Cream. Wax. Pomade. Glue?? Scanning the men’s hair styling products in the drug store aisle or at a salon can be in, a word, bewildering. Half the stuff sounds like it’s better suited to an arts-and-crafts project than making you—and Don Draper—look sharp. And yet, now is not the time to stress (that just increases wrinkles). Instead, make sense of it all with the handy rundown below.
Paste suits pompadours and classic side parts. One of those looks is a bit more timeless than the other.
Note: There are general characteristics of every product on the market (light to strong hold, shiny to matte texture) but depending on your hair type, each product can give varying hold and texture. Some guys like a strong hold because they have thick or curly hair, while those sporting finer locks may just be looking to add a bit of definition and shape, with just enough grip to keep things together in a light breeze. My best advice is to play around with several products until you find one that works for you. Hint: the best time to experiment is not 15 minutes before dates.
Cream offers a light hold and works with all hair types. It adds definition to curls, texture to short hair, and shine to all hair styles, make it an ideal option if she likes to run her fingers through her hair. Less so if you’re crafting the world’s tallest fauxhawk.
Gel provides a strong hold but contains mostly alcohol and water, so when it dries it can leave hair hard, crusty and flaky. Gels are outdated and I don’t recommend them, unless you happen to like sleeping alone.
Glue also gives you a strong hold, and it works well for “normal” hair—that is, hair that is not too thin or thick. As you might guess, it’s good for guys going for bold hairstyles—slicked back, spiked up, deep side parts… and the aforementioned fauxhawk.
Paste offers a medium hold for all hair types. It is excellent for short styles, as it adds texture and is the perfect weight for fine hair, and suits pompadours and classic side parts. One of those looks is a bit more timeless than the other.
Pomade provides a medium to strong hold. It’s best for coarse or curly hair and works great for many of the same looks that paste does. But because it also adds shine, sheen and moisture, it can also support the slicked-back or simply slick look favored by Don Draper.
Putty is not just for filling holes in the wall. It offers a seriously strong hold that’s best for curly, thick or coarse hair. Apply it when the hair is damp, and, no, you do not need a putty knife.
Wax, last but not least, also offers a strong hold. It comes in a very solid form, so it’s best to apply to dry hair. It’s your best choice for sculpted retro looks, especially when grooming your moustache to look exactly like an old-timey bartender/strongman/bare-knuckle boxer.