In the past, many men cut their curls short to control them. Buzz cuts were common, eliminating any hint of texture.
"Quick and easy used to mean short," says Veronica Bessey, art director for Dallas-based Toni & Guy.
But the current trend is for men to flaunt their curls, thanks to advances in products and cutting techniques. The look is stylized, with natural movement.
"Men are definitely wearing their hair longer and letting their curls come out more," says Ethan Shaw, a curl expert at Anne Kelso Salon in Austin, Tx.
New York curl expert Ouidad says 30 percent of her clients are men, and they are definitely wearing their curls longer.
"It's very stylish," she says.
A good cut is the first, and most important, step.
"Men can let their curly hair spring free as long as they have a professional cut so it has style," says curl expert Elie Gerdak of Elie Elie Salon in Tysons Corners, Va.
To determine the right cut and style, a man's face shape, jaw shape and texture should be considered.
"Keeping the curl pattern in mind is a must," Gerdak says. "With tight curls, it is better to create a contoured shape through carving the hair and letting the curls breath. With loose curls, a gentle slicing technique can help the hair maintain its balance. Wavy clients want a style that is easy to maintain."
In addition, a man's age, lifestyle and occupation should also be considered. College students and those in creative fields are wearing their hairdown to their shoulders and below, as well as growing it out into big afros. In the corporate world, it tends to be closer to the neckline.
"The higher you get, the shorter it goes," Ouidad says.
The key is in the cutting, changing the shape while keeping the length.
Ouidad, for example, carves and slices curls for control. Shaw razor cuts into the curls to break them up. For bushy curls, Woody Michleb of Woody's Salon & Spa in Toronto likes the tunnel cut, where sections of hair are cut at the roots to remove bulk.
"I don't like blunt cuts because they tend to puff out," Michleb says.
Cypriano of Christo Fifth Avenue in New York cuts the hair shorter around the face and sides, leaving some length in the back -- a look he calls a "progressive mullet." He also does a cut where it's longer on top and short in the back.
"The in-between look doesn't work," he says. "It will just be in a ponytail, so it makes no sense."
Men aren't afraid to have chemical services to better control their hair. Michleb regularly uses relaxers on tighter curls to take the frizz away and make them more manageable. Some of his Cypriano's male clients now come in for a Bio-softening treatment to get a wavier look. Salons also are doing more deep conditioning treatments on men to keep their curls looking their best.
"All the essentials a girl has, a man wants," Cypriano says.
Choosing the right products is essential to keeping curls looking their best. Most men want to be able to wash and go without being dependent on a lot of products.
"The key for men is 'Does it look good and is it quick?' " Bessey says. "They want to be able to wash and go, without messing with it."
Shampoos, conditioners and styling products should be easy to use, moisturizing and not overly fragrant.
Leave-in conditioners are a good choice for men. They are light and require little extra time.
The styling product you choose depends on your curl type. Coarser, kinkier curls need a heavier product, like defining and molding creams and pastes. These products provide control without crunch. Gels and mousses work well in finer hair types. Pomades work well on most curl types.
"As long as you can run the hands through it, that's where you get the sexiness," Bessey says. "Nobody wants to run their hands through crunchy hair."
So how does one go from short to long? The transition period can be awkward. Bessey suggests slicking it back during the "evil, grow-out" stage. And there's always the cap.
"Here in Texas, it's all about the cap," she says.
Product recommendations for men
American Crew Citrus Mint Shampoo
Anthony Logistics Everyday Shampoo
ClarinsMen Total Shampoo
Sharps Mission Control Conditioning Shampoo
American Crew Revitalizing Daily Moisture Shampoo
Suave for Men 2-in-1 Shampoo/Conditioner
Ouidad Botanical Boost
American Crew Daily Leave-in Conditioner
American Crew Revitalizing Daily Conditioner
Malin + Goetz Hair Conditioner
American Crew Pomade
American Crew Citrus Mint Gel
American Crew Grooming Cream
American Crew Groom
Jack Black High Definition Hair Pomade
Bumble & Bumble Medium to Thick Curl Creme
Aquage Illuminating Gellade
Ouidad Curl Quencher Gel
Ouidad Clear Control Pomade
CHI Pliable Polish
MOP Defining Cream
Tigi Catwalk Curls Rock Curl Amplifier