Around the world, tousled lads are rediscovering the grooming rituals of their fathers and grandfathers, writes David Colman.
In the past couple of years, the tops of men's heads have provided one of those ironies that make fashion so endearingly silly. It started in the late 1990s, when fashionably anti-fashion guys began leaving their hair messy and matted, as if they had just rolled out of bed. A product even appeared, called Bed Head, to help naturally neat hair fall into a perfect rat's nest.
But as au naturel as the look began, it became forced as this decade wore on. The hairstyle - notably atop, among others, Zac Efron, Clay Aiken and Adam Lambert - started to look spiky and artificial.
''Combs have really taken off,'' says Steven King, a distributor for Kent Brushes, the venerable British maker of combs and brushes, who estimated that his US sales have doubled in the past year - and the goods aren't cheap. Combs average about $US6 ($6) to $US25; brushes start at $US50 and run to $US400.
''The shorter hairstyles are very in,'' King says, ''and guys want to look neat.''
Draper, staunch character that he is, sticks to one hairstyle: neat on the sides, longer on top, tapered in back. But the comb is a friend to any number of styles. There is the classic military ''high and tight'', a crew cut on top, buzzed on the sides; the Elvis, a 1950s rockabilly style with a pompadour-style top and short sides; the Steve McQueen, short all over but longer than a crew cut; and the greaser, lubed up and combed straight back. And longer hair can be styled in different ways: straight back, side-parted and off to the side.
While the grandfatherly bureau-top brushes and combs have come back, old-fashioned hair lotions have not. Brilliantines and pomades are either too oily, too heavy or too hard to wash out with shampoo. (And how many beauty products can be said to have influenced interior design? The antimacassars on old sofas were ''anti'' because of a Victorian-era hair dressing known as macassar oil.) And as for that '50s favourite, Brylcreem, a little dab'll do ya in.
Even at retro barber shops, modern grooming products are the rule. Davines Wonder Wax, Aveda Liquid Pomade, Bumble and bumble Sumotech, Malin+Goetz Sage Styling Cream and Kiehl's Malleable Molding Paste are just some of the products used for getting the look right without it being stiff and brittle or heavy and greasy.
But since so many products are tailored to personal preferences and different kinds of hair, it is up to each man to find his dream goop. How? Ask your pharmacist.
''It's amazing how much the guys who come in here know about product now,'' says the president of the C. O. Bigelow pharmacy in New York, Ian Ginsberg. ''We used to educate them. Now they educate us.''
New York Times