsworth’s glorious mane but unless you’re built like a Norse god1 with an absolutely chiseled jawline, it’s not going to work on you.
If you have a receding hairline, trying to keep your hair longer in the front will actually emphasize it. On the other hand, if you have a round face, very short hair styles will only emphasize this, making you look even more roly-poly than you already do. A long face with a high-and-tight is only going to look longer, when it would do better with a slightly fuller, more tapered style.
You also need to keep in mind how long it will take to style every morning. Some hair cuts are great for a high-speed, low-drag lifestyle; hop out of the shower, throw in some paste and out the door you go. Others will require care and attention. If you don’t have time for meticulous styling and blowdrying, you need to keep this in mind.
Barber Or Stylist?
When it comes to hair, you get what you pay for. If you’re going to a chain at the mall for a cheap hair cut, that’s exactly what you’re going to get: a cheap, unattractive hair cut. If you want that cool hair cut, you’re going to have to be willing to shell out for a proper barber or stylist. But which is right for you?
Well, that all depends on what you’re looking for.
A barber is going to be somewhat cheaper than going to a salon. With a traditional barber, you won’t need to make reservations; you just show up and wait for a free chair. Some guys also appreciate the masculine atmosphere and the general sense of camaraderie that barbershops can have. However, barbers are best with traditional short cuts. The hair cut you get at the barber will be fairly simple and easy to maintain, but they won’t be the most stylish or fashion forward cut you could get. Some barbers – especially in larger, hipper cities – will be able to help if you’re looking for a more punk, retro or rockabilly look.
A stylist, on the other hand, will cost more, but comes with more styling options. Stylists are used to dealing with longer hair and will be more familiar with the latest fashions and trends in men’s hair. A stylist will usually have a quick consultation with you to help figure out not just what you want, but what works best with your features and hair type. They’ll also offer other services including color and hair products.
Some guys are intimidated by salons; they worry that the salon’s are too “girly”, feminizing or otherwise emasculating. Get over it. most salons work with men’s hair in equal numbers to their female clients. For those who worry about the feminine atmosphere, there are a number of salons that specialize in men’s hair and are designed with a much more masculine air; they feel like old-fashioned gentlemen’s clubs with oak paneling, leather and cigars.
Now how do you find your stylist? The easiest way is to just ask around. Find a guy with the hair style you like and say “Hey, that’s a cool haircut. Where’d you get it done?” Most guys will take it as a compliment and provide you with the name of their stylist or barber. Failing that, the Internet is your friend. Look about on Yelp and Citysearch and scour the reviews. If certain names keep coming up, keep them in mind when you call to make an appointment. Auditioning barbers or stylists is a pain in the ass, but finding one you click with is worth all of the time and effort involved.
A side note: certain types of hair require specialists. Men with ethnic hair types – especially African-American – are best suited by barbers or stylists who specialize in that type of hair; other stylists won’t be as well equipped or experienced enough to give a good hair cut. Similarly, men with curly hair should seek out stylists who are experienced in cutting and styling curly hair. The techniques that work on straight hair only make curly hair look horrible.
Get In Touch With Your Feminine Side
When it comes to getting the most out of their hair appointments, girls have a profound advantage over guys. Girls are socialized to ask questions, learn how to speak the stylist’s language and how to ask for what they want. Guys, on the other hand, tend to ask for something generic and unspecific, then cross their fingers and hope for the best. Many guys are uncomfortable with talking with their stylist and end up frustrated when the cut they get doesn’t match up with the image they had in their head.
To get the best results from your hair cut, you need to start thinking more like a girl.
To start with, bring references with you. If you want a specific hair style, print out photos or tear examples out of a magazine and bring them with you. Many guys may feel awkward about doing this, but let me assure you: your stylist or barber will appreciate it. Instead of having to interprete your vague ideas and attempt to read your mind, they will have a concrete example of what you want and they’ll be better able to reproduce it on you.
Don’t be afraid to talk with your stylist or barber either. You don’t have to share your life’s story, but the more you communicate, the better they will be able to work with you. And be sure to listen to them; you may know what you want, but they have the experience, and they’re better suited than you to know whether or not a particular cut or style will work with your hair and features.
While you’re at it, invest in some hair product. I know many guys who are proud of their all-natural hair without any “goop”, but this attitude cuts you off from a valuable tool when it comes to sculpting and maintaining that cool style you want. There’s a vast difference in the type of hold and finishes that different products offer; you may be using mousse or gel from the drug store when your hair would be better served by a wax or clay from the stylist. Not every product is right for every type of hair or hair cut, so be willing to branch out and experiment.
Did this help? Have you found the stylist of your dreams and got the best hair cut of your life? Let us know in the comments and be sure to post some before-and-after photos so everyone can see how you’ve improved.
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- Volstagg the Voluminous doesn’t count [↩]