Advanced hair for men
May 11, 2009 12:16 PM   Subscribe

My haircuts suck. My hair sucks. I'm massively and irrationally self-conscious about it. So how and where do I acquire the knowledge and skills to make it look better?

Although sailing towards middle-age, I still have all my own hair but - in that old phrase - I can't do a thing with it. I spend a reasonable amount on haircuts, I leave the salon looking great ... and after the next shower it looks like a shorter version of the shapeless mess I walked in with. The stylist suggests using products, I do, and the result looks like I poured glue in.

So how do I get and keep a good haircut? What tips or pointers do people have to offer? What websites might have useful advice? (My googling has turned up little of any use.)

(Personal details on my tonsorial situation, if it would help, although general advice is more what I was looking for: the light, flyaway hair and pronounced widows peak of my teens is now a little lighter and a little more pronounced. Based on family history, baldness may or may not follow. Gray is just starting to creep into my natural color, which could charitably be described as "mousy".)
posted by anonymous to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (18 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Get a buzzcut. It's a classic look that is the best way to wear thinning hair gracefully, and you look the same everyday, no bedhead, and you can even do it yourself.
I adopted this hairstyle for my thinning hair and beforehand I was never a fan of the hairstyle but it has grown on me and I will most likely never go back, nor will I ever set foot in a hair salon again. Try it, you just might like it.
(I also could never figure out how to style my hair decently and that solved that problem).
posted by GleepGlop at 12:24 PM on May 11, 2009 [1 favorite]

Can you get a family member to try doing it for you? I haven't gone to the barber shop since 2007, and I just got a brother to do it for me. If you have some clippers, scissors, and an idea of what you want, you can slowly get there (or start to realize why that style isn't really going to work out with your type of hair).
posted by No New Diamonds Please at 12:25 PM on May 11, 2009

ask any of your friends that have good hair where they go - maybe one of them can recommend a good barber - it sounds like you need to get the sort of haircut that isn't reliant on styling - something that can be washed and worn. Also, when you get your hair cut, be very specific that you need a cut that doesn't require product or blowdrying to look good
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 12:31 PM on May 11, 2009

Also, when you get your hair cut, be very specific that you need a cut that doesn't require product or blowdrying to look good.

This is really important. Tell the stylist exactly what your preferred styling routine is, and make it clear you need a haircut that's compatible with that.

Also, ask friends with good hairstyles, but only ask the ones whose hair is similar to yours in texture, etc. A stylist who's great with thick, curly hair might not be good with fine, flyaway hair.
posted by Sidhedevil at 12:34 PM on May 11, 2009

People with great hairstyles usually dont just swob gel in their hair and instantly have a great hairstyle. Sometimes it works, but most of the time you need to know what exactly youre doing.
It also depends on the type of gel or wax you use. I prefer to use wax, because it has a more matte look to it and leaves the hair more flexible than when using gel. Also, don't use too much of it.
Seriously, i used to have exactly the same problem!

Also, if you cut your hair to a certain length that looks good styled, depending on your hair growth, it may have grown to a certain length within the next one or two weeks that renders the hair too "heavy" to support the hair product if you get me, so its important to get frequent haircuts, even if they just cut off a centimeter or two.

just my two cents.
posted by freddymetz at 12:35 PM on May 11, 2009

Are you a man? Buzz it off. I hate dealing with hair and never knowing what my hair looks like. I generally keep it about a 1/16th of an inch long. You'll always know what it looks like and never have a bad hair day.

If you're a woman, buzz it off anyway. I'm fine with that.
posted by trbrts at 12:47 PM on May 11, 2009

Styling: ask your stylist for help & techniques.

Cut: I agree with others that you need a cut that's easy for your hair -- and, shall we say, resilient. If you see a stranger with hair kind of like yours and a cut you like, you can totally ask. No one is offended by "hey, your hair is awesome; where do you get it cut?"
posted by kestrel251 at 12:50 PM on May 11, 2009

Have the stylist show you how to do what s/he is doing, in a way that is easy for you to replicate at home. Get the same type of brush or comb or whatever, the same type of whatever goo s/he is putting in, and get some very concrete instruction.
posted by so_gracefully at 1:11 PM on May 11, 2009 [1 favorite]

I feel your pain.
My hair is so thick that anything a stylist does with it creeps out of place in the next hour.
I was always having my thick hair hanging in my face.

For years I shaved my head. I miss that.
My wife likes hair.

So I was getting a haircut at shop owned by a local car club guy and one of the barbers suggested pomade. I'd tried washable pomades, no dice.
He suggested real greasy pomades.

It makes your hair darker.
It holds that shit tight.
You can make it hold any style you can contemplate.
Personally, I prefer some of the lighter pomades and hair dressing (Royal Crown and Murray's Super Light) but the super stiff stuff is fun too (Murrays).

Buy a 2 dollar can. Sometimes you have to go to the "wrong side" of town to get the best prices. Look in Dollar Store and so on. Pick one whose smell you like and whose ingredient list doesn't bother you. Try it. Realize that you will get used to not leaning your had against windows. If you like what it does, get a rockabilly barber (or an old school country boy who still knows the old stuff) to give you a haircut. Tell them you want it short on the sides and long enough on the top to get some lift or slick back (or however you fell like you want your hair). Most of those guys will happily explain and show you how to apply and comb it for the effect you want.

Personally, I have a large fluffy beard and some slicked back 4-6 inch hair.
I don't look rockabilly and rarely put any lift into it.
But I like what it does and find that it washes out easily.
Some people don't.

