What to do with in-between hair
March 16, 2011 11:46 AM   Subscribe

Trying to grow hair long. In that awkward neither-nor stage. What do I do with this stuff?

No haircut for about 6 months, so it's not long enough for a ponytail yet. I need to look at least mostly professional at work. BTW I sleep like a honey badger and wake up looking like a drunk Bill the Cat, if Bill were a long-hair. It is thick, good gourd is it thick. Ain't no comb gonna tame this beast. Using enough gel to keep it over my ears means having "helmet head." Applying when wet and then brushing out later when dry makes it look like Christopher Walken's do got freaky with Billy Graham's. I grew long hair once and it was alright but that was 21 years ago...I don't remember what to do.

I'm a man.
posted by rahnefan to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (31 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Try a higher ponytail and bobbypins for the strands that don't reach yet.
posted by odinsdream at 11:50 AM on March 16, 2011

You can get a stylist to give you an in-between cut, sort of shape it up so it's not so hard to manage. Just make sure you say that you're growing it out but that it's really difficult to style in the mornings.
posted by cooker girl at 11:55 AM on March 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

Scünci makes these no-slip wide black elastic headbands that are really good about holding back big, wild, not-long-enough hair until it is long enough.

They have a silicone coating on the inner side and they're really tight, so if you have a big head they will give you a headache until you stretch them out.

Since they are black they look pretty cool and professional (in my pretty large city I see a lot of guys wearing these in a variety of occupations), and a little gel will keep the oddball hairs in line.

ps: it would be nicer if you said your hair looked like the product of consensual sex between Christopher Walken and Billy Graham. I'm a woman.
posted by toodleydoodley at 11:57 AM on March 16, 2011 [2 favorites]

It depends on how casual you're allowed to be in day-to-day life. If very casual, wear hats. Baseball caps and smaller hats can keep hair tamed.

Some guys can get away with headbands, but you say it was 21 years ago when you had long hair before, so that style may not suit you.
posted by xingcat at 11:57 AM on March 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

Crap, missed the "professional" line. Gel and flatter scrunchies, then.
posted by xingcat at 11:58 AM on March 16, 2011

Sorry, link to the recommended hair-ties.
posted by toodleydoodley at 11:58 AM on March 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

toodleydoodley, I appreciate your suggestion and apologize. If there was a way to edit it, I would. Thank you.
posted by rahnefan at 12:01 PM on March 16, 2011

I'm a lady but am also growing my hair out and you have my empathy. Are you getting trims at all? A good hairstylist can help with the awkward phases without cutting off too much length.
posted by something something at 12:04 PM on March 16, 2011

If you're not using some kind of conditioner, start. It will make it easier to comb it out. If it's not long enough for even a tiny ponytail, it can probably just do its own thing if you comb it.
posted by charmcityblues at 12:06 PM on March 16, 2011

6 months?! Go get a haircut. You can ask the stylist to keep the length but shape it into something presentable. I've gone through the same (I'm a woman), and I've learned that a good haircut will keep you from looking unkempt while still preserving all the length that you want.
posted by halogen at 12:09 PM on March 16, 2011 [2 favorites]

My hair kinda just passed the in-between stage -- it now almost brushes my shoulders in the back and the front is long enough to cover my ears -- and I found that what helped (and still does) keep it tame the most was using a hair dryer. Since I started doing that, several people have commented that my hair looks awesome. Before that I used to just comb it and let it mostly air dry.

When I want to amp it up a bit (especially after I shampoo my hair and it's too frizzy) I use a bit of Brylcreem. I only shampoo about once every 3-4 days and use conditioner daily, otherwise my hair is a mess. Letting your head's natural oil do its thing is a big help. Stripping it every day with shampoo is no good.

I don't wear hats and have no intention ever of pulling it back into a ponytail, though.
posted by buckaroo_benzai at 12:10 PM on March 16, 2011

sorry for my quick reactive bark - I understand it's a popular way to talk and meant to be jovial. Consolatory beer all round!
posted by toodleydoodley at 12:10 PM on March 16, 2011

Also: I have been growing my hair out for 7 months with no trim and it looks fine so far (or at least I keep getting compliments). I may have just started with a great base cut, who knows. And one other tip, to give your hair extra shine and a better finish after using conditioner, rinse the conditioner off with COLD water.
posted by buckaroo_benzai at 12:12 PM on March 16, 2011

I was in this position, at 35, just before a job interview. Got the job, kept the ponytail, and have had the job for 10 years now. I'm in IT, so there's considerable leeway, but yeah, it's doable.

