Is the Photoshop-handsome, Mad Men look finally on the way out? At last month’s menswear shows, it seemed as if the mid-century modern gent, with his chiselled jaw and slick locks, was being replaced by a less polished, more tousled model. The incoming look is lower maintenance. “I think it’s indicative of men wanting to look more ‘real’ and more masculine again,” says Julian Ganio, fashion editor of Fantastic Man magazine. “Not so preened, plucked and perfect.”
“I think that whole Mad Men look is definitely coming to an end,” agrees Jay Anaya, the in-house barber at Alfred Dunhill’s Bourdon House flagship store in London. “But you don’t have to choose just one style. Recently, I’ve been cutting hair with a side parting in it but I cut it, and the sides, in such a way that it can be brushed out when you want to. You can be super-smart for the office and then relaxed when you’re off-duty.”
For most men, away from the carnival of fashion, a haircut is about flattering the face and looking credible, whether that means geometric barbering or “come as you are” casual. It is, of course, possible to have the best of both worlds. Many men wear suits and Charvet shirts from Monday to Friday and then denim and a James Perse jersey at the weekend. Little wonder that the formerly pervasive super-groomed look felt like an affectation to many.
James Dening, for example, an executive with a portfolio of businesses ranging from high-tech start-ups and telecoms to blue-collar local services, says: “The overly self-conscious Mad Men look never worked – it could never be all things to all people. I have to go from meetings with bright young things in the music business to dealing with institutional investment. In one day I’ll go from Scandinavian denim-casual to made-to-measure suits, to safety clothes suitable for a machine shop, and that’s hard.”
Even men who spend most of their time in the boardroom are in favour of the new relaxed mood. “It’s time to let a man be a man,” says Karim Faisali, managing director of brand development company Donnelly LeBeau. “We are not reverting to a caveman state but creating a more interesting juxtaposition somewhere between formality and nonchalance.”
Sooner or later, talk of male grooming usually comes around to David Beckham. His dalliance with Bo Derek cornrows a decade ago was risible but just about every other hairstyle he’s sported has had an influence on how men want to look. His current cut is long on top and swept back with cropped-in sides and rear.
It’s a typical east London quiff: well-cut, with just the right amount of casual attitude. It’s essentially a more rock ’n’ roll, grown-out version of the Mad Men look, for the man who’s attached to his comb and who still wants to look sharp. It suits a Burberry suit as well as dark denim and tattoos.
Conversely, the other big male sporting star of the moment in Britain is Bradley Wiggins, whose sideburns and relaxed mod curls could have come straight off the catwalk at Prada. He looks like a man who just has to – as the adverts used to say – “wash and go”.
It’s a style best employed in moderation. Get it right, and it looks appealingly insouciant. Go too far and you’re in bird’s nest Boris Johnson territory, looking like you don’t know how to button your jacket correctly. “Does Boris wear his hair, or does his hair wear him?” asks Lothar Wiessmann, creative director at Sassoon in Covent Garden. “Looser styles are definitely making a comeback but the only way to make one work is to find a hairdresser that understands your hair texture and growth pattern. Not every length works for every hair type. No matter what’s in fashion, your hair has to work with you. You shouldn’t be fighting against it.”
Wiessmann recommends avoiding strong-hold products, which leave the hair crisp and dry, and instead – if you’re still intent on a permanent-looking side parting – using conditioning products on towel-dried hair.