Lockdown, finally, isn't so locked down. For now anyway. Because while much of 2021 has been full of nothing, now it's packed full of pub gardens and walks around shops you'd have had no interest in whatsoever prior to 2020 – oh, and it's full of hair. Lots of it actually.
Long hairstyles for men are becoming an ever more frequent sight. As the dirge of lockdown groaned on, the amount of guys who thought "oh, this looks quite good actually" swelled in number, and there's every reason you can join them – providing you have a few things ticked off.
First, you need length, but we can assume you've already got that. What's more, genetics need to be on your side. Fine or thin hair can appear even sparser without regular trims, which, again, may make an at-home buzzcut all the more appealing. But if you do have a thicker, fuller crown (lucky boy!), then congratulations: a long hairstyle for men may well be for you.
The benefits are legion. Not only is longer hair versatile, it also packs a particular strain of loucheness that no other cut can offer. All you do is get up, push back and go outside – or at least that's the illusion. In truth, it takes a substantial amount of effort, but, again, the nice lady on the till at Tesco Express doesn't need to know that – nor will she assume that you summer in Newquay.
Joe Mills, founder of barber Joe and Co, says there’s never been a better time to consider a longer hairstyle.
“It’s really diverse at the moment with longer hair,” says Mills. “You’ve got guys with hair flowing down past their shoulders through to guys with Seventies Bowie-style cuts with short fringes.” Like any trend, he says, “hairstyles are circular”, and the current maxim is a pushback to military-grade war-hero cuts that appear on everything from the runways of Milan to Sheesh bar and grill in Chigwell. That means its time for a change.
“People first started moving towards a softer, Stone Roses-style look, and it went from there,” says Mills. “You always have a phase where everyone’s having sharp, short haircuts, then people buck the trend and it starts to filter through.”
No time like the present. Here's everything you need to know about the best long hairstyles for men.
Who can pull off long hair?
“The thing with long hair is that it’s an attitude as much as it is a look,” says Maxwell Oakley, barber at Ruffians Shoreditch. “If you’ve got the confidence to break out of the pack, then you’re halfway there.” That being said, all the chutzpah of a Met Gala Jared Leto won’t help if you’re without the right starter ingredients.
“Realistically you need medium to thick hair to grow it long,” says Mills. “It’s better if it’s got a slight wave in it too, so that it doesn’t just hang. Straighter hair is OK, curly hair can work really well as the locks drop out when hair grows. But, if your hair is too fine then it’ll just look wispy.”
As well as hair type, you’ll also need to take your face shape into consideration. “An oval or square jaw will pretty much work with most haircuts. If you’ve got a particularly round face, you have to be mindful your hair doesn't accentuate that. Anything mid-length can tend to look a bit Lego-head.”
Can I make my hair grow faster?
Growing your hair out is a serious commitment: you can’t ghost out when the going gets tough. There will be tricky patches, and times when you want to just give up and shave your hair off. Try to persevere.
“Understand that there are a lot of stops on the journey, and some will seem to last longer than others,” says Oakley. He recommends talking to your barber about your long-term goals (and showing them references), so that they can give you a roadmap of how to get there.
In terms of shortcuts, there are, unfortunately, none. As far as miracle products such as caffeine shampoo go, "there's just not enough science," Mills says. “If you want decent hair, skin and nails, just make sure you're eating a balanced diet and if you're out drinking, make sure you rehydrate.” He adds that zinc and collagen are said to be beneficial for hair quality, so multivitamins and supplements could be an option. But really, this is a waiting game.
How do you maintain long hair?
As your hair moves south, it’s important to invest in a quality shampoo and conditioner to keep it strong and glossy. This means separate bottles (no two-in-ones) and not just resorting to your significant other’s wash of choice. Mills recommends using Triumph & Disaster, or Kevin Murphy’s Hydrate.Me range, both of which are sulphate and paraben-free and contain hydrating oils and extracts.
"If your hair is in fairly decent nick, you only need to condition your hair every other wash,” he says. “If you've got finer hair, you can also use a sea salt spray which coats the hair, making it look thicker.”
While shearing off dead ends is important for maintaining a glossy mane, getting a trim doesn’t make your hair grow any faster, contrary to popular belief.
“People say you need to come in every four to six weeks to get the dead ends cut off, but you’re cutting off what you’ve just grown,” says Mills. “If your hair is really thick and getting out of control, you might want to have it reshaped, but it’s not like the short back and sides mentality: you don’t need to come in every few weeks.”
The other major psychological shift, Mills says, “is getting your head around the fact that you won’t look quite as clean-cut as you once did.” This doesn’t mean resigning yourself to looking scruffy, rather that additional effort is required.