Oh, and widow's peaks look good slicked back.
posted by Seamus at 1:35 PM on May 11, 2009 [1 favorite]

Tell the stylist about your hair's characteristics, your styling talent and your preferred effort level. Tell them about what hasn't been working for you. Have them cut your hair but not style it. If you can walk out of the salon without an hour's worth of primping and look good, you'll know your hair can work for you in the morning. Remember, you're there for the cut, not a styling.

When I talk with a stylist about my hair, I stress the points about my grooming habits that the cut needs to work with. I hate having product in my hair. I hate to blow it try or use a curling iron. I don't have the skills to be trusted with them. I stress that I love when I can wash my hair and finger comb it. Hair is not allowed to touch my ears. I have fine hair with tons of cowlicks and enough curl to give me frizz when the humidity is high. So, the cuts that result in the most happiness and confidence for me are super short. I'm a woman with shorter hair than my male colleagues. My husband's hair is only shorter than mine because I shave it for him weekly.
posted by onhazier at 1:43 PM on May 11, 2009

Although it probably won't hurt to ask for a haircut that doesn't need to be blowdried and producted to look good, that may or may not be a realistic goal for your hair type. I'm a woman with thick but incredibly fine, fluffy, poufy hair that wants to point in every direction at once. I've had everything from a pixie cut to hair that went down to my tail bone, and never has there been a (grown up looking, reasonably attractive and flattering) style that didn't require some work on my part. If I don't style it correctly, I look hilarious. Wash and wear styles are a goal I'll never achieve.

Similarly, my boy's hair is thick, coarse, very straight, and fluffy. When he's got a truly excellent hair cut that's textured to within an inch of its life, he can juuuuuuust barely get away with not putting any product in, and even then, it looks a thousand times better if he or I smush a little wax in there. It's just the way his hair is; it needs help. When he was younger, he buzzed it off. While it was certainly low maintenance, it didn't flatter his face at all. He looked rather like a reject from Apocalypse Now.

So my point is, you may eventually find that you've just got hair that requires a certain amount of styling to look truly good rather than perfunctory. The first step is to find a great stylist who has a good sense of what you hair does. Tell her that you're not great at styling your hair, so a cut that requires minimal intervention is best. Then, and this is important, ask her to both show you how to style it and let you style it there at the salon yourself. Let her talk you through the process. Then, it's just a question of practice. Nobody came out of the womb knowing how to style hair. Like driving or cooking or whatever, some people naturally find it a bit easier, but most everybody else has to just do it every day until they improve.

Most importantly though, if the stylist you're seeing down doesn't get what kind of trouble you're having and can't help teach you in a hands on way how to fix it yourself at home, it's time for a new stylist. Ask guys you know with good hair (particularly if their hair texture is similar to yours) where they get theirs cut for recommendations.
posted by mostlymartha at 2:02 PM on May 11, 2009 [1 favorite]

By all means, let your stylist know that you want the most low maintenance style possible. A great stylist will work with your hair's texture to give you something that falls well naturally and even looks good while growing out. Like many things, hair cutting is a little bit of an art, a little bit of a science (understanding the physics of hair and what's possible with a particular texture), and someone with insight and experience can really do a killer job.

I've only ever had two truly great stylists, but they were really magic. My most recent stylist pointed out that I washed my hair much too frequently and strongly suggested that I not wash my hair more than once or twice a week. Your texture is probably different, but you could try using conditioner and washing less frequently to see if the natural oils help calm the flyaway hairs.
posted by ladypants at 2:39 PM on May 11, 2009

I wish I knew where you live. Location is everything when it comes to finding the right salon.

What are you actually spending for a haircut? "Reasonable" doesn't really "cut it". I don't know where you live, but go out and pay for a real professional.

Anyone who suggests using products is no professional. A good haircutter will know how to approach your hair problems without you having to say a word.
posted by Zambrano at 2:44 PM on May 11, 2009

I think using pomade is the right approach but you may want to re-consider your application technique.

You don't need to cake it on directly from the container with your fingers - this is a sure-first way to use too much and get that "glue" look. Remember you can always add more. Take a very little bit (say, a dime-sized blob or smaller) and rub it between both hands so it's a thin coat over your fingers. Then, start at the crown or the sides because these areas can take more product.

When you get to the flyaway hairs at the front, don't pinch the hairs between your fingers. Rather, run your hands lightly over the tips of the hairs, just grazing them so they pick up the product. Think of it like brushing your hand over blades of grass. This ought to tame them down while still keeping them flexible/light.

Also, can you find a picture of your approximate haircut and link to it?
posted by cranberrymonger at 2:45 PM on May 11, 2009

Oh! I didn't realize you are a man. I'm Nthing a very short cut. It looks sharp, leaves less room for hairs to wander astray, and product should be unnecessary. Most waxes and pomades only exist to replicate natural oils, so if you condition and don't wash your hair more than once every 3 days it should look pretty good.
posted by ladypants at 2:46 PM on May 11, 2009

Ask your best-dressed friends to take you shopping and tart you up with an outfit or two. Ask your stylist to give you something that requires no maintenance whatsoever. Once you've done both of these things, look in the mirror in your new clothes and hair and ask yourself if are happier this way. If so, yay. If not, go back to the old way on whichever one isn't working, and try again with new friends/a new stylist after some time has passed (so you don't blow too much money on clothes quickly, and so your hair can grow out some.)
posted by davejay at 4:22 PM on May 11, 2009

My own widow's peak means I've had a side-part my whole life.

I have really unruly hair--thick, wavy, and wiry--and there are two things that have tamed it significantly: 1. Grease (Brylcreem FTW) 2. Hats. Apply either (but never both) after styling towel-dried hair.
posted by Sys Rq at 4:40 PM on May 11, 2009

Er, no, wait. The grease goes on before styling.
posted by Sys Rq at 4:41 PM on May 11, 2009

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