Man Grooming Q&A: Hair Matters
Terrell writes: "I have hair probably similar to what you describe yours as. I have wished for days on end to be able to grow it out a little and make it ‘shaggy’ like a lot of the guys my age are doing. The only problem with growing it out is the waves and thickness. Maybe a lot of this could be the fact I use either Selsun Blue or Suave shampoo, and my conditioners are Suave or Garnier Fructis Deep Fortifying Conditioner. I really just have accepted my hair for what it is and just keep it kinda short, but not really short like I did when I used to weld (back in school now). Also my girlfriend likes me having some hair.
"Actually I like it too, but when it starts getting ridiculously bushy — off it goes. I know also I should probably go to a salon instead of the same barber shop I go to where they pretty much just use clippers. If there was a head of hair I could have I actually think the guy named Brock from the Rogers family on the current Amazing Race on CBS has a style how I would love to have. But with my hair, I dunno if that is possible. What are your thoughts on how I am treating my hair?"
Number One, I know that those Suave commercials make a big deal out of how great their stuff is for how unbelievably cheap it is, and they’re marketing that like it’s a boon, but I think you and I both know how to read between the lines and what it really means is “if all you want to do is strip all the gunk from your hair, use this crap because what the hell difference does it make to you?” I have used Suave in my distant past when I A) didn’t care about my hair because I was, shall we say, overgenerous in the belly area so no one was looking at my hair, as far as I was concerned, and B) I was poor and when it came down to paying $2 for shampoo so I could afford another 4 boxes of Ramen, I went for the Ramen.
But let’s assume that you and I are now well beyond those days and we realize now that — to use a really unfortunate but nonetheless accurate cliché — the hair is the frame for your face, so you want to treat it well.
You and I share some hair challenges as well. My hair is huge. I am gifted with this full head of thick, wavy hair that my mother gave me, and I’m thankful for it every time I see someone with male pattern baldness. (Bald guys, no offense, but if you’re already losing it, don’t try holding back the tide. Go with it, babies.)
The flipside of that coin is that if it grows more than, say, an inch in length, it all starts battling for space up there and grows up and out rather than down, creating a follicle shrub of gigantic proportions. I cannot grow my hair out, because it grows upwards first. Only its colossal weight forces it to follow gravity’s pull, and then it looks more like Laura Petrie’s bouffant than Ricky Martin’s old waterfall of locks.
I know that paying attention to what one’s significant other wants of your head is important, but let’s see if we can’t find some common ground, here. You’re probably right in your assumption that visiting a hair salon would help. I know plenty of great barbers, but they tend to always want to cut guy’s hair into one of three styles, and then slick whatever else is leftover down with pomade or hair oil. It takes a different license to be a barber than to be a beautician, and one big advantage I’ve found about visiting a salon is the shampoo, which — if you find the right place — actually ends up being a warm, wet head massage you can feel to your toes, and I think they do that so that when it comes time to reach for your wallet you feel like something sexual has actually occurred and you don’t mind quite so much.
In-between a buzz cut and the shoulder-length poodle mess is where I sense you want to be, and the easiest way to get there is through the magic of thinning sheers. Beauticians shove these into the thickness of your mane and they cut some, but not all, of your hair so that when you want a little something to grab hold of, it will also lie down and behave when you want it to.
I had to go Google Brock to see whom you were referring to, and he’s wearing what I would call a 70’s throwback shag. It looks messy, hangs in the eyes a little, but the overall feeling is one of softness and a sort of detachment from worrying about how one looks, even though managing to keep that look going in the face of humidity, wind, rain and driving with the top down is anything but easy. You’ve been shorn like Jason Kottke, you know what I mean.
Frankly, Terrell, anything is possible if you throw enough money at it. Guys are getting extensions, hair coloring, perms, the whole range of hair treatments. If I were you, I’d go find myself a salon and a beautician that I trusted (hell, my guy cut a chunk out of my ear but he gives me such great haircuts — not to mention his scalp massages — that I keep going back) and show him a picture of Brock and say that’s where you want to end up. He or she will tell you how close you can come to that conclusion, and it may take 2 or 3 haircuts to train your hair to get you there, but I have confidence that if you spend a little time and a little more money on your noggin, you’ll be happier when you look in the mirror.
And do buy some decent shampoo, too. Helpful hint: You’re not apt to find it on your grocer’s shelves. Do you really want to buy shampoo at the same place you get your hamburger? Then, while you’re at it, check into conditioners for your hair type. Different conditioners have yield drastically different results, and that’s something else to ask your new professional hair expert about.
Finally, whatever shampoo and conditioner you choose, always smell it before you buy it. You’re going to end up smelling like that, too, and usually just when you’re getting to the interesting parts of life when you want to smell your best.
September 30, 2005