New Year's Guide 2008

The combination fairly screamed Miami Vice, and my efforts to vary the amount of product and the method of application came to naught. When music editor Dave Herrera asked me to say hello to Crockett and Tubbs, I put the spray, cream and gel back on the shelf and left them there. I'm certain Shelley could have set me straight, but I didn't think I could justify a trip to Nashville for an in-person consultation, especially since my daughters were already appalled that the $40 I'd spent on products had turned me into an even scarier freak than I'd already been.

Too bad the status quo was just as terrifying. A one-day experiment with blow-drying exploded in my face; I looked like a Chia Pet. A few days later, my hair seemed to have calmed down — but then, as I channel-surfed past the Martin Scorsese remake of Cape Fear, I realized with dismay that I was a dead ringer for Robert De Niro's Max Cady, one of the most despicable villains in screen history. Suddenly, I didn't just have Bad Hair. I had Psychotic Rapist Hair.

Back in the spring, I'd cackled at the thought of sporting a ponytail. But desperate times called for desperate measures, so I raided my daughters' supply of elastics. Unable to sweep all my locks into a single bundle, I let the hair in back hang and gathered the strands on the side into a top knot, telling myself I was paying tribute to my favorite movie swordsman, Toshiro Mifune. In reality, I looked more like John Belushi portraying "Samurai Journalist," only not nearly as funny. In October, I spoke to Lora's American government class, and in his introduction of me, her teacher announced that I'd discovered a hairstyle more embarrassing than the mullet. What an accomplishment.

After that, I went with two ponytails: a smaller one on top, a larger one below. This move allowed me to go outside without worrying that a few gusts of wind would transform me into Animal from the Muppets, yet it also put me in league with a common Colorado archetype — the aging hippie who can't quite bring himself to admit that it's not 1968 anymore. My mother, who'd relocated to Colorado, was appalled by the look and urged me to cut my hair immediately. When I argued that doing so would render all of my previous efforts totally pointless, she countered with a rhetorical question: "If you knew you were on the wrong train and had a long way to go before the end of the line, are you telling me you wouldn't get off at the next stop?"

Actually, I was telling her that, even though I no longer recognized myself — and neither did anyone else. In November, when I was asked to guest on Channel 6's Colorado State of Mind, I had to reintroduce myself to host Greg Dobbs, whom I'd known for the better part of a decade. "Have you gone native?" he asked.

No, and I hadn't gone insane, either. Not really. I'd simply gotten mired in a hairy situation, and I needed someone to lead me out. Aveda's Kueffner was the man for the job.

As part of his Aveda responsibilities, Kueffner regularly travels the country, advising stylists how to overcome men's hair-related biases, of which there are many. "Men will spend more money to look like they didn't get a haircut than a woman will spend to look like she did," he revealed. "If a man gets hair color and anyone notices, he will come back and get it re-colored. A woman will come back if she gets her hair colored and no one notices."

Given American males' psychological peculiarities, Kueffner and other hair pros teach their acolytes how to set such customers at ease by avoiding certain language that works fine with women. The term "gown," for example. "We used to give everyone a gown, and we found out that men don't like the word," he said. "You ask a guy if he wants to put a gown on, and he's probably going to say 'No,' because it doesn't sound like a good idea. But go to a guy and say 'Do you want to put on a T-shirt?' and he's probably going to say 'Yeah,' because he knows that after he gets a haircut, he itches for the rest of the day."

How to explain to men that they should use a separate shampoo and conditioner, as opposed to a single cleanser that contains both? Point out that they'd never use just one item to wash and wax their car. How to convince a dude who thinks there's no good reason to put oils or balms in his hair? Explain that these additives help the scalp retain moisture, which in turn slows hair loss.

That last one hit me where I live, and so did Kueffner's next comment. "People are saying, 'Men are growing their hair out.' I don't think so," he declared. "I don't think there's as much of that as the rumor would have it. I think what was going to happen with long hair already did, and it's over."

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