“It helps if you’re clean around the edges – the back of your neck and your sideburns if you have them. If you’ve got a beard, make sure it’s blended in. Aside from that, you’ve got to just put up with it.”
How to grow out Afro hair
Afro hair is more brittle than caucasian and Asian hair, meaning you’ll need to use a deep moisturising treatment more often as it grows. You’ll also need to wash it less (once a week at most) to maintain your natural oils, ideally, again, using a sulphate and paraben-free shampoo.
“One thing to remember is that afro hair is longer than it appears,” says Mark Maciver, owner of SliderCuts. “It tends to be quite curly which can disguise the true length as it's growing, so you have to be patient. If you pull a strand, you'll see how long it really is.
“It's also very important that you don't cover your hair too much by wearing caps, hats or wraps,” he adds. “Just like your body, hair needs sunlight and oxygen to keep it healthy and constantly covering it doesn't let it get this which can result in your hair not growing or becoming damaged.”
Your long hair inspiration
Follow in the follicles of these well-coiffed men on every step of your short-to-long growing journey
Longer Afro Style
What to ask for: Tell your barber that you're growing your hair out, and they'll advise a trim and products designed to enhance curls
Who it suits: Guys who are able to easily grow two to three inches of hair
What it is: A traditional Black hairstyle that results from natural growth and progression, and it's usually styled into a rounded shape using a comb.
Dating back to the civil rights movement of the Sixties, Aaryn Lynch, a producer behind Cambridge's Fitzwilliam Museum 2013 afro comb exhibition, named the afro "a symbol of rebellion, pride and empowerment" in an interview to the BBC.
Due to its voluminous nature, you'll need a little more maintenance too as breakages can frequently occur. Use a wide-toothed comb to style, avoid excessive heat from hairdryers and straighteners and swerve chemical-based relaxers and hair dyes with a full shampoo wash needed every seven to ten days.
Longer On Top
What to ask for: A classic scissor taper with square layers on top
Who it suits: Everyone
What it is: Bradley Cooper’s current ‘do would be a solid end goal in itself, but Oakley says it’s also a strong transitional option for anyone who’s starting to grow their hair out.
“The great thing about this cut is it can be adapted for pretty much any hair type,” he says. “The key feature is the taper. This can be cut with a little graduation, or if you have the length on top the angles can be made more extreme. If your hair is very thick it is better to not go too tight.”
Rub a little serum or hair cream (Ruffians does a very good one) through to give the hair a slight hold. If you’re looking for something slicker, use a matte clay or pomade through the length and ends.
What to ask for: Slightly feathered layers, longer on top
Who it suits: Heart-shaped faces, thick hair
What it is: With more length on the sides and slightly feathered layers, Patrick Dempsey’s soft quiff is where we start to take a real departure from clipper cuts. “His stylist has point-cut the ends to soften them,” says Oakley. “The soft feathering on means that the hair isn’t so bulky, making it much easier to style as you gain length.”
Oakley says that this style is particularly good for men with heart-shaped faces as the narrow shape around ears and slight flare at the back “gives the appearance of more balance”.
“Use salt spray on wet hair before drying to take the shine off. For a little more volume and hold sprinkle in some hair powder, or for a softer look with a demi shine rub some styling paste through the hair while slightly damp.”
What to ask for: A round layer throughout
Who it suits: Square and oval faces
What it is: The point at which your hair starts falling down instead of growing out in all directions is also when your hair starts to feel purposeful and powerful. Not unlike, say, a Jedi master. This is also the point where you can go for something deceptively simple, like Adam Driver’s one-length all-over style.
As Oakley explains: “It may look like this cut is shorter at the back but this is merely an illusion. The hair mimics the lines of your head; the weight on top is actually pushing the lengths at the back to follow the head shape.”
If you’re aiming for even more length, Oakley recommends you ask your barber to reduce some of the weight from the top while allowing the base length to get longer and heavier. At home, smooth some styling cream into freshly washed and conditioned hair, running your fingers through it as it dries naturally.
Mid-Length Longer hair
What to ask for: Mid length layers, slightly longer on the top and shorter on the sides
Who it suits: Medium to thick hair, square and oval faces
What it is: Your reward for about a year’s hard work and perseverance – that’s how long it’ll take you to get Keanu Reeves’ grown-up surfer look. but the good news is it’s relatively low-maintenance from here on out.
“You need four to five inches of length, with the sides slightly shorter than the back,” says Mills. “If your hair is thicker then ask your stylist to take some weight out to give it some movement, and so that it doesn’t sit flat to your head.”
To style, use a small amount of mousse on damp hair and either blow dry or leave to dry naturally. Then, use a styling cream to finish.
