For around 30 years now, I’ve had a particular habit, a way of doing a certain thing, and I’ve never questioned it. I’ve never stopped to look it over, and I’ve never really considered it necessary to examine the habit. It was something I just…did. Every day. Automatically. But when I couldn’t do it, I’d be bothered until I did do it.
That thing is…style my hair. I wouldn’t say coif, really. It’s not elaborate or fanciful, and never has been, but I’ve always been pretty self-conscious about my appearance, especially the aspects I can control. Like my hair, for instance. (My weight is now the biggest issue, but don’t go there.)
Now, I’ve never considered myself attractive. At the same time, I wouldn’t go out looking bad unless I was forced to by circumstance. And I never left the house without making my hair presentable. Vanity, to be sure, but it’s not like I spend hours doing it and I don’t spend a lot of time combing it.
When I was young, I grew my hair out long. Hated the idea of shorter hair. And starting in the mid-70s and continuing through most of the 80s, I wore my hair very long, parted in the middle and “feathered” (anyone remember that term?). As I got older and into my 20s, I started wearing it shorter, but not short (I look horrible with short hair even now), and changed the style to suit me every six weeks. I also found I couldn’t get decent haircuts from places like SuperCuts, or Fantastic Sam’s, and that trend continued later with places like Great Clips. I started going to salons for my haircut, and there was no way on God’s green Earth you were going to get me into a barber’s chair. Not at gun point.
With really long hair ala the 70s and 80s, no problem. I got out of the shower, dried my hair to fluff it (or else it was nasty and misbehaved), and then used my good ol’ fashioned Goody comb (complete with the hole in the handle), left in my back pocket all day, to rake out the tangles. Later in the 80s, I started getting styles which added volume to my hair. My hair did not stay where I put it. It would flatten and look lame over a few hours, so to keep it where it went I started using product in my hair. Gels and mousse mostly. But in the end, the thing which worked best for me was good ol’ Aquanet hair spray.
In the 90s my standard haircut was, as embarrassing as it is to admit, a modified mullet (not the fish). Modified in that I wore it longer in back and shorter on the side, but didn’t have it cut short in front. I liked it. and truth be told I still wear a version of it today.
When I started cutting my hair this way, though, I found the bangs falling onto my forehead, which did two things: it annoyed me, and it looked idiotic. So I kept using what amounted to glue to hold my hair in place. I didn’t go for a platform top or anything, but I didn’t like the flatness of my hair against my head either. So, I coated it in epoxy.
And that is how I did my hair from the late 80s until about three weeks ago.
I don’t know what made me start looking around at alternatives to the cyanoacrylate glue I’d been layering over my locks, but I started sniffing around other ways to hold my hair in place without the “helmet hair” solution. I think it had to do with how my hair turned out one day when I brushed out the glue and just for grins put some jojoba oil on it to add some moisture back in.
Then, one night after I’d removed the plastic shielding from my head and as I played Mass Effect, I discovered something. I could run my fingers through my hair again.
Now, that doesn’t sound like a big deal. And to most of you, it probably isn’t. But running my hand through my hair is one of the things I have to consciously NOT do every day. And every single day, my hand would hit that plastic netting on my head, and I forced myself not to go any farther or I’d mess up my hair.
But I still had the habit. It’s my nature, part of me, and whenever I don’t have something gluing my hair down, I run my hand through my hair. It’s…well, it’s just my thing. Tired? Frustrated? Worried? Laughing with friends? Run my fingers through my hair. (Not to mention my loving wife likes to play with my hair too.)
I jumped onto the Internet to find some way, any way, to hold my hair in place without plasticizing.
I found a few forums which recommend old fashioned ways to get hair to stay, and because the show Mad Men is so popular, so is the look the producers give the guys on it. So now, products which once faded to obscurity or even went extinct briefly are back in vogue. Some of them are Brylcreem, Groom & Clean, and Vitalis.
(No, I don’t have an Amazon affiliate account. But the first links for those products aren’t links to their own websites, if they even exist; so I used what I found. I’m not trying to sell them to anyone, or encourage anyone to buy them at all.)
At first, I was hesitant, because all these things seem to do is add some measure of oil and water to your hair, along with other petrochemical concoctions I can’t pronounce. But I tried them, because jojoba oil is expensive (!) and some of these claim they don’t leave a “greasy look” (while their competition calls them “greasy kids’ stuff” products, so go figure).
Well, don’t be fooled. They are oil, after all, or at least contain oil. So with some trepidation and a “what do I have to lose but a few bucks?” attitude, I set out to get some and see if I could find a better way.
My wife, hearing my plight and knowing how much I love to have loose, unglued hair which stays, did her own research and found something called a fixatif which goes in wet hair, is dried in, doesn’t become crunchy, and adds volume and hold. The product comes from our grocery delivery service, and is reasonably priced, so she got me a few bottles of that.
I found some of the products above at a Walgreen’s on my way home from work, picked those up, and just took home several of them. After the dust settled, I had five products to try.
Now, I am very self-conscious, as I mentioned before. So I won’t experiment with my hair style on a weekday when I need to be at work. Uh-uh, no chance. So the evenings and weekends were times for me to do what my loving spouse called “playing” with the new stuff.
The fixatif worked like a charm. Perfect. And it went into production the very next week. It’s still my go-to product, but it’s a little harder to work with until after it’s dried in. When it is, it leaves my hair soft to the touch, I can run my fingers through it freely, and the hair never falls flat no matter how much I play with it. Amazing. So, I knew I had one sure-fire winner.
I liked them all, but I’m a little worried about using some of the products with oil in them for work. The oil does hold my hair in place – which surprised the heck out of me – but they tend to be higher-maintenance. I have to comb them, and I mean a lot, to keep the hair in place. Could be I haven’t hit the mark with the amount to use yet, or it could be that’s just not my ideal solution. I had better luck, if I recall, with Groom & Clean than I did with Brylcreem, but BC is by far my favorite fragrance. I love the scent.
Unfortunately, BC leaves my hair sort of stringy in places, while working wonders in others. I still think it’s about getting how much I use right, but it’s hard to figure.
But, after delaying getting it because I didn’t think it would work, the winner by a country mile so far is Vitalis. That stuff is incredible. It works wonders, it holds, and it smells nice (albeit not as nice as Brylcreem, IMO). I used it a couple nights in a row and got consistent results from it. I’m taking a break now because I want to see if I can repeat the results.
So far, so good.
Nothing in my adult life has done as much to make me enjoy my hair again as these things. (If you’re interested, the five products I ended up with are the fixatif [a fancy word for hair spray, I think], Groom & Clean, Brylcreem, Vitalis, and something called Brylcreem Power Hold, which is a gel that doesn’t harden into plastic and is really, really awesome).
Now, the upside is, I get to play with my hair again when I want to, I don’t have helmet head, and yet, it stays where I put it when I dry it. The downside is, some of the products are oily and will leave finger tracks when I run them through my hair (because it’s staying where I put it), so I have to comb them out, and it takes a LOT longer to dry my hair in the morning. (The goop, whether it hardens or not, makes the morning routine take longer, full stop.)
None of the “newer” products come close to giving me what I want, and anything that does can’t compete with the prices for these simple, “old school” products.
I’ve become an old-fashioned guy in a lot of ways, and I can’t say I’m sorry at all.
More about me than you wanted to know, I bet. But I’m starting to wonder what other old-fashioned products are actually better but have been labeled “out of style” or “outdated” and relegated to the lost shelves in stores?
Have a good weekend everyone.