High-Shine: Why It’s Time To Embrace Slicked Hair This Summer

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High-Shine: Why It’s Time To Embrace Slicked Hair This Summer

Words by Ms Fedora Abu

23 June 2023

From left: Mr Jon Kortajarena in Cannes, 21 May. Photograph by Ms Kristy Sparow/Getty Images. Mr Jeremy O Harris in Cannes, 19 May. Photograph by Ms Daniele Venturelli/Getty Images. Bad Bunny at the Met Gala in New York, 1 May. Photograph by Mr Sean Zanni/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images

How do you feel about swimming against the tide this summer? That’s our mood in the grooming department here at MR PORTER. Where conventional wisdom will advocate wicking away sweat and banishing shine in the warmer weather, we feel like getting greasy. Not so much in the case of our complexions, mind you – our holy grail will forever be a moisturised (but not shiny) glow. However, when it comes to hair, we’re suddenly yearning for a slathering of gel.

If sales of the stuff skyrocket, we can only take partial credit. Our personal interest in the matter piqued around awards season, when menswear favourite Mr Evan Mock traded his signature bleached buzzcut – the undeniable hair trend of 2022 – for a Mr Elvis Presley-style greased-up do, complete with brow-skimming forelock, at the Vanity Fair Oscars party. In May, Bad Bunny and Mr Simon Porte Jacquemus picked up the baton, stepping out at the Met Gala in side-parted, ultra-lacquered headsuits that no doubt had a hand in landing them best-dressed spots. Then, at last month’s Cannes Film Festival, writer Mr Jeremy O’Harris and model Mr Jon Kortajarena showed out with high-gloss hair dos that required far more than the standard coin-sized amount of product.

“The slicked-back look suddenly feels contemporary and subversively cool”

We’re keen to salute the sheer bravery of these guys, as hair gel doesn’t have the best rep. In decades past, Hollywood alone went through gallons – think of Messrs Marlon Brando, Humphrey Bogart, Gregory Peck and Cary Grant. However, it’s been a lesser-used item in most men’s cabinets for some time. Somewhere along the line of history, that slicked shiny look fell out of favour. It became less synonymous with the glamorous Golden Age stars of the silver screen, and more likely to have you mistaken for the owner of a Miami strip club.

But, as ever, the trend pendulum has swung the other way. And after an eon of perfectly coiffed, fluffed out quiffs, the slicked-back look suddenly feels contemporary and subversively cool.

Achieving the lacquered effect isn’t as easy as it might seem – especially in the heat. And let’s be clear, the goal here is for it to appear intentional, lest you resemble a man who hasn’t washed for weeks.

“Use an extra firm fast drying hair gel,” says Mr Fadi Rachdi, the head barber at the Neville salon in the Bulgari. “I recommend adding a bit of water will help you find the shape you want before applying product. Damp, clean hair is ideal. And use a bristle brush, as it makes it easier to smoothen the hair.”

And for curly hair types, you’ll need as much elbow grease as actual grease. “If you have curly hair, the slick look can be achieved with the help of special strong hold product,” Rachdi says. “With Afro textured hair, you’ll need to straighten it prior.” Try a blow dryer and brush followed by an iron.

Will you dare to jump on board the burgeoning slicked-hair revival? If you’re an especially sweaty fellow or one with super-fine strands, we won’t blame you for sitting this one out. But for the rest of our readers, allow the non-committal aspect of this trend – no hibernating as you wait for it to grow out – to entice you into stepping out your comfort zone.

Which is to say, if in trialling the style you find yourself looking less Evan-Mock cool and more The Weeknd-in-The-Idol creepy, simply grab your shampoo, wash it out and no one beyond your bathroom need ever be any the wiser.