What to ask for: A classic layer cut blended at the sides
Who it suits: Thick wavy or curly hair
What it is: A classic Timothée Chalamet, which Mills says is the ideal starting point for guys who are just starting to embrace longer curls.
The explosion of ceramic hair straighteners around the turn of the millennium convinced us all that curls were something which needed taming. Thankfully, this is no longer the case. Mills recommends that you start by growing the top at first, keeping the back and sides at “an inch to two-and-a-half inches and blended in as much as possible in a classic layer cut.”
“The top is probably three times longer than the sides, with the curls pulling the length back in, but if you’re growing it out ask your barber to leave as much as possible,” he explains. “You can then grow the back and sides gradually.” To add sheen and tame any frizz, use a touch of styling cream.
What to ask for: A round layer throughout
Who it suits: Medium to thick hair, square or oval face
What it is: Where you’ll be a few months in, when your curls start to elongate and fall down around your face. As Oakley points out, this cut is “pretty much identical in length and in shape to Adam Driver’s” – a round layer throughout with some of the weight removed from the top where necessary.
To get Kit Harington’s casual swept-back style, use conditioner and hair cream after washing. Leave it dry naturally, being careful not to touch it while your curls set.
“When it is completely dry it might look very shiny and a touch crispy,” Oakley continues. “To get rid of that Eighties DeBarge look, rub some Ruffians Matt Clay into the hands and run it through the hair.” This will break up any crunchiness while adding hold.
Longer And Messier
What to ask for: A universal layer with more length at the front
Who it suits: Medium to thick wavy hair
What it is: Easy maintenance with tonnes of texture.
Dev Patel is cold, hard proof of the magic of grooming (see: his unbelievable glow-up from awkward TV sixth-former to Oscar-nominated heartthrob). If his tousled, textured mop looks effortless, that’s because once you’ve got the required length, it mostly is.
“This is what we call a universal layer,” Mills explains. “It’s about the same length all over – four to five inches on top and three to five inches on the sides, but with more length towards the front.”
The key to this style is movement. “If you've got very thick hair you’ll want some of the weight taken out of it, making sure sure it’s soft around the edges with the back cut into.”
Once you’ve got the cut sorted, all you need is a touch of curl-enhancing cream before air drying. Mills recommends Kevin Murphy’s Motion Lotion, though Patel has admitted he uses facial moisturiser.
What to ask for: Box braids
Who it suits: Those with suitable scalps
What it is: A protective style that looks slick
Braids and cornrows are great for protecting afro hair during the colder months, when biting winds wick moisture out of the hair, but they’ve also made a style comeback in recent years thanks to the likes of A$AP Rocky and the late Nipsey Hussle.
Mark Maciver says: “The first thing to consider is if you have any scalp conditions, such as a tender scalp or alopecia, as a style like plaits could actually cause more damage to your hair”.
“Booking a consultation with a hairdresser will help to identify this. They’ll also be able to advise whether your hair is capable of achieving the style.” If your scalp can handle the tension, ask your stylist for simple box braids all over.
Shannon Currie, who works with Maciver at SliderCuts, says: “Your hair needs to be at least three inches long to achieve a neat plait without the use of elastic bands, and at least six inches long to achieve the A$AP Rocky style.” Wear a durag to bed and keep your scalp moisturised with a coconut or avocado oil-based product.
A word of warning: braids on white guys are definitely not fly. If David Beckham couldn’t pull it off, neither can you.
What to ask for: A layered cut, straight across the back
Who it suits: Wavy hair
What it is: Sleek with serious length
This is what you get when you bide your time, follow a dedicated hair maintenance regime, and maybe throw in a few prayers to the hair gods every now and then.
“It’s a great haircut,” says Mills. “It’s cut straight across the back and then through the front it's got some layers to give it that softer textured feel. It’s very sleek, very groomed.”
Mills adds that this is a style that works for any length of hair once it’s past the shoulders, and suits all hair types from fine to thick. To get Jared Leto’s signature Seventies folk singer look, use a pomade to define your natural waves. You can air dry, but Mills recommends going for a full blow-out when you want to seriously impress.
Long And Natural
What to ask for: One length all over
Who it suits: Thick hair with a strong wave or curl
What it is: The holy grail of long hair.
Jason Momoa’s hair is the stuff of legend: sun-kissed and shoulder-length with stronger waves than the ones that toppled Atlantis.
“I’ve worked with Jason and I know his hairdresser, it’s super low-maintenance,” says Mills. “This is just a classic one-length haircut, all of the hair is the same length.” It goes without saying that this is a style which requires thick hair, preferably with a strong curl. “Then, all you need to use is just a bit of conditioner, towel dry it and whack some grooming cream in there.”
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