James Arsenault considers himself more-or-less an average guy. At 22, the University of Western business-school grad is part of a generation for whom an extensive array of men’s hair styling product on drugstore shelves is normal, yet still something of a mystery.
Arsenault uses a Garnier Fructis wax on his short hair. “One of my roommates had some. I tried it, it did what I wanted, I don’t need to try anything else,” he says. “I throw it in my hair to give it some shape and look like I put some effort into looking groomed, not messy.”
While he shrugs on the subject of the differences between putty and paste, Arsenault admits that rather than gel he prefers wax because it doesn’t result in that over-slicked Ross Gellar ‘do. “I don’t like to look like I have stuff in my hair,” he says. He also appreciates that wax allows him to reshape his hair as needed throughout the day.
Los Angeles-based stylist Mitch Stone is an expert on men’s hair products. Recently in Toronto to work with the finalists for The Score’s Drafted, the search for the next great sportscaster (drafted.ca), he knows from the properties of gel versus putty versus paste versus wax, and about not looking like you have stuff in your hair. “It’s matte textures now, especially with high-def,” he said when he sat down to share his pro tips with Metro.
Stone, whose clients include Ewan McGregor in Angels & Demons and Ben Stiller in Tropic Thunder, says not to be afraid of gel, at least not Gillette Flex Gel, which delivers a softer, matte look that is “less Alec Baldwin, more Roger Federer.”
Gillette Power Gel is a stronger version: “I used it on Ewan in Angels & Demons; without it, his stick-straight hair would spring straight up.” (McGregor, it turns out, is a gracious client; he sent Stone a “Great hair! Just saw the premiere!” text when the film opened.)
To take a style from business to cocktail, try a paste, such as Joico Design Collection Pliable Paste or Gillette Sculpting Paste. The key is the paste’s re-workability, says Stone. You can look conservative for day, then post 5 p.m. easily re-shape hair for a casually dishevelled look like Brad Pitt or Robert Downey Jr.
If you want to make girls swoon with a ’do like Robert Pattinson’s, putty offers lots of hold for edgier, more haphazard styles. And for a short cut like Daniel Craig’s, which Stone says “can look like a tennis ball without any product,” he recommends Mess Constructor, which has a consistency between a paste and a gel, and leaves a matte finish like the rest of the Gillette line. “It will give the hair texture and dimension.”
For frizzy, curly hair, Stone suggests using a hydrating conditioner after shampooing, and dabbing some in like a leave-in conditioner before styling.
More tips from Mitch Stone
“How much product a guy should use depends on the hair length, hair style and coarseness,” says stylist Mitch Stone. “For most guys, using about a penny to quarter size dollop should do the trick. Before applying it to hair guys must remember to emulsify the product by rubbing it between their hands vigorously. Then, to polish the style after hair dries all the way, use dime size to accentuate texture.”