During the second game of this year's NBA finals everyone's eyes were on two things: the ball, and Kevin Love’s haircut. Twitter decided to have some fun at the expense of Kevin Love’s hairstyle of choice. Some people wondered about the mental capacities of his barber, other people questioned him about a possible head injury during training, or they just straight asked him what went through his mind in order to take such a decision.
But that’s not something out of the ordinary. When you do something bold, eyes are on you. Changing your hairstyle can be scary but, at the same time, it can be an extremely liberating experience. It can be scary because men have never been more spoilt for variety in hairstyles and opportunities to experiment, so it seems like it's much easier than ever to go wrong and be the object of social amusement. However, that's actually not the case. In fact, changing your hairstyle can only be liberating, and much more than that, it's possible to leverage your hairstyle in order to get ahead in life. Of course, it’s not just about mere aesthetics, it evidently matters, but what matters the most has to do with the desirable traits it exhibits. The boldness to wear something that goes against the social norms shows a willingness to take risks, and express yourself freely.
During the 70's, when the disco scene hit hard, Jean Larsen and Barbara White, at the Utah State University, decided to study men who proudly wore the classic Bee Gees’ mane. They called this group of men as deviant, and the men with hair length above their shoulders were considered as non-deviant. After completing some extensive personality tests, Larsen and White found that the men with long hair, were much more independent, and less conforming to authority and societal expectations than their shorter haired and non-deviant counterparts.
It is important to highlight the fact that their study didn’t find any correlation between length of hair with their psychological security, so it doesn’t necessarily mean that those big haired rebels are in fact more secure about themselves, it only means that they just go for it, and aren’t willing to settle down for anything less than what they really want. More research, done by Won-Young Song and Myoung-Hee Lee in Korea, a completely different region of the world, has shown that men with classic hairstyles are perceived as more intelligent, while men with sports hairstyles are perceived as more progressive, conspicuous, and attractive in general as it could be anticipated, hairstyle isn’t the only external factor that plays a role in societal perceptions about our character. Won-Young Song and Myoung-Hee Lee also found that particular accessories determine the degree to which we are perceived in the intelligence-progressiveness continuum. Men with eyeglasses and/or neck ties were perceived as more intelligent and less mild, while not wearing any of these accessories gave the impression of being more progressive.
And if that wasn’t specific enough, they concluded that men with sports hairstyles, and no glasses were considered the most progressive while wearing a red necktie.
What if you don’t want to play this game at all and decide to wear a cap? Well, this won’t be good news for you. They found that wearing cloche hats or baseball caps had a “low dimension of empowerment” and would lead to be perceived as having a technical or simple labor job. If you want to be perceived as the opposite, you should go in equal opposite manner to your wardrobe. That is, if you want to be perceived as a professional man with a high-ranking or white-collar job, you should pick up a pair of eyeglasses, a necktie, a suit, and a classic hairstyle.
At this point something should be clear, if we want to benefit from the fact that hairstyles play a role in how we are perceived by the world, we must first accept that hairstyles are not just a women concern. We as men care about it, probably as much as women do. But it's only recently that this care has been perceived as something beyond personal vanity. Proof of this is the increasing number of blogs and YouTube channels devoted to men's grooming techniques and products, and specifically to hair styling. However, this blogs and videos usually try to integrate this kind of personal care with a healthy lifestyle design. They try to make clear to everyone that both personal development and care for one’s appearance go hand in hand.
Equally, it's important not to fall in the trap of trying to use your hairstyle as a trick to fool people into believing something about you, because it will simply fall flat. Similar to a tattoo, there's much more to a hairstyle than its shape, form, or color. It is about your attitude while wearing it. The best hairstyle in the world won't do much for you if you don't feel comfortable wearing it. Even if you change your haircut for the worst possible wig, but you don’t even flinch a bit while wearing it, you will be much better in the long run. The roasts may come, but they won’t last for long. A change in hairstyle can signal to the world that you are going through a personal transition.
For example, McAlexander and Schouten found in their article "Hairstyle changes as transition markers" that there are three significant changes in life that most of us go through and that are accompanied by a hairstyle change:
- The assertion of independence from our parents' control.
- The formation of our sexual identity.
- Big changes in our social circles, for example, after high school graduation.
