The weird world of men’s YouTube hair tutorials

Fashion Updates
Man bun, quiff and combover, as attempted by Dean Kissick
Man bun, quiff and combover, as attempted by Dean Kissick Photograph: Dean Kissick

I’ve never really known how to style my hair – honestly, I don’t think many men do. Most men’s styling products have an effect that is absolutely nothing like they’re intended to, and only make your hair a disgusting, gloopy mess. Or, if they are supposed to make your hair a mess, a just-got-out-of-bed disarray, they don’t really do that very well.

But I want to understand how to make my hair look nice – really I do – so it’s interesting to hear about the coiffured world of men’s YouTube hair tutorials. Google announced this week that, for the first time, there were more searches for information about men’s hairstyles than women’s – 6% more, in fact – which makes sense, because beards are over and where else would the hipster look but upwards? More than anything, says Google, men are appealing for help on achieving two specific ’dos: the combover and the man bun. And while there have been many more searches about the man bun, especially in the last year, there have been considerably more views of YouTube tutorials on how to achieve the perfect combover. Perhaps the man bun is something to be admired from afar, while the combover is something to place upon one’s head. Or perhaps the man bun is just something to be mocked (yes, it is). Here’s how my hair fared after I attempted some YouTube tutorials.

So, the combover is no longer only for the bald. According to YouTube, the modern combover is Don Draper, Harry Kane, maybe Alan Partridge at a push. It is also known as a classic side part, according to this pomade-centric tutorial by the extravagantly coiffured Joseph Andrews (Instagram biog: “I love llamas”). The tutorial is slick – Andrews’ impressive cheekbones detract from the impermanence of the set (he is standing in front of a door) – and it wisely advises that you need to experiment to work out which side your hair falls on best to get this style right. (Andrews is a professional and need not experiment; he worked out long ago that he should comb to his right.) That said, while I like this look best, because it’s smart, business-like, greasily slick, possessed of a sinister air and stays in place, it’s pretty simple. I’m not sure that you really need a video tutorial on how to have a combover.

But perhaps I’m just not thinking about this one comprehensively enough. According to former L’Oréal chief marketing officer turned Google managing director/global partner Marc Speichert (a resolutely short-back-and-sides man): “You see more and more sophistication around searches for combovers. The search queries are getting longer and longer. Men are trying to understand how to do a low fade, high fade, a short or long combover.” However, I would warn that the higher the fade, the worse it looks – the more evocative it becomes of a parakeet, or a fascist dictator, and nobody wants that.

great beard, great eyebrows, great man bun, obviously – accepts that his version of the ’do may be controversial to some: “I know a lot of people will say, this isn’t how you do a man bun. Well. I’m doing an undercut man bun, all right? But this is how I’m doing to do it.” The elephant in the room swiftly dispatched, he talks in detail about the measurements required to achieve the look – “top hair” needs to be lengthy to make it into a bun; his is a full 6½ inches. He even advises which wrist to wear the ponytail band on while tying for optimal results.

Perhaps lack of length was my problem, or my fingers are just too clumsy. Because, although it might not look like it, I spent ages trying to perfect this one. I don’t mean to sound like a sore loser, but who would want a man bun anyway? While it’s probably supposed to evoke a noble samurai, it always reminds me the surly, vainglorious, out-of-work-actor sort of waiters in horrible bars all over the world. Because it’s associated with the Jared Letos, the Leonardo DiCaprios, theHarry Styleses of this world. It’s for cocksure, mercurial footballers, and the higher it rises up the back of the head, from a middling Zlatan Ibrahimovic to a mountain-peak Nacer Chadli, the sleazier it appears.

To me, there’s no quiff like a Donald Trump quiff, and that’s what I was trying to achieve here. However, I failed abjectly and had to abandon the tutorial. Mock Trump’s crazed, implausibly blow-dried, polydirectional hairdo if you will, but I defy anyone to actually achieve it upon their noggin. It didn’t help that the YouTube tutorial I found starred a woman with hair all the way down her back, which she fashioned into several ponytails and twists to create a “souffle” and ensure it looked “as toupee-like as possible”. Instead, what I’ve inadvertently cooked up is, according to the tutorials – another tutorial here from the impressively hirsute Gentleman’s Cove – more like a “David Beckham H&M” quiff. It looks OK, but it’s much harder than the others to keep from falling over during the day. I’m going with the combover.

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