Take a deep breath because I’m a straight man who’s about to talk about his hair. Under most circumstances, that’s usually an invitation for all sorts of odd looks. However, with a global pandemic closing barbershops and hair salons nationwide, I think it’s safe to say the circumstances are unique. Even with some places opening up again, it’s not exactly as easy as walking in and asking for the next available stylist.
I’ll say what I’m sure everyone has at least thought to themselves at some point these past few months. I miss my barber. I miss getting a nice, competent haircut. I’ve spent the last couple months cutting my hair with a pair of cheap clippers. I’ve since come to appreciate the art and skill that goes into cutting hair. The next time I visit my barbershop, I intend to leave an extra-generous tip.
In the meantime, there’s one other issue that a lack of barbershops has revealed to me. It’s actually an issue that I’ve tried to avoid for years. It involves hair gel and the unique way my hair reacts to it. Specifically, it rarely reacts in a way that seems attractive or polished. I don’t know if that’s just a unique trait of my hair or if I’m using it wrong, but it doesn’t seem to work for me.
There was a brief time in my youth when I regularly used hair gel to slick my hair back. I thought it made me look good. For the most part, it was a way of compensating for having thick glasses and an acne problem. I figured that I couldn’t fix some of my facial flaws, but I could manage others. I don’t think my logic was wrong, but I’m fairly certain it backfired.
I’m also fairly certain I messed up my hair for years. I don’t think I succeeded in making myself more attractive, either. Every product I used had the same effect. It made my hair look like I’d styled it with glue. It became dry, stiff, and weird looking. You could tell there was something in my hair and it wasn’t natural. While most products had a pleasant smell, some were so bad that people made faces when they got too close.
Some of that might have been due to me using too much, but even when I used a little, it rarely made a difference. My hair still felt like I’d been on the receiving end of a bad frat prank. Eventually, I got so frustrated that I just stopped using all hair products that weren’t shampoo. Even when I grew my hair out in college, I didn’t do much to style it.
That was fine for college. That was even fine for post-college professional life. As long as I got a regular haircut, I could get away with just slicking my hair back with water and letting it style itself naturally. I got away with it for years, so much so that I barely thought about it.
Then, the pandemic hit and all the barbershops closed.
Suddenly, I have to give my hair more scrutiny than usual. Beyond just cutting it myself, I’ve also had to test out some new hair gels to make it look at least semi-kempt. Just like before, the results have been limited. Some of that is probably because I cut my hair so short and so unevenly that it’s hard to style. At the same time, I’m positive there’s room for improvement.
At the moment, I’m using this styling gel that a relative recommended for me. It’s working to the extent that I can make my hair look decent. When I’m using it, you can’t tell from a distance that I haven’t had a haircut in nearly five months. It still makes my hair feel dry and crusty, but it’s manageable. It’s probably the best I can do for now.
I’m not sure how much longer I’ll keep using this gel. Hopefully, once the barbershops open again, my hair can go back to being a secondary concern. While cutting my own hair and having to make it look decent has been an adventure, I still miss my barber. I miss not looking like a failed punk rocker in the morning.
I know it’s a minor concern in the context of a pandemic, but it’s one of those things you realized you took for granted. Rest assured, I won’t take my barber for granted anytime soon. In the meantime, if anyone has more advice on hair care for men without barbers, I’d love to hear it. Please share your tips and recommendations in the comments.