When I started, and again at 6 months, I went to an expensive hairdresser (well, expensive for me--$60, I think), told him what was what, and he gave me a good do, kinda flat and tucked behind the ears. Ask a lady friend for a recommendation.

My current hair-care regimen is to rinse my hair with hot water every morning in the shower, towel off, then brush it back into a ponytail while wet. Occasionally trim the length (usually just in a mirror), and trim off the curly bits that form over my ears. And that's it--no shampoo, soap, conditioner, unless I do something that makes my hair stinky, like hang out next to a campfire.
posted by MrMoonPie at 12:17 PM on March 16, 2011

How professional? Can you get away with a solid black bandanna over it?
posted by mollymayhem at 12:20 PM on March 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

[Tweaked a couple words in the post at rahnefan's request, carry on.]
posted by cortex at 12:22 PM on March 16, 2011 [4 favorites]

when i grow my hair out, i get it 'thinned out'... it can be done using a razor or thinning shears. It's a way to take off volume while keeping the length, so good for thick hair.
posted by elif at 12:27 PM on March 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

Thank you cortex, and I apologize to all readers.
posted by rahnefan at 12:37 PM on March 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

First: haircut. Go to a decent stylist (ask well-tressed friends for recommendations) and tell them you're growing it out and you want to keep the length, but make it look professional. Also let them know what you are and aren't willing to do every day to style it. A haircut makes all the difference between "it's meant to look like this" and "I have completely forgotten that I have hair."

Second: conditioner? I'm guessing if you're hair-savvy enough to use gel, you probably use conditioner already. However, a lot of guys go their entire lives with short hair and no need for conditioner, and when they grow it out they don't think to start using it. As a result their hair is tangly, easily broken, and hard to manage.

Third: If you wake up with funky bedhead, wet the unruly parts and comb them out/down a little bit. They'll calm down and be dry by the time you're at work. If you wash your hair in the evening, let it dry completely before bed and it'll be less likely to go crazy when you wake up.
posted by Metroid Baby at 12:39 PM on March 16, 2011

I am currently growing my hair out. The trick is to allow your bangs and sides to grow out first, that way you don't end up with a mullet. My advice is to trim the bangs, and cut the back short, allowing for a neater appearance. Once the front has grown out to be the same as the shorter back, then allow all of it to grow. Also recommend thinning shears, they work great.
posted by QueerAngel28 at 12:44 PM on March 16, 2011

Can't wear a bandana. Won't wear a headband by any name. I'm hesitant to use conditioner because nothing has touched this hair but baby shampoo for at least 20 years (it's baby soft, baby!). Wetting and combing don't help and letting it do its own thing is the worst - it is crazy thick and very wavy. You could almost sculpt with this head-pelt.

Thinning shears sounds familiar. Thanks everybody.
posted by rahnefan at 12:58 PM on March 16, 2011

Long-haired guy (for over 25 years!) here, agreeing with QueerAngel: Keep the back short until the front is long.

I suspect that you're more concerned about the look of this in-between stage than you need to be. The more crap you put in your hair, the worse (and dirtier) it's going to look. I'd brush it wet, let it air dry, then put in a little bit of product while pulling it back. Don't brush it after it's dry, or after the product is in, or you'll look as you describe above. It may look a little puffy to you, but that's likely because you're not used to it (my hair is also ridiculously thick, and this used to be a concern for me as well).

