As with workman’s tools, hair products are only as good as the person that wields them…and yet to the man who has truly mastered his product(s) of choice, the world of fantastic hair comes wide open. Give a man a pot of clay and he may fumble through a passable look, but teach him how to style and he will never have a bad hair day again.
With this entirely unique and non-plagiarised principle in mind we took our hair product and styling questions to someone who knows better than even those of us who have spent untold hours practicing with wax: Jake Murphy is a senior barber at the Covent Garden branch of Ruffians and, for the remainder of this article, he is your guide in the art of follicle fashionings. Got your shampoo? Clutching your new conditioner? Then let’s begin.
If there’s one product from this list that we reckon should work for pretty much anyone with shorter styles, it’s clay. “The all-rounder,” senior barber at Ruffian’s Covent Garden Jake Murphy calls it. “With clay you can achieve nearly any desired style: flick it up, lay it down, part it, mess it…just apply when the hair is wet for a natural finish.”
Get a short-back-and-sides every time you sit down in the barber chair? This is your saviour: an affordable choice that’ll last all day. “Day to day I use this the most,” Jake says: “Be it effortless, low-maintenance looks or textured side-partings, it can handle any job.”
Like clay but lighter, paste works best worked into damp hair. Jake’s assessment? “I tend to use paste to emphasise natural waves and highlight texture in softer cuts. If you like the flow and movement of a mid-length cut, be it pushed back, or the fresh out-of-bed look, apply when wet or damp for shape and control.”
It might look similar to clay and paste in the pot, but pomade is a different beast altogether. A retro choice that helped Elvis Presley’s hair look like that, it is nevertheless, Jake says, “so much more than the ‘1950s hard-part slick-back haircut’”.
“Distinguished styles” such as those associated with Mad Men‘s Don Draper may be the thing it’s most commonly associated with, but Jake insists that the tincture can offer far more. “Curlier hair can benefit from pomade: rake it through with your fingers while wet, then either air dry or diffuse with a hairdryer to achieve defined curls. The wet look is dismissed by so many, but I often find once a client tries it out, they rarely go back.”
Our advice? Be sparing with your use of this product, and opt for water over oil-based in order to give yourself an easier time washing it out later.
Anyone who had the (mis)fortune of attending a high school in the UK will know hair gel all too well. Likely you’ll agree with Jake when he notes that the product “transports me to my preadolescence, a time of spike hair, bleached tips, and the occasional mini-fringe.”