Get That Cool Haircut

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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.

Bad Hair

Look, the 90s were a dark time for all of us, ok?

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.

Celebrity Examples:

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.

Celebrity Examples: 

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.

Celebrity Examples:

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.

Chris Hemsworth and his godlike hair

Sorry guys. If it helps, I tried it too.

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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  1. Volstagg the Voluminous doesn’t count []

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  • Ed

    This is where I go in NYC.
    More expensive than most barbers ($40) but very good and cheaper than a good salon. Go here for shorter cuts… I haven not seem very many clients with longer hair here. You can also get an amazing shave (also $40).

  • Kung Fu Colored

    Should have covered facial hair too! =P

  • Jason

    Do any of your tips change for people in the military who have to adhere to semi-strict guidelines about haircuts?

    • Dr. NerdLove

      Not terribly much. Obviously you have fewer options if you're in the military… fortunately, "I'm in the military" tends to outweigh any issues if a high-and-tight doesn't work as well with your features as you'd like.

      That being said, you *don't* have to go to the base barber. I've had friends in the Army who would go off-base to get their hair cut. It was more stylish, but still well within Army regulations.

      And if you have a nicely shaped skull, you could always shave your head. Some girls won't go for bald guys, but the ones who do, *really* do.

    • Genmasho

      I was in the Navy so I know about the military standards when it comes to hair. As long as its not touching the ears or collar of your uniform and the 4 inches length and the 2 inches "Mass" e.i. bulk/depth you are OK, a quick way to tell is to use you ID its more or less the same. outside of that you are free to do what you want with it. I have worked with guys who would do the slick back look, the parted down the middle, the buzz cut, the part on one side… the list goes on. So long as your hair is well kept and doesn't look like you got into a fight with a lawn mowers you should be OK. Also with the rule against "Faddish" hair cuts, that is more aimed towards the females to avoid the G.I. Jane look although if you change your hair and your chain of command thinks your hair is faddish… don't argue with them about, just say OK and get it re-cut.

  • Anth

    I'm 18 and have a pretty high widows peak. I used to freak out about it a lot and tried a number of hairstyles of varying lengths in an attempt to hide/disguise it. Each style looked their own unique kind of horrible.

    My advice for the guys on here who're worried about thinning/receding hair is to shave it off down to a 1 guard on the razor. I shaved mine down for a Walter White costume this Halloween and I like the way I look now much more than before and I never worry about my hair in public. At the end of the day; genetics are a bitch and you have to play the hand you're dealt 🙂

  • H6

    Late post I'm sorry, I keep my hair shaved to a #2. In high school I had it long but it is super thick and wavy, crossed with curly and frizzy. As you can imagine it was awful. In college I shaved it into a sweet blue-dyed mohawk, but hairspray is expensive and I needed a job. So it went down to a #2 buzzed head. Any shorter and the 3 moles on my head show through, any longer and it stands up in weird and shocking ways. I think I'm pretty much stuck with it like this and at to keep it this way the once a month haircut would be expensive but I do it myself (I've gotten good and not letting it look self cut after the years of practice). The current office job is also very limiting in what I can easily get away with and I already push the dress code pretty far with my stormtrooper sweater…

  • Janey Mac

    Female perspective here: I get the hair product advice, doc, BUT… I have never spoken to a single woman, not one, who didn't prefer it when a guy's hair didn't have "gick" in it. I've had long conversations bemoaning the fact that our male friends who have perfectly nice, touchable hair make it sticky and nasty with gel or wax or putty or whathaveyou.

    Look at Chris Hemsworth in the picture there. He looks hot. Course he does, he would look hot in a clown wig. His hair looks greasy and unpleasant though. Product can look THE EXACT SAME as not having washed your hair for a week. So be careful with it. Use product IF you have a hairstyle that is very sculpted and needs to be fixed in place. Use a little if you need to look very neat and smart all day and your hair can get unruly.

    But honestly, really and truly, cross my heart and hope to die: I know a lot of girls, all of whom are dating or have dated guys who run the gamut from "likes a little sci-fi, slightly non-mainstream" to "anime-obsessed LARPer who owns a decade worth of con t-shirts" and we all like our guys' hair clean and gick-free. All the better for her to run her fingers through! 🙂

  • Geson

    Yep, no gick. I like to touch a guys hair, not just look at it.

    And a tip from the 70s that is still valid: you can have long hair if it's clean. The biggest problem with any type of long hairstyle is that it looks dirty so much faster. You may or may not need conditioner, you may need to wash it every day or twice a week, you may need to get a haircut sometimes but it can work, it just has to be clean, ok? With really thin hair it might be better to cut it, on the other hand, with thick, unruly hair it might be easier to just find a type of long hair that looks right for you.

  • Eve

    On the subject of long hair, I would disagree when you say to cut it. Personally I adore long hair on men and I know a lot of other women love it too. My boyfriend has extremely long hair and he's never had a problem with women before. The only thing I would say is it tends to be a love/hate thing, so you have to be prepared for that.

  • just a not

    Quibble #1 – If you can pull off long hair, by all means, do it. A lot of girls like it. Really like it. You can't just let it grow for a year or so, pull it back, and expect to be a babe magnet. Not all hair types work–if you've got really thin hair, hair that breaks/or frizzes easily, etc. Conditioner is your friend and you need to keep on top of the split ends. The kind of ponytail you wear (height, how tight it's pulled back, etc.) and what you use to keep in place matters, too.

    On receeding hairlines: If you can pull off a shaved head, got for it. It's not a deal-breaker for most.

    Quibble #2 – It's… a little dismissive to brush off the black dudes with "African-American/ethnic" hair as an afterthought; just say that you don't know what goes into the styling of black hair. I'm sure there are a couple celebrities that could be mentioned…

    On goop and men's hair: Hair-touching is a mild form of PDA. Not all girls are public hair-touchers. So use the mousse/spray/gel/whatever… when you want to look good in public. Ditch it at home or in super-casual situations. Definitely never go to bed in it.

    Also: Hats, bandannas, etc. Some guys can pull the look off.

  • Joy

    Long hair is definitely one of those things which is likely to provoke stronger reactions, both positive and negative, than short hair. My best friend's opinion of long hair on a guy is extreme distaste. I, on the other hand, find it to be absolutely smoking. It's actually the single physical feature I'm most attracted to (provided, of course, that it is clean and well-cared-for). It's unfortunately not common in my area (or maybe just my social circle), but I'd respectfully disagree with the Doctor that long hair–even the single-length long hair held up as "bad hair"–is Woman Repellent.

  • prettyinblackxx

    Agree with the lady posters about long hair. Long hair on a guy if it's well kept, clean and (dare I say) pretty, it's going to get you a lot more attention from women. If it's scraggy, frizzy and looks unwashed/minging…erm, no thanks.

    Long hair on men is definitely one of those love or hate things. You either love it (to the point where it's a dealbreaker if a guy isn't a long hair) or hate it (get a haircut, hippie). I certainly do give a guy a second look if he has long hair.

  • confused

    Isn't this article promoting sexist stereotypes? I mean, a dating site without any sexism would be a major accomplishment, but "think like a girl?" C'mon.

  • confused

    Actually, side question, can someone talk about "feminine" characteristics without being sexist?