You’re not one of them are you?
I’d have a hard time believing that. You’re a Primer reader after all.
But the numbers don’t lie:
65% of men don’t style their hair regularly.
The most common reason? They’re afraid “their friends will think they’re trying too hard”.
This is according to a surprising study performed by Axe. And if you’re thinking oh, yeah, it probably has to do with their age, the study included men ages 18-40. 18 to 40!
On top of that, the study found that while 68% of men own hair styling products, they’re likely to only use them for “special occasions;” weddings, interviews, first dates, and the like. Even though 93% claim to feel more confident when they style their hair.
Now I have a couple problems with this.
This idea of “trying too hard” comes up a lot among guys who want to dress better but are scared about what others will think of them. Since I’m literally a guy who helps men dress better for a living, I obviously have some thoughts. Sounds like maybe a good first episode of a Primer podcast?
Bigger picture, it all comes down to this, and it’s the biggest reason Primer – a magazine that helps guys be the best men they can be – has such a focus on personal style. The reality is the world identifies, defines, and judges us by how we present ourselves to the world.
We can either do that intentionally by taking control of our style and grooming, or we can let the world do it for us with our laziness and fear of being judged. The hard truth is we’re being judged both ways, so at least choose to have a damn say in the matter.
Which is better? Not getting poked fun at by a friend who is the kind of person who makes fun of his friend for how he styles his hair? Or, would you rather stand out in a crowd of bro-y dudes and be complimented for your intentional hair by a beautiful woman?
You’d never wear white socks with a suit because it would ruin the whole thing. So why let your lazy hair detract from your otherwise sharp style?
But for a lot of guys styling their hair is…frustrating. They don’t know what to ask the barber for. There’s a million and one different types of hair products. Should I use a pomade for this? A grooming cream? A gel? A paste?…
That’s why Axe developed a helpful PSA: The Hair Product Decoder that defines which product types are best for what types of hair and for which styles. On top of that, they’ve developed a deep treasure trove of hair knowledge with videos and how-to’s so you can nail your perfect style.
Click the image to view
If you’re a regular Primer reader you’ll recognize my buddy Shane. He frequently contributes style articles and had a great series on setting up your social circle when you move to a new town. But lately he’s been frustrated with his hair.
It’s been the same ‘do for a while and he’s become uninspired. He’s let it grow out longer than he normally does and he sent me this text asking me what he should do with it:
That’s when I challenged him that I could give him a fresh hair style every day for 5 days. No haircut required. Because to me, your hairstyle is an integral part of your overall style. I’d rather you style your hair everyday with the same look than not at all, but it doesn’t have to stop there. Your hairstyle can influence the rest of what you’re wearing, and can be used to amplify or downplay whatever look you're going for. More polished. More fashionable. More beach-y. Anything.
And it doesn't have to be hard and time-consuming.
What follows are the 5 different hairstyles that I came up with for Shane. His haircut is exactly the same, the only differences are the type of product used and styling technique. Each day we’d meet before he had to head out the door and we’d style his hair based on what he was wearing and where he was going. As a humblebrag, I’m so happy with how my photos came out, I’d like to add that it was just me and him out there, no professional stylists or anything like that. Having great hair is a lot easier and less intimidating than it may seem!
|I teamed up with Axe to make this post possible. Check out their full line of affordable grooming products. Look good. Effortlessly.|
Day 1: Modern Pompadour
Shane's a pretty stylish guy (hence why he's in a bunch of Getups) so I was surprised to hear his frustrations with his hair. He had mentioned he dug the trend of the modern pompadour, but every time he tried it, it just ended up flat. He has the perfect length and thickness of hair so I knew we'd be able to nail it pretty easily.
Styling putty – Texture and volume, natural shine with an all day hold
Shane wasn't able to get the shape and volume he wanted because he was making a common mistake. You never want try to fight your hair with product – over the whole day, you'll lose that battle every time. Instead, you want to try to find a way to make the hair do what you want naturally.
To get the volume in the pompadour, we'll start with towel dried hair and while blow drying, begin pushing the hair with your fingers in the opposite direction that you want the pompadour to go at the end. Rub a fingertip's worth of putty between your hands for 5-8 seconds and then rub through your hair, pushing it back and towards the direction you want it to sit. By blowdrying in the opposite direction, we're creating natural lift and volume when we then style the hair in the right direction. Instead of trying to achieve it with styling products, we're making the hair do the work for you.
This is a style I've been toying with for awhile but I've never been able to get the right shape. The technique was key. I met up with my girlfriend in the evening, and it was the first thing she said to me. She loved it. She didn't even notice my new boots until we got home.
