We gathered three men’s hairstyling pros—Edwin Johnston, Matty Conrad and Paul Pereira—for a discussion about the state of men’s grooming. As expected, there were no shortage of opinions, yet they all agree that the evolution of men’s grooming isn’t over yet.
Salon Magazine: Let’s talk about 2017. What was your favourite men’s style that really took hold and what is the one trend you want to see go away forever?
Matty Conrad: For 2017, we saw the mainstream acceptance of really clean-looking barbering styles. Hairstylists got better at creating really clean fades, and I think we saw that hit hard with the mainstream. What I noticed emerging was a lot of dishevelled texture and movement that looks a little less polished and less wet with more of a disheveled look, for more of a James Dean vibe. This is the precursor to having hair growing out—a little looser and less severe looking, more texture where hair moves around.
Edwin Johnston: I absolutely agree with Matty. Personally, I think we’ll see the fade go away for a while, but it is a part of men’s classic styling.
Paul Pereira: I really want to see the “man bun” with shaved sides. That whole look, just go away.
SM: What about braids for men? Is that a look you would like to see go away too or is that something cool that can live on or return if it does go away?
E.J.: Oh, absolutely go away. (Laughs) M.C.: Who started that, anyway? (Laughs)
P.P.: (Laughs) Just for the record, I wasn’t really serious when I did the braid in that hairstyle. My photographer even looked at me and asked what braids had to do with a 1930s inspired men’s look. Then, the next day, he called me and it turned out to be the best shot.
M.C.: The first time you showed me, I thought, “Hey, now that’s cool,” and then suddenly it was everywhere.
SM: Where are you looking for inspiration?
M.C.: I’m looking more at the U.K. and specifically Kevin Luchmun, who I feel is at the forefront. I’m constantly looking at barbershops and what is going on around the globe. I’m inspired by the history of our industry.
P.P.: The work in the U.K., the whole focus on the early ’90s and now ’80s, Sixteen Candles and Depeche Mode and new wave punk.
SM: What do you all see as the distinction between barbering and hairstyling?
M.C.: What I’m noticing is an evolution of men knowing how to style their hair. In the mid-’90s there weren’t a lot of style-heavy looks, but now clients understand the products and get that they have to style their hair. I find that I’m spending time teaching barbers to be hairstylists more, and they are more sophisticated hairstylists and barbers all around.
P.P.: At one time, only barbers cut amazing fades and hairstylists were better at styling hair. But now, we are seeing hairstylists like Matty going into the barbering world and barbers getting into hairstyling, so we see that blurring. In a salon, clients often pay more attention to their hair—that’s the biggest difference. Some guys might feel they need the help of a hairstylist to get a specific look.
M.C.: I completely agree with that, Paul. I think there still exists that idea that barbershops are for a fade and hair salons are more about style. Interestingly, this may not be factually based yet we all have that feeling. Although, there’s a good chance that barbershops may die off if that keeps up.
E.J.: One thing I’ve noticed is a huge increase in teenage boys in our salon. It’s this whole boy band revival—these kids are head-to-toe impeccably groomed. They are fussy clients, the most I’ve had in my life. It’s like this underground movement.
M.C.: Do you think that it’s because those guys weren’t old enough to remember the last time boy bands
E.J.: Yes, and that’s exactly what’s happening. The amount of time they spend on creating their look is incredible.
SM: So, what does everyone think about men’s hair colour? What’s the verdict on pigment colour and grey coverage?
M.C.: I’ve seriously changed my tune. With the return of silvers and greys and the metallic colours, I’ve seen more guys going with this, especially younger ones. As we get into more textured looks, colour makes sense. Also, I do see a huge surge in the number of guys wanting to reduce grey hair, but not completely eliminate it. Some go grey really early but they are pretty discreet about the service.
P.P.: I think we are running out of ideas for men’s haircuts. There’s
a huge desire for people wanting their individual style and look. So looking to things like K-Pop and J-Pop globally, I think men’s hair colour is going to be it. Like with women, colour takes a great haircut to the next level.
SM: When you look at celebrities and athletes, who are the men that have nailed it and are looking good right now?
P.P.: Guys are still looking to David Beckham, even now with his hair being a bit longer. I’m not looking at celebrities, necessarily. I was in Dublin and London recently and I found that the looks for cuts is forward texture and a lot of hair flopping forward with the younger crowd.
M.C.: Yeah, [Beckham] has been an icon since he hit the pitch and he’s been really good at going through different style cycles; not that every one has been a winner, but he goes for it. For me, I’d say Tom Hardy. He goes back and forth with facial hair, and he always has interesting textures to his hair. For longer hair, Jason Momoa. He may be a bit of a contradiction from time to time, with the scar through his eyebrow, but he has a really masculine look with longer hair.
E.J.: I’d say Harry Styles is a real trendsetter for young men currently. SM: Do you use more barbering skills over hairstyling?
M.C.: Some techniques are about using efficient shortcuts. I try to focus on the elements of the technique that give us the best tools to
do that. For example, knowing when to use your texturizer and razor. It comes down to the right tools for the right job, regardless of techniques.
P.P.: Everything is blurred right now. Keep in mind the importance that styling, with a blow dryer and the right product, plays. Using the right product in the right hair type is just as important as the cut.
SM: What types of products do you now use more?
P.P.: I’m using a lot of powders for the guys who have thinning hair. My younger clients use hairspray to get that effortless look.
M.C.: When I started out, a water- or petroleum-based pomade was the most important product for men. Now, matte products with less shine make it look like an effortlessly cool style.
E.J.: Hair is getting messier and longer, and the styling product that I have is a clay and a wax mixed together. It’s super matte, and that’s what I’ve been playing with for both hold and texture.
S.M.: What is the one thing you wish you could tell your younger self? M.C.: Look at the elements of what you do that you love. I realized I enjoyed men’s work and it was really a pivotal moment.
E.J.: Learn how to do it correct the first time. There’s an art and architecture, so understanding the hairline and shape, and learning those things correctly the first time.
P.P.: Be open. I had a point where the work I was doing evolved into doing more men’s styling. Then I found I had thinning hair, and I needed to find a new way to cut and style it better. I learned that and then I was able build around that for clients. So, really learn properly and the more you do do, the more weapons you have when working with your clients.