The Gentleman's Guide

The gentleman's guide  |  Women  |  Style  |  Grooming  |  Decor  |  Culture


That's Hair Product. Basically, we're talking anything that you use to style your hair. What's that? You don't style your hair? Sorry, but unless you're extremely lucky the Captain Caveman look just isn't going to cut it, and running a comb through your mane once a day isn't enough either.

  • Gel.
  • Wax.
  • Cream.
  • Pomade.
  • Hairspray.
  • Trials and combos.

Let's start with something you know about; Gel. Firm hold, wet look. There's dozens of gels out there, and I've had one gel or another in my bathroom cabinet (by the way, get a bathroom cabinet) since I was about ten. Currently I have both Paul Mitchell Super Clean Sculpting Gel and Trevor Sorbie Firm Control Gel kicking around and, if I'm perfectly honest, they're both pretty much the same. You can get lighter gels, but there's not that much in it really. If you have thick, and possibly curly hair that's about 2-4 inches long then this could be the answer. However, it's easy to go overboard here, even if you're wetting your hands thoroughly before you apply it. Gel can dry hard and really isn't very nice to touch - remember that you want women to run their hands through your hair without being repulsed. Perhaps a wax or cream would be a better option. Lastly, if your hair is very fine (like mine) then gel can be an option to add a bit of weight - let it dry out then comb it so it looks dry but it's got a bit more body.

So maybe gel isn't for you. Why not try wax then? It's got loads of hold but it allows your hair to still move a little. There's a whole range of waxes out there, and many call themselves different things that may confuse you. Anything calling itself clay, gum, putty or anything similar is the same thing with different amounts of hold. For example, Stoned Fish Matt Texture Styling Clay from Fish has more hold than most men will know what to do with (and it smells all chocolatey, which is nice). At the other end of the scale you have Brylcreem Reshaper Putty, which is deliberately designed to be moveable so that you can tweak your style throughout the day if it gets messed up; something that's just not possible with gel unless you apply more (which you should never do). To apply wax, rub rapidly it between your palms to heat it up and emulsify it, then smooth it into your hair. Try to not work it into the roots because it will go flatter faster. Lastly, a water-soluble wax is important so you can wash it off your hands, and so that when you dry your hair after a shower you don't deposit wax all over your nice clean towels.

Wax is a quite loose category, and there's no real cut-off point between wax and cream, but creams are lighter than wax and, again, don't set hard. A good option for almost everybody; it can be used to give you a little hold, more shine, and more body and manageability. Particularly good for taming curly/crazy hair, and giving those of you with slightly longer hair a bit of styling. Also good to add shine to a matt style. Rub between your hands to warm it up, as with wax. If your hair is as fine as mine (really fine) then it's only good to add shine - you're going to need other products to style it first. Also, don't apply too much unless you're auditioning for a part in Grease

Pomade is the final point on the spectrum that also contains waxes and creams. Even lighter than a cream, with less hold but more shine. You need to go really easy on this stuff to make sure you don't look like an extra from The Godfather. I used to have shoulder-length hair and I used a blob in my palm about the size of a 2p piece for the lot. If you take it easy then it feels the best to run your hands through (or for a lady friend to run her hands through) but if you add too much then you lose any texture and end up looking like your hair has more oil than Saudi Arabia. If in doubt, use less - you can add more afterwards if you need it.

There's one more option but really it's not one you want to think about. Hairspray. If you own a time-machine, regularly travel back to the 80's, and go to a lot of concerts by Flock of Seagulls then maybe. Otherwise, no. It leaves your hair stiff, sticky, dull and not very nice to touch. If you need that sort of matt hold then go for the firm gel combed through option I described earlier. I'll only allow it if you've sculpted a beautiful yet understated hair masterpiece and you need just a tiny squirt to keep it in place (though if that's the case you're way beyond the skill-level of this article). Otherwise, skip it. Even game show hosts don't use hair spray any more.

Ok, so it can be tough to figure out which product you need. I sympathise, and fortunately so do the manufacturers. Several manufacturers make trial-size versions of their products so that you only need to spend ��to give them a whirl. Even high-street chemists like Boots stock these now, though specialist shops will always have a larger selection. Hairdressers often carry products that they can sell you too, and since they buy in bulk they may even be able to offer you them at a discount. Plus you get the benefit of their experience, and you can't beat the experience and advice of a stylist who works with every different type of hair all day every day.

Lastly, don't be afraid to combine products. A matt wax with a little cream to add shine and texture can work wonders. I usually don't spend much more than about 5 minutes styling my hair in the morning and I'm not suggesting you should either but I use two or three products. Varying what you do, trying new things, and combining what you've got will give you a better understanding of how to control your hair and how to adapt it as fashions change.

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I have straight, lightweight hair that, if I face facts, is probably thinning. To get the texture and control I want I currently apply Trevor Sorbie Firm Control Gel then comb through when dry to give my hair manageability and body, use some Brylcreem Reshaper Putty to give shine, texture and control, then a little Emperor Fish Style Finisher from Fish to give it extra shine on special occasions.