I'll also note: My hair -- even now that it's longer -- looks WAY better the day AFTER I wash it. In fact, I usually wash it at night, let it dry, and then sleep on it so it calms down a bit.
posted by coolguymichael at 12:59 PM on March 16, 2011

I'm a dude who recently grew his hair out and I have the exact same hair as you to boot. The only real workaround I found when it hit that awkward stage was getting a keratin straightening treatment. It's expensive as hell, takes like 3 hours and will leave you with totally straight hair. Hair that is so straight that it changes your 'look'. The upside is that it lasts for many months and gets your hair to hang respectably as it grows out over the next year. Once it's done there's virtually no fuss. After awhile the keratin will work it's way out and your hair will revert to it's normal 'fro-state – but by then you can do the ponytail style.

Also, wash your hair less (once a week) and only use conditioner. Invest in a really good conditioner, like Kerastase. I'd respectfully disagree with the thinning shears recommendation. All that will do is frizz your hair out when what you want is more weight/bulk. But ask a professional for their opinion.
posted by quadog at 1:01 PM on March 16, 2011

Don't use a comb, use a brush. It's WAY easier when your hair is long. I keep mine in check by wearing a hat but I dunno if you're allowed to at work. Maybe a fedora?
posted by drethelin at 1:08 PM on March 16, 2011

@ quadog: Not curly/fro - wavy.

@queerangle & coolguymichael: the front and sides are already long. Longer than the back, it seems like. It's just a weird mess. The hair gets to ears or eyebrows and tries to abandon ship. LOL Flag me when the metaphors become too much.
posted by rahnefan at 1:14 PM on March 16, 2011

Hm. Is the reluctance to use conditioner just because you want to keep up the 20-year streak, or are you concerned it'll gunk up your hair? Conditioner is going to be your best solution. Asking how to keep longer hair in check without conditioner is like asking how to move a couch five blocks without a car: it's possible, but it's going to be a lot more difficult.

You can even wash your hair with conditioner only ("co-washing") - you just have to work it in for longer to get all the dirt out, and make sure you use a silicone-free formula. Any of the conditioners from the Suave Naturals line will work for this, and they're a buck at the drugstore.
posted by Metroid Baby at 1:30 PM on March 16, 2011

I have very similar hair and have gone through that stage more than once. The interim haircut is a good idea - it fends off the otherwise-inevitable proto-mullet. Otherwise, I use Fiber - it's tough enough to hold my mane in place but doesn't get helmet-head-y so I can either spike it or comb it down and it behaves.
posted by restless_nomad at 2:03 PM on March 16, 2011

@Metroid Baby: no, it's because my hair really is very soft, so Mrs. RahneFan likes to touch it! But so many people are saying "conditioner" that I must try it.
posted by rahnefan at 6:12 PM on March 16, 2011

I have similar problems with gel, but I find that if I shower in the morning, apply a small amount of mousse, and then blow dry my hair while combing or brushing it, it is much, much more manageable. Also, I agree that you should get a haircut to shape it a bit.
posted by Logic Sheep at 8:41 PM on March 16, 2011

the front and sides are already long. Longer than the back, it seems like. It's just a weird mess. The hair gets to ears or eyebrows and tries to abandon ship. LOL Flag me when the metaphors become too much.

Go and get it cut, emphasising you are growing it out and that you want it to look more neat etc but not lose length...and start to use conditioner.

My hair is thick and wavy and is now just below shoulder length and is long enough for ponytails. But I have been growing it out for a long time and was getting regular cuts until last autumn. At that point I changed jobs, moved abroad, started to work silly hrs and constantly travel for work and before I knew it six months had passed without a hair cut. I was looking at myself in the mirror one morning and saw what was supposed to be my hair but really was an unruly mess that looked as if a rodent family had started to live in it...and I realised it had not been cut for ages.

Found new stylist in new city and had a hair cut, the first thing she did was tell me we needed deep conditioning and that my hair was a lot longer in some places than in others...noticeable even to my untutored eye when the mirror was held behind my head so I could see.....so we deep conditioned and she gave me a lovely cut.

Result, huge improvement in manageability and appearance...using liberal amounts of conditioner to keep it that way. And despite being a very low maintenance hair kind of girl I am contemplating blow drying my hair, too, which would be the first time in over 10 years....
posted by koahiatamadl at 3:39 PM on March 20, 2011

i suggest a topknot, like a samurai... i depending on the size of the city you live in
posted by peykron at 8:18 PM on April 2, 2011

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