Maybe it's time for a (hairstyle) change?
July 16, 2009 11:46 AM   Subscribe

I'm a man, and all my life I've had exactly one hairstyle. Now I'm looking to refine my look a little bit. What do I need to know?

I've had pretty much the same hairstyle for 26 years. My friends and family often tease me that there's no point in me even going to the barbershop because "it always looks the same anyway". I have always worn a medium-length cut. My hair parts naturally, and I've never fought it. I pretty much use no hair products of any kind, other than shampoo and conditioner. I'm pretty conservative in my dress and grooming.

Now, I'm thinking a bit of change might be good. I might change my overall hairstyle, or maybe I want to keep my style but use some kind of product to enhance it or keep it in place a bit. However, I have no idea where to start. Can you help me? How does a man choose a new hairstyle? Is there some kind of guide? What sort of products (gels, sprays, brushes, etc) should I know about? What's the difference between a $10 barber, and a $30 salon? Any and all information would be helpful.

In general, I would consider:
  • A new (yet still conservative) hairstyle. A bit longer, a bit shorter, try to remove the part, whatever.
  • Using a subtle gel or spray to hold my hair in place or enhance it
  • Going to a new shop or salon if it would help
I would not consider:
  • Coloring or highlighting.
  • Gels or sprays that have a very obvious and dramatic effect - making your hair look solid, or laquered, or whatever
  • Anything that would shock your grandmother. I'm going for a more modest, business-friendly look.
I'm looking for more general advice about my options rather than a specific recommendation, but if it helps this is what I look like (although the part in my hair isn't always that pronounced). Also, if it matters, I live in Michigan, USA.

Thanks in advance!
posted by Vorteks to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (11 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Find a good stylist (ask for reccomendations locally). Tell him or her exactly what you said here, take a deep breath, and let the stylist take over.

You might like the results. You might not. Either way, it will grow back and you can decide whether you want to keep the old, the new, or try something completely different again.
posted by caution live frogs at 12:00 PM on July 16, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: What's the difference between a $10 barber, and a $30 salon?

A barber gives you a cut. A salon will give you a STYLE, which is what you're asking for. I agree with caution live frogs - Explain all this to a good stylist (ask around, people always have recommendations!) and then just hand over the wheel to him/her. Also, asking female friends what they think you should do, maybe asking them to email you pictures of what they mean, could be really beneficial.

And remember -- hair always grows back. if it ends up you hate your new style it will always grow back and then you can try something different. :)
posted by gwenlister at 12:09 PM on July 16, 2009

Important info needed: Are you at all balding? Be honest.

If not, you could stand to grow it out a little, get some more even bangs.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 12:13 PM on July 16, 2009

Response by poster: @Potomac Avenue - No, my hair is quite thick and shows no sign of changing so far.
posted by Vorteks at 12:17 PM on July 16, 2009

Best answer: Go to a salon to get your hair cut and ask them all the questions you've asked us. They'll be able to give you any advice you want based on seeing exactly what your hair is like, which we can't do. Don't be shy -- it's their job. Then you'll be in a better position to judge whether the extra money was worth it or if you can just take their advice (on products and what to ask for) but go to a barber in the future. I don't know if it's worth it for you to regularly go to a salon, but it's certainly worth the extra money at least as a one-time thing.
posted by Jaltcoh at 12:27 PM on July 16, 2009

Best answer: I've had great $15 haircuts and great $45 haircuts. The difference is that the $45 haircut took longer because the stylist played with my hair, looked at the photo I dragged in that showed the haircut I liked, made suggestions to cater it specifically to my face shape, and then told me how to style it after I left the salon.

Try finding a couple of pictures of men whose haircuts you like but are different from yours and bring them in with you.

Note: The best haircuts I've ever had were ones that were very radical and different from what I had previously, and usually it was when I told the stylist to go for it! But don't be afraid to communicate with the stylist - very key to ultimate Good Hair Days.

from someone who just had a $15 haircut yesterday, had 3 inches cut off, and has been getting compliments all day
posted by HeyAllie at 12:36 PM on July 16, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks for the answers so far.

Try finding a couple of pictures of men whose haircuts you like but are different from yours and bring them in with you

I guess that's part of what I was hoping to find here, maybe a web page that showed common hairstyles on a number of men, so I could kind of get a feel for what's out there?
posted by Vorteks at 12:50 PM on July 16, 2009

The most important thing I ever learned about certain aspects of style - hair and clothing - is that I am the best judge of how I am accustomed to looking, but I am NOT the best judge of what looks good on me. In other words, I sure do know how to choose boring... and I assume it looks best on me because that's how I'm used to seeing myself in the mirror.