In some way, we could understand the rationale behind this changes as "I'm a new person, so I need a new look". Of course, it is entirely possible to have a deep internal change without any need for changing your hairstyle, however it is better seen as a signal to the world. If you are able to have a deep internal and meet a new person, your hairstyle won’t make much difference in how they perceive you because they don’t have anything to compare your personality with. Nevertheless, we are creatures of habit and you'll probably be treated by your old friends and family as you always have been if you look the same. It can be a good idea to use a new hairstyle as a signal to your current social circle (and even more importantly, a reminder to yourself) that you are entering a new phase in your life.
ACCEPTANCE IS THE FIRST STEP: CHOOSE THE BEST FIT
Once we accept that we care about our hair, and that it has an impact on how we are perceived, we can then start thinking strategically about it. We can play to a certain role that fits us, while maximizing flexibility.The general rule is that getting ahead can occur in several different contexts, however all of them boil down to being confident in whatever you do, while you are doing it. However, there is a practical way to look at hairstyles we may consider for our new look. There are two main broad hairstyles to wear depending on the lifestyle you want: wild hair, and Civil Hair. Wild hair is much harder to pull off because it requires a very extroverted personality, or nerves of steel if you are an introvert, as it attracts almost everyone's attention. This is the kind of hair that flows uncontrollably and never follows your orders. Well, in reality it is made to look like that, like you don’t care, when in reality you’d need to spend a couple of hours giving it the perfect I just got out of bed with this amazing hair’ look.
Civil hair, on the other hand, has more flexibility, as it encompasses the idea of the modern man. The flexibility that comes with the civil hair is ideal for entrepreneurs, businessmen, students, artists, in fact almost everyone, because it shows that you are willing to play by the rules, but at the same time not without adding your own flavor to it. Also, as a plus, civil hair is easier to maintain and take care of that wild hair.
To be clear, it is important to dispel a great myth. It has nothing to do with hair length. Long hair has always been associated with a wild hair, stereotypical of a Rock star, but that’s not the case anymore; a Rock star hairstyle can be short, and a civil and modern look can be long now. Actually, there are men who, given their facial shape and features, look much classier and formal with a long hairstyle, instead of trying to pull off the now too common pompadour haircut. There’s nothing wrong about wearing a trendy hairstyle, just make it yours and wear it with pride and without any kind of shame.
DON’T STRESS ABOUT IT
So, if you make the decision to change your hairstyle for the good, you should consider taking it seriously and getting the necessary products for it. Don’t get yourself too carried away by brands, methods, or techniques. If you are just starting out make it as easy as possible with convenient products that are high quality. Men that are getting ahead through a hairstyle are doing it mainly through a change in attitude, and just maintaining their hairstyle with regular care. It would be pretty in congruent if you spent some money and time to change your hairstyle and then don’t take care of it. Nothing too fancy, it’s just about getting a styling product, shampoo, and maybe a conditioner that work well with your particular hair. That’s it. Let’s not forget that it is entirely possible to go too far with this. Despite the decline in the use of the term “metrosexual”, which by itself might not be anything to be worried about, there’s still the danger of spending too much money and time in the particular task of making oneself look good, and in accordance with what society deems as good looking.
At the end, there’s no substitute for being a good person. Your hairstyle should only be a projection of all the good in you, not a mask to hide all your insecurities. One thing is for sure, if you enter the world of personal care with ulterior motives, only more personal insecurities will come your way. Your best bet is giving it good thought for a few days, then just going for it, and remembering that it’s not about how much time you spend on it, but the consistency you have. If you do the same thing to your hair every day, you can expect the same result, which could be good or bad, depending on what you exactly do. But, if you never think about it, you can always expect your hair to never look the way you like.
Hairstyle matters and determines the way you are perceived by everyone else. Try to use this fact in your favor, and don’t choose a style randomly. Keep it simple, and if you want maximum flexibility go for a civil hair where you show that you are a reliable member of society, but at the same time there’s an edge and flavor to you.
Always remember that it doesn’t really matter exactly what hairstyle you choose, nor if it’s trendy or popular. The most important thing to take in consideration is that your hairstyle fits with your personality and you never feel insecure or ashamed while wearing it. However, it’s important to never avoid some moments of discomfort if that new hairstyle represents the way you want to be in the future. A new hairstyle is not always an extension of who you are, but an extension of who you want to become. If you finally decide to make this big change in your life as a signal to the world, don’t be anxious about now having to learn all this stuff. You can get completely swallowed by an endless stream of YouTube videos and blog posts that tell you all de do’s and don’ts of hairstyling. Keep it simple, ask your barber what you need in order to take care of your new hairstyle, do that consistently, and wear it like you mean it.