Looking back, I realize got my last haircut just in time.
It was only a day or two before all non-essential businesses were encouraged (then forced) to close, and I decided to take the risk of trekking downtown to my usual men’s hair salon, even though my regular barber wasn’t available. The result was shorter than I usually liked.
Needless to say, I now wish he’d gone a little shorter still.
While there are obviously bigger things to worry about amid the quest to contain the spread of COVID-19, the prolonged closure of salons has raised an unexpected issue: how are guys going to tame their manes?
There are two obvious, but short term, answers to this question. The first is that we’ll be forced to go the DIY route, and the Internet is quickly filling up with posts like this CNN guide to cutting your own hair, or this men’s grooming gadget guide on the LA Times.
If you’re fortunate enough to be holed up with a girlfriend or wife, you can also try what one of favourite Instagramers, Ali Gordon, showcased in a recent video:
The second choice is to let nature take its course. In a Q&A with CBS News, for example, a men’s image consultant predicted long hair and beards will become the norm when (and if) everyone’s free to roam the streets again this summer.
Making The Best Of The Men’s Grooming Options Available
For some of us, this apparently simple either/or decision is a little more complicated.
When I was a kid, my father bought a home barber kit in the hopes of saving some money.
I love my Dad, but to call what he did “bowl cuts” would be generous, if not an outright lie.
After he’d given up on the idea I went back to a normal salon and watched my hairstylist’s eyes widen.
“What happened — there are entire chunks cut out of your hair!” she said. “Were you fooling around with the guys or something?”
Yes, I tried to suggest with a bashful shrug. That’s what me and my teenage friends did for fun.
That experience soured me on the idea of cutting my own hair, which I’ve come to conclude is much more realistic for guys whose locks are bone-straight.
Doing nothing, on the other hand, requires an equally difficult level of acceptance.
Long hair on me will not turn me into Brad Pitt. I will have something slightly less poofy than an Afro and closer to this post from Interview magazine a few days ago:
The upside of all this is that men are currently experiencing an extended version of the freedom that sometimes leads to the “vacation beard,” a phenomenon to which my own Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, was not immune.
When we’re not at work (or in this case, not at work in the usual way) with the same kind of expectations, men sometimes feel freer to experiment with grooming. This is even true for men whose haircut hasn’t changed since they were a kid, or who have never attempted facial hair before.
I’d like to think that, post-pandemic, we’ll not simply see a lot of cave men emerging from their homes, but a renewed appreciation for how grooming can transform how you feel, and not just how you look.
We might see more men ready to try a new hairstyle, more experiments with scruff, moustaches that aren’t simply an outcome of Movember.
Until then, self-isolation poses a challenge but also a creative constraint — and maybe even an opportunity to think about grooming differently.
If you’re not an expert self-stylist, for instance, or feel uneasy (as I did, initially) to allow some grey to poke out of your beard, this is a good time to learn about the Japanese concept of Wabi-Sabi.
As popularized by the likes of Twitter’s Jack Dorsey and other startup types, Wabi-Sabi is loosely translated as an acceptance of “transience” or imperfection. I learned more about it by reading a great book, Leonard Koren’s Wabi-Sabi: For Artists, Designers, Poets & Philosophers. Here’s a quote worth remembering:
The beauty of wabi-sabi is in one respect, the condition of coming to terms with what you consider ugly. Wabi-sabi suggests that beauty is a dynamic event that occurs between you and something else. Beauty can spontaneously occur at any moment given the proper circumstances, context, or point of view. Beauty is thus an altered state of consciousness, an extraordinary moment of poetry and grace.
We could use a few more moments of poetry and grace right now, even if they only happen when we’re looking at ourselves in the mirror.
What we tend to think of as superficial may turn out to have a deeper meaning than what we initially see on the surface.