A few years ago, I started seeking out and taking the advice of people who have more talent in terms of style. Now, I'm a much better dresser by a long shot! I wasn't bad before... just dull and without style.

Similarly, when it comes to my hair, I try to make sure I go to places where they have talent... and I let them use it. Instead of telling them how to cut my hair, I ask them what I should have them do. Every now and then, I'll end up with a stylist who lacks confidence. I'm thinking of one woman in particular who only does what she's told. I actually had to pull a fake cell phone call emergency to get out of there (I returned the next morning when I knew someone cool was working).

For you, I'd recommend telling the stylist that you have no idea what you want your hairstyle to be, but you've had the same look for 26 years and want to try something new. Tell him/her what you do for a living and list your "no"s.

Look - it's just hair. If it gets cut in a way you don't like, it'll grow back and you can try something different next time. In my case, I've only had one bad haircut since the day I stopped telling the stylist how to cut it and instead let them work their own magic. And in that case, the stylist literally cut me (snipped my ear! ouch!).

Unless your talent is in style, why should you consider yourself the best judge of what looks best on you? Trust me on this - You Don't! I know I sure don't. The great thing is that as you start letting others help you figure out what looks best on you, you can copy it and develop it.

One last thought: Definitely seek out recommendations for a specific place to get your first new cut. That'll help you ensure that you're going somewhere where they have talent.
posted by 2oh1 at 1:00 PM on July 16, 2009 [1 favorite]

Try poking through the archives of this blog; it tends a little towards the fashion-plate side of things, and there's some styles there that are assuredly not conservative, but it's still a pretty good compendium.
posted by Johnny Assay at 1:00 PM on July 16, 2009

Best answer: It's hard to tell without seeing it move, but it looks to me like you've got some pouf body on the top and that it's kind of thick. Am i right that it doesn't move a whole lot, like in the wind? That might lend itself well to a shorter cut. Remove some of the pouf but still benefit from the thick body. Your 'do has a very definite shape to it right now and I think if you grew it out it could possibly get helmety. Shorter though, and that same body might make for some cool texture. Can't tell what's happening at your widow's peak area, but that area could look cool shorter if the part/lick still sort of bent things in that direction.

I wouldn't try to fight a natural part, but once it's shorter you could experiment with a bit of light gel while it's wet and see if you can accent a bit without looking like you use gel. If you can do it without products, your life will be easier.

I think a short cut could still qualify as conservative while imparting a stylish look. However, I nth the other people recommending that you go to an actual stylist at a salon and ask for best recommendations within your parameters. Make it clear that you're not just there for a cut but specifically for advice on choosing a new style. It can feel a little non-masculine to go into one of those places but don't sweat it. Also, you can go to a nicer place with a better reputation the first time or two just to get the advice and a trial run. After that you can probably find a less expensive place and see if they can maintain it. Not back down to barber level, but just not as fancy. If you really want to stay conservative, you might also try to find out where the bigshot corporate execs in your area get their hair cut. Those guys often pay for very good stylists but not necessarily in a frilly salon.

As you pick out photos you like to take into the stylist, look for similar hairlines and hair types. There are cuts I would like but my hair just doesn't do that. If I tried to do what I'm telling you to try, I'd look like Snoopy's friend Woodstock. Give them something in your range to shoot for.
posted by Askr at 4:01 PM on July 16, 2009

Best answer: You seem to have my hair! Mucho condolences.

1. Go a bit shorter, and try to keep the sides as straight and as vertical as possible to avoid the Mr Peanut look.

2. In the front, try hoisting that flap up off the forehead; this may require some training (I managed to get mine to cooperate by combing it damp and throwing a hat over it as it dried, but YMMV) and/or some product (ask the stylist for something with a lot of hold; I use old-school greasy stuff when necessary, but you might hate that). The key to keeping the front up is adequate length, so keep that at least 2 inches. Note that it should go up and to the side, since you'll probably want it to be more Conan O'Brien than Ed Grimley.

3. Have it all thinned out if necessary. That'll keep any weird humps at bay. It doesn't cost extra or anything; the stylist just has to switch to the fancy scissors.

4. THIS ONE IS KEY. Boar-bristle brushes are, frankly, magical. Pick one up at the drug store for a couple of bucks. Salons can't use them because it's impossible to clean all the hairs out between clients. Take that hard, lacquered hair (or any hair, really) and run a boar-bristle brush through it. Suddenly your hair looks like it just grows out of your head perfectly styled. Magical, I tell you!
posted by Sys Rq at 7:40 PM on July 16, 2009

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