Move over, metrosexual. Make room for the guy’s guy who’s now more open to tuning into his curls just as easily as he tunes into sports.
Okay, maybe not to quite the same degree, but guys are making progress — and a lot of it. Even the rough-and-tumble guys are paying more attention to their curls than ever before.
According to Rodney Cutler, grooming stylist for Esquire magazine, it’s all part of a trend among guy’s guys who want to create a “signature point of difference” that sets them apart, while at the same time not straying from what’s appropriate in their lifestyle, their career and the guys they hang out with.
“I think the guy’s guy is now expressing how he wants to look, and he wants to look great — but, more importantly, he wants to feel comfortable,” says Cutler, who also owns New York’s Cutler Salon. “Men have much more access to fashion and grooming tips than ever before, but it’s not like all these guy's guys want to be metrosexual. For instance, a high school football coach doesn’t want to look like he’s stepped off a runway, but he wants to be a stylish football coach.”
Cutler, and other curl-centric experts, say that stylish look starts with the right cut. And that doesn’t mean cutting off all your curls, explains Enrique Grant of Elie Elie Salon in McLean, Va., who styles many male curlies in corporate America.
“Professional men, especially, want options,” Grant says. “I give them a tailored, precision cut, where the sides and back are more tailored for them, but the top is a little longer so they can make it looser or less controlled in the evening.”
Grant says the biggest challenge is to convince curly men that they have to actually use products if they want frizz-free, perfect-looking hair.
“They don’t realize the icons they see on television or in magazines do use products on their hair,” he explains. “They have to understand that they have to apply a little bit of effort.”
For men with longer curls, Grant uses a gel for more even distribution. For shorter styles, most of Grant’s clients prefer a wax because it doesn’t feel as wet or sticky.
“When they put it on, it’s pretty set. You don’t have to really force the hair or keep washing your hands,” says Grant, who recommends Kerastase wax and Goldwell shine wax.
Redken stylist Giovanni Giuntoli also prefers wax products for his male curly clients that complain about big, puffy hair.
“Wax allows the curls to straighten some and it’s heavy enough for the control factor," says Giuntoli, who also runs editorial styling courses for artists at Yourtearsheets.com. "But best of all, the curls can still be touched and slightly restyled if needed for an evening style."
Giuntoli usually recommends Hardwear Gel by Redken for locked-in shine and maximum hold, or a strong wax like Redken’s Electric Wax for a pliable hold.
When it comes to waxes, Dana Kaplan of M Salon in Cambridge, Mass. recommends men check out Bumble & Bumble’s Sumo Wax.
“You have to emulsify it in your hands, it gives a nice shine and washes out very easily,” says Kaplan, who points out that most men are confused about what products to use. “A lot of men like crunch. They want something that will hold from now until doomsday! Usually, I recommend a pomade or a strong gel. Very few men want styling cream, but a lot of men like pomade for the shine.”
He also stresses the importance of wetting the hair in the morning, whether you wash it or not. And when you reach for a product, Kaplan says don’t go “really crazy” with it. Men tend to use too much product, and the last thing you want is to look greasy or dripping wet.
“Use a minimal amount and it’ll work because they come in all strengths,” Kaplan explains. “I always say start with a dime’s worth of product and you can add on by dime’s worth. That’s how to figure out how much you need. And once you put the product in, try not to touch it until it’s dry.”
The hands-off rule is one that Jonathan Torch of Toronto’s Curly Hair Institute says must be explained, sometimes over and over, especially to male clients with curly hair.
“They have to learn to stop touching their hair,” says Torch, who recommends his Curl Keeper because it dries with a clean feel. “And use the best products. It takes so long to acquire length. You don't want to have to cut your hair to keep it healthy.”
Although curly men in the corporate world, like CEOs and lawyers, are less likely to want too much length, they still need a product that controls the curl, according to Christo, curl expert and Global Artistic Director of New York’s Christo Fifth Avenue salon.
“These men also want simplicity, " says Christo. "They won’t sit down and do a hair masque."
Christo currently is developing products for what he calls more of a “sports line.” The line will include a treatment shampoo and creme conditioner that men will only have to leave in for one or two minutes.
“They won’t have to wait like 10 minutes to do their treatment,” Christo explains. “Since men usually have shorter hair than women, they can do a treatment in two minutes and it works.”
Curl experts say men have to realize it will take at least some effort to care for their curls, but likely not as much as they think. Take Angel Rodriquez, who lives in the hustle and bustle of New York City. As a personal trainer, he’s always on the go and still manages to keep his raven curls in control.
“It’s just a little hard to handle because for men, we have to get used to it and make it part of our daily routine, like shaving,” Rodriguez says. “But it’s just an extra few minutes, and that doesn’t hurt anyone.”
The dilemma for Rodriguez is he’s growing out his curls, and it’s the waiting process that has started to test his patience. To help him get through it, Curl guru Lorraine Massey brought him into her Devachan Salon in New York to demonstrate a few styling tricks.
“Since Angel is a personal trainer, he’s working out and probably sweating too, so just a funky stretchy headband -- especially in the same color as his hair -- would look pretty cool,” Massey says. “Then, when you take it out, there’s a trellis effect and it will start to train his hair to go back, especially if he has gel in it.”
For a professional look, Massey encourages curly men to keep their hair in a gel cast so it stays in a compact state. To achieve the style, she suggests guiding gel through the hair with your fingers when it’s wet, remembering to keep your head up so the curls stay out of your face. Then, squeeze out the excess with paper towels, and leave it alone to dry.
“This way the hair can appear to look shorter then it really is. Then, after work, you can break the cast, loosen it with your fingers and have your evening look,” Massey says.
She acknowledges that the growing-out phase is the hardest part.
"It’s really tough," Massey says. "Sometimes, the hair is going through a growth spurt and it can be kind of discombobulated for a week or two.”
Before you rush into cutting it all off, Massey suggests adding more conditioner or a little more gel to compact the curls — and just wait it out. Rodriguez says he’s committed to doing just that.
“You want to be yourself and express yourself, and you can show the confidence in yourself by letting your curls grow," he says.
Cutler sums up the current trend for curly men.
“Men have always cared about their looks, and today they don’t have to pretend they don’t,” Cutler adds. “It’s socially acceptable for them now, which allows them to step out. But they still want to be themselves — just the best that they can be.”
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