Long Hair for Men: Tips for Growing and Maintaining Your Style

Brett Stout is a personal trainer and former Marine who maintained his classic jarhead “high-and-tight” long after he left the service but grew fatigued by constant trips to the barber. “I got sick of wasting time. It would take 50 minutes to get a haircut that would have only taken four in the Marines … and those haircuts were inspected every week, so they had to be flawless! I got to the door of the barbershop one day and just couldn’t go in.”

brett stout
Mati Gelman

Stout’s hair is now about 15 inches long and he often garners comparisons to Aquaman (he also happens to be a national champion swimmer).

Luckily for Stout, long hair for men is here to stay. The hairstyle escaped 1960s hippie counterculture connotations and — maybe a higher hurdle — the 1990s Yanni/Michael Bolton/Fabio romance novel cover boy phase. While today’s man-bun may raise a bit of ire in certain locales, we think it’s just resentment brought on by male pattern baldness. The problem is, it’s hard for men to learn about how to care for their long hair because they don’t swap grooming secrets the way women do. “I talked to some girls about it,” says Brett, “which some thought was kinda weird. Men — even other men with long hair — don’t want to talk about it. It’s like it’s emasculating or that everything they do has to be effortless.”

If you’ve decided to join the likes of Jason Momoa, Joaquin Phoenix, or the Cleveland Browns’ recent recruit Jamie Gillan,  here are a few tips from celebrity hairstylist Johnny Gaita of Manhattan’s Chris Chase Salon with some input from Stout.

“When guys are growing their hair long, some maintenance is still required,” counsels Gaita. “Don’t wait until your hair is long, scraggly, and you look like a yeti. There is no reason to look bad when you are growing out your hair.”

Starting Out

Gaita recommends doing a “drive-by” with your stylist every few weeks. Give him some creative control. That way he can do a quick trim, maybe add some shape or use some product. “There are retexturizers and straighteners that most men don’t even know about,” he says. “They help reduce the ‘size’ of hair. Taking out some of the curl can get you over the hump. Come in every two weeks to get a trim. Some guys are okay with it looking a bit shaggier and coming in every four to six weeks, but more often means less of a change. Don’t go longer than two months unless your hair is very long.”

Recommended products: Try Alder New York Texture Powder to boost volume if your hair is looking a bit limp and in need of body. R+Co. Dry Texture Cream will absorb oil and help with split ends while cleansing and purifying.

long hair men guide man with red in the field getty images
Peter Muller/Getty Images

Maintenance

Once the hair is growing nicely, what about maintenance?

“Most important, invest in a nice moisturizing shampoo that doesn’t dry the hair. It will help eliminate flyaways and make it easier to style. Not washing your hair to make it look good is a myth: It’s true, don’t wash it every day, but don’t wait for weeks, either. Every few days is good. Once it’s washed, tame as you go. I like a light, nourishing oil like argan oil to calm hair down and ‘dirty it up.’ Women are oil masters,” adds Gaita. “They know all about these concoctions. And then they use dry shampoo to freshen things up.”

Recommended products: Try Triumph & Disaster’s shampoo which incorporates natural ingredients to deliver a balanced, nourishing formula, including Gaita’s recommended argan oil. It was developed by New Zealand cricket players, so you know it can handle your rough fluff. If you have a beard, you may already have some argan oil handy; products like The Roosevelts Beard Company Acadia Beard Oil include jojoba, almond, and Argan oils, as well as essential cedarwood, sandalwood, fir, and clove. These will work fine for taking care of the hair on top of your head, too. Finally, grab some Lululemon Dry Shampoo, specifically formulated for men’s hair, which also has argan oil — a quick, easy way to freshen up after a workout.

Condition

“Always use conditioner, even on the days you don’t wash your hair, get your hair wet and condition it. Get into a three- or four-day cycle where, for instance, you wash the hair on Monday, then wet and condition it Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday; then wash and condition again on Friday.”

