A little over two years ago was the last time I made an appointment for my usual short back and sides. Riding the trend of the man-bun, coupled with my incessant obsession with Vikings, was enough to steer me clear of my local barbershop. It was easy at first. You save money, your hair gets a little longer, and your usual style starts to take a walk on the wild side. This stage is actually quite fun. You’re sticking it to the 9-5, white collar jobs and letting your inner bush man loose. You want to build fires, go hunting and live in the woods. Then you enter the awkward stage. Those whimsical few months give way to the real work involved in growing your hair out. You can’t tie it back just yet, but it’s too heavy to keep out of your face. Everything you try ends up in a mullet and you look like a poor man’s Ringo Star who let his mom cut his hair. Most people decide that this is the point where they want to turn back. Cut it all off, return to something that works and chalk it up to a learning experience. I myself wasn’t prepared for how awkward it really was, but I found ways to make it somewhat bearable until I was at a place that I finally felt satisfied.
I started with a side part pompadour type style. About an inch on the back and sides and three inches on the top. To me this is an ideal starting point because the top will always be the longest section, meaning that technically you avoid the mullet stuff (even though it might not feel like it sometimes). That being said, you’re growing your hair out, so anytime someone asks me if their style is right to start, the answer will always be, “yes”. It’s common sense, but if you cut your hair, the growing out process will take longer. Getting consistent trims may make it slightly more manageable, but you will have to pass through that awkward stage at some point. I chose to just bite down and get through it. At an average of half an inch growth per month, I could finally tie it all back at around the 16 month mark. From here on out, a simple hair tie is essentially all you need. However, throughout the process, my “collection” of products looked like the lost and found box at an all-girls school.
In the first couple of months, I switched back and forth between two waxes to give my hair shape and texture. The first was “American Crew Fiber”, which wasn’t that great at providing long lasting hold, but every girl I talked to was head over heels for the scent, so that alone ensured I kept it around. The second was Gatsby Grunge Mat. I couldn’t recommend this enough. The hold was firm, yet you could rework it throughout the day if need be. It was one of the few products I’ve found that actually responded well to running your hands through it too. Usually it ends up looking greasy and falls flat, but with Gatsby it developed a healthy looking shine and a natural hold. However, as my hair continued to grow, the effectiveness of both products saw a steep drop off. The Gatsby website provides easy to read charts for all of their products that show hold, shine, movement etc. as well as recommended products for different lengths of hair. Given my length, I went with “Multi Form” and have been loyal to it ever since. At this point, product isn’t really to provide hold anymore because you have physical restraints such as hair ties, bobby pins and headbands for that. Rather, some product will tame the fly-aways and give your hair a more finished look.
My initial goal for all of this was the man-bun, but little did I know I would be getting a whole myriad of styles in the process. I was never really drawn to the hair down look, but once you get there, you really start to understand why “letting your hair down” is synonymous with having fun. The grass is always greener on the other side. If you have straight hair, you want curly hair, if you have thick hair, you want thin hair. Thankfully, there’s a product out there to give you what you’re looking for…within reason. I found that adding some sea salt spray to my hair gave my typically straight hair a new life, with depth, volume and texture. Think day at the beach surfing, but without the burden of pocket sand. I use the “got2B” sea salt spray, but you can also make your own if you want a quick little project. Just apply it as your hair is drying, put it up in a bun and wait for the Gods of Flow to visit you.
The main thing I learned from these past two years though was to not shy away from trying something new. Trial and error is essential throughout this process and while it doesn’t always yield desirable results, it’s worth it for the times it does. Read as much as you can, look for different styles and products, and then test them all. I’ve tried braiding my hair, ponytails, bobby pins and hair spray. About halfway through the process I went out to a bar with two buns, one high and one low because my hair wasn’t quite long enough. Someone made a sarcastic joke about it, to which I responded, “I’m doing what I can with what I have”. At that point I realized that growing my hair out was for me and me only. Is it a life altering experience? No. But you will learn a little about yourself, and at the end of the day, it’s just hair. Whether you choose to go long or short, have fun with it and don’t take yourself too seriously.