→ Wondering how to cut your own hair? Check out our full guide!
Day 2: Soft Side Part
Shane runs a design and branding agency in Los Angeles and had a meeting with a client owned by a father and son. He didn't want to walk in with too modern of a hairstyle, at the risk of coming off as slick or in-experienced to the dad, but also didn't want to look too stuffy and old fashioned like their previous agency that the son complained about. The solution was a classy soft side part with texture and separation to give it a modern feel. A hard part is very clearly defined, think 50s slick. They're popular today too, sometimes a barber will even use a razor to define the part even further. But we're going for a less aggressive style, where the hair is clearly parted but is not as precise. Hence, a “soft” part.
Paste – Texture, definition and hold with a matte finish
Start with towel dried hair that's only slightly wet. Rub a little bit of product between your hands for 5-8 seconds, and then work through your hair. In the direction you want your hair to go, push all of your hair, and then noticing where your hair naturally starts to part, pull that hair back into place. Continue to run your fingers through your hair until you achieve the texture and separation you're looking for. To avoid getting the super hard Don Draper part, we use only our fingers instead of a comb. The result is a naturally defined part that doesn't make you feel like your 4 years old and your mom just combed your hair.
This was dead simple and I like the character the texture provides. I walked in feeling like a million bucks. Mission accomplished.
Day 3: Casual & Messy Hair
Shane was heading out to a music show with some fashion-forward friends and wanted something a little less refined than the pomp or a soft part.
Glue – To structure and separate the hair, with natural shine and a hold that won't go flat
Getting the intentionally messy look can be frustrating to get right, ironically you can easily spend more time on it than something like a pompadour. But it doesn't have to be tough. Start with towel-dried hair, rub some glue into your hands for 5-8 seconds and then work through your hair. Blow dry while pushing your hair in different directions, but stop before totally dry.
The secret to making it easy? Throw on a baseball cap for a couple of minutes to get a natural mess and help set the style. This is especially helpful if you have hair with a memory, i.e. it naturally wants to fall into how you normally style it. Apply another small amount of product and intentionally work through your hair, pulling specific strands with your forefinger and thumb into place as needed.
I dig it! My hair naturally parts, so sometimes I feel a little too “business” when I'm dressed casually. This style helps make things less straight edge.
Day 4: Natural and Feathered
This may look familiar to you, this is the day we shot photos for our “Coolest Uncle at the Reunion” Getup. Afterwards, Shane was heading to an early dinner with some of his girlfriend's family. He wanted something classic and intentional but not as flashy as the messy, slicked back, or pompadour looks. We went for a soft parted, natural style. And it's super easy.
Cream – To provide shape and control strays, with a natural, low shine
Start with almost-dry hair, rub the cream between your hands for 5-8 seconds and work evenly through your hair, creating the part above your eye to provide a two-sided part. Use a hair dryer while brushing the hair in the direction you'd like it to lay. Once dry, take a small amount of cream on both hands to lay down any strays created by blow drying. Simply flatten them and glue them in place, don't rub through your hair.
I've never done my hair this way before, I was surprised at the natural texture that came out. It's an easy style anytime I want something that doesn't look “gelled”. Her mom complimented it, so I'd say it was a success.
Day 5: Slick Back
Ah, the tuxedo of hair styles: Just take a look at any guy on any red carpet. I'm not sure how the slick back went from greaser teenager in the 50s to Sexiest Man Alive for black tie events, but it definitely works. Shane was invited to an exhibition launch at a museum, and the slick back was the perfect style for his dark suit and open shirt. It's polished but simple.
Pomade – For high shine and hold, without the crunch
For this cut we want shine and control but we want to avoid hard helmet hair at all costs. For that, we turn to pomade. With damp hair, rub the pomade in your hands for 5-8 seconds and work evenly throughout your hair, including the sides. Use a brush or comb to push the hair back, making sure to comb all the way down the back of your head so the hair sits all the way flat. As you pull the comb out of your hair, turn it slightly so the spine of the comb glues the ends of the hair down.
I had been planning to go to this event all week and I was way over thinking it. Fancy suit, tie, poofy pocket square. When we decided to strip it down and simplify the look, I surprisingly felt more put together. I had assumed I was going to go with the pompadour, but the slick back ended up feeling more sophisticated and less show-y.
If you like the versatility that Shane's haircut provides, simply ask your barber for 4-5 inches on top, 1 inch on the sides with a long taper. If you want to be able to switch which side your hair is parted on, let them know, they can cut it to make that easier.