Recommended products: Go for Jack Black Nourishing Hair and Scalp Conditioner in an easy-to-transport tube. It’s chock full of good stuff like pro-vitamin B5, biotin, and silk protein; natural oils like tea tree leaf, jojoba oil, and peppermint; and sea kelp (are you paying attention, Aquaman?), basil, and green tea extract.

long hair men guide blonde man with beach getty images
Phillip Suddick/Getty Images

Dry

What about drying? “If you need to get the wet out of your hair, it’s fine … I’m not into men blow-drying their hair. It looks ‘pushed’ … though that may be the look you’re going for! But a good wash and wear cut is best. Some people say their hair dries ‘too puffy.’ I have a really simple solution: throw a hat on! Just throw your hair in whatever direction and pull a ski hat on. It flattens out the hair and is kind of a foolproof thing … it’s like using the winter to tame your hair,” says Gaita.

Recommended products:  “There is also a product called Goodtype that you can put in to weigh hair down.”

Brush

Everybody should also have a good brush. Use it on the regular to keep your hair looking smooth and glossy.

Recommended products: “I like a natural hair brush, with a boar’s hair and plastic mix. Mason Pearson is known for this, but you don’t need to spend a million dollars. YS Park is also pretty high-end. But Creative Brand is great, too For around $20, you get a classic signature brush that’s about five or six inches long and you can easily throw it into your backpack,” says Gaita.

Pulling Your Hair Back

To keep things under control, keep a few hair ties around. “Don’t use a rubber band! They tear the hair. Use those that are made from stretchy fabric that are made specifically for that purpose. And be careful not to tie it back when wet … it can get a musty smell that’s terrible,” explains Gaita.

long hair men guide asain man with a bung and getty images
Visual Space/Getty Images

Stout chimes in here: “Never pull your hair too tight in the front … it can lead to balding. I tend to wear it up almost all the time so it doesn’t get as tangled, or get in my mouth … unless somebody wants to play with it.” He also keeps hair ties available everywhere with spares in his bag, spares in his dresser — spares everywhere because “Sometimes it’s a bonding thing to share one with somebody; but if it’s windy, good luck doing anything!”

Gaita suggests using a silk pillow or a softer pillowcase if you are having problems with your hair getting tangled while sleeping. “Women have more of a problem with knots than men. Most men can just run some water through their hair in the morning and it comes out fine.”

As a trainer, Stout also advises pulling the hair up into a simple bun on the top center of the head so that it’s not in the way during exercises like the bench press. “I always remember to put my hair away before I start working out,” says Stout. “Once you start and your hands are sweaty, it’s almost impossible to control.” He also suggests, for his fellow swimmers, buying a nylon swim cap that is designed for hair worn in a bun.

As an aside, when this writer first started talking to Gaita about caring for long hair, I mentioned that I’d tried to grow my hair out long ago, and gave up because I didn’t get this kind of expert guidance. I never tried again once male pattern baldness set in, and I assumed that ship had sailed. Gaita points out “We need to start the conversation on male pattern baldness! So many guys are afraid to talk about it, and there are so many things you can do to keep hair now. If it’s a concern, give it a stab!” Talk to your stylist and consider products like Evolisor Keeps to fight the good fight and grow that hair out like a pro.

Own It

Now that you’re prepared to go the distance, be prepared for a lot of feedback. “Depending on who the guy is, of course, people react aggressively when you change your look. Sometimes it’s a good conversation piece, but a lot of men aren’t used to it. I just bleached my own hair and then made it all gray platinum, and everybody has an opinion.” Gaita elaborates. “You have to be okay talking about it. If you’re doubting it, or are doing something that’s not comfortable, maybe long hair isn’t the right thing for you.”

Stout concurs: “I can be very confrontational, and my long hair really challenges people. Sometimes it actually makes people angry and people ask a lot of questions. You should see the looks I get back home in Iowa.”

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