Some guys look great with neatly combed hair, but I prefer a slightly messier look. StyleForum editor Jasper Lipton, pictured above, wears the style well. It’s easy to chalk up his hair to good fortune – and indeed, Jasper is one naturally handsome dude – but I also believe in what Bruce Boyer once wrote in Eminently Suitable. Style isn’t some mysterious thing that some people are born with – some people just make an effort.
Getting your hair to look the way you want starts with the haircut. If you don’t like your hair now, don’t think it’s necessarily about you. It may be that your barber simply doesn’t know how to work with your hair type (the bane of my existence as an Asian man). It can take a while to find someone who’s right for you, but have an idea of what hairstyles you like and try different hairstylists (The Salon Guy on YouTube has some suggestions if you want to transition out of an undercut). It can also help to open your budget. Cheap $20 trims don’t have to be bad, but a lower budget will limit what’s available to you.
For the sorts of hairstyles you see above, it also helps to have a few products on hand:
Blowdryers: Blowdryers can be good for giving your hair a bit of volume and shape. Get something with different heat and blast settings, and be sure to always move the blowdryer around. That way, you’re not damaging your hair. Use the blowdryer along with your other hand to shape your hair. Pointing the blowdryer upwards, for example, will add volume.
There are various products you can use, such as heat protectants, although I like to keep the process simple. Just finish your blowdry on the cold setting, which helps close your hairs’ cuticles. Otherwise, your hair can look thin and frizzy.
Pastes and Putties: If you want the sort of clean, neatly parted hairstyles you see in Mad Men, use pomade (Murray’s is the standard, although we have other recommendations). For a messier, more casual look, however, you’ll want to try a paste or putty. Generally speaking, these differ along two dimensions – the degree of the hold (strong vs. weak) and the level of shine (matte vs. “wet”). What’s right for you will depend on your hair type, hair length, and the exact look you want.
Jasper, for example, prefers Fatboy’s Perfect Putty, which is a lightweight, light hold, creamy product that gives a matte finish. I start with Kevin Murphy’s Free Hold, then add Gritty Business for texture. They’re a bit harder, thicker, and heavier, but they also give a stronger hold. You can read more about Kevin Murphy’s stuff here.
When using any product, put a little dab in your hands and warm it up by rubbing your palms together. Then start at the back of your head. That way, you’re not just adding a big glop to the front. And if you want volume, part your hair and add the product at the roots. Otherwise, the product can weigh your hair down.
Salt and Surf Sprays: Finally, salt spray can be nice as a pre-styling product. There are a lot of variations here, as well as some DIY formulas you can look up on YouTube. Like Jasper, I use Bumble & Bumble’s “surf” version. The general idea is to give your hair that slightly dirty, tussled look that happens when you’ve spent a day at the beach (a very Kramer concept). Before using your main styling product, spritz a little of this in your hair, crunch your hair up, and let it dry. The spray will help add texture.
Note, some say daily use of salt spray can dry out your hair, although I haven’t noticed any negative effects. Just be sure to wash your hair with a separate conditioner.
(photos via Jasper)