Why do we always want what we don’t have? Those with limp, straight hair would often kill for a bit of volume that doesn’t require styling tools or bucket-loads of product. And those with tight spiral curls eye the straight-haired with envy.
But between the two, there’s natural waves. And while those with wavy hair will still gripe about its annoying tendencies (there are one or two), there’s much to appreciate in this wash-and-go hair type. You can chemically straighten or perm hair, but there’s no magic in a bottle for those in-between waves.
Wavy hair tends to be thicker, denser and less prone to thinning and there are plenty of icons including Timothée Chalamet and Harry Styles to look up to. So, what more do we need to convince you that you lucked out in the follicle department? Experiment with the best wavy hairstyles below, along with some expert barbershop styling advice, and you can thank us later.
How To Manage Wavy Hair
Ok, so humidity might not be your friend, and there’s always that one little bit that refuses to behave. But these are glitches that can be fixed with the right hair products (think best hair mousse, men’s hair gel or pomade) and styling techniques. Tim Pateman, the director of Clerkenwell salon, The Lion and The Fox and a session stylist (who’s worked with George Ezra, Russell Kane and Jake Bugg) gives us the lowdown on how to manage waves.
Let’s start with the basics. Pateman favours co-washing with wavy hair (co-washing is short for ‘conditioner washing’). “This method should still involve two steps as if you were using shampoo,” says Pateman. “Skip the shampoo, take a dose of conditioner to emulsify the hair all over to clean it, rinse and then repeat.” He likes Redken Curvaceous Conditioner and Kiehl’s Hair Conditioner and Grooming Aid. We’re also fans of Davines Love Curl Cleansing Cream.
“If you’re co-washing you should lay off heavy styling products,” advises Pateman. “With the build-up of natural oils hair becomes impenetrable and learns to regulate itself, so you’ll find you need less styling aids as part of the process,” he explains. “It’s also essential to find a barbershop or stylist who knows how to cut curly hair.” Because, weirdly, a lot of hairdressers just don’t have the knack or the knowledge.
“Also concentrate on finding the right products,” he says. “As a general guide, curls and waves love a cream: something that absorbs easily and gives a natural finish. Avoid anything that is sticky – or risk a wet poodle curl.”
Note: There are more permanent fixes for frizzier hair types in the form of keratin ‘Brazilian’ chemical relaxers than can be used sparingly around the hairline or other problem areas.
The Best Hairstyles for Wavy Hair
There are plenty of famous wavy hair wearers out there but if you want to rock a look that’s more your own, here’s five cuts to inspire you.
Mid Length, Grown Out
“This is a soft, grown-out look that has a 1990s feel about it,” says Pateman. ‘Curtains’ was the defining hairstyle of the era, where the hair is worn medium-length with a side parting forming a wedge shape with shorter layers underneath and at the back. As hair grows out of a quiff style it can easily be manipulated into this.
“You need to be able to run hands through this look. Take a little hair oil, apply it to wet hair and allow to dry naturally,” advises Pateman. “Or, when heat styling, I use a tiny bit of Original & Mineral Project Sukuroi Gold Smoothing Balm. I like this product because it actually makes hair easier to style over time.”
For this style ask for “a barbershop fade with short back and sides, left longer on top,” says Pateman. “Keeping a heavy visible line at fade point and going from approximately grade one to three – keeping the beard same length. Use a strong matt wax to style, such as Bumble and Bumble Sumotech or Davines Strong Dry Wax, to define the texture.”
Long & Natural
This look is basically a longer version of ‘curtains’, where the model has curlier hair. “This needs layers and more length at the back,” says Pateman. “It’s basically a grown-out version of the first look. The length will vary depending on how tight the curl is, but it should sit at cheek bone level at the front. Make sure it’s point cut to soften the ends of the curls. If hair is very thick, slide cutting should take some of the weight out for a better shape.”
For a Chalamet-grade finish, “Take sections of damp hair and work through, twisting each curl with a product like Davines Curl Building Serum, or Redken Curvaceous Ringlet Perfecting Lotion. To speed up the process and control the curls, use a diffuser.”
Undercut With Fringe
Really thick hair can become manageable overnight with this style, making it a good option for men who don’t style their hair so much as wrestle with it. It’s also a touch more corporate-friendly than the beachier looks on this list.
“Just ask for an undercut but maintain the length on top for emphasis,” says Pateman. “Style to preference. I’d use a salt spray like Bumble and Bumble Surf Spray and finish with a shine wax, such as Bumble and Bumble Sumowax. It’s easy to maintain but it does need to be cut about every three weeks to keep it sharp.”
Mid Length Smart Sweep
Aka, the McConaughey. “Starting with a quiff and a side parting, let the back grow out for more texture,” says Pateman. “Use a salt spray for hold and then a styling cream like Kiehl’s Creme with Silk Groom to give that kind of finger mark movement through the top. Use a hair dryer to style stubborn hair in the direction you want it to go – it should take about two weeks to train it into place.” Awright, awright, awright.