They ask, "How do you get your hair looking so perfect everyday?" "With hot and painful morning hair-pulling, and a cup of hair spray!" I reply, half-jokingly. Knowing how to do the perfect, sharp slick-back is great to keep in one's arsenal for that hot date or the occasional black-tie affair, or for those with the same commitment to dandyism as I have, everyday. Admittedly, it does take a little more time and effort than a tousled dirty-wax hairstyle, but with technique and lots of practice, this 'do can be most certainly do-able.
You might notice the rigor and severity of my technique; I do have to contend with the stubbornness of my horse-thick Asian hair. For those with finer hair, feel free to skip the blow-drying step, or use a gel or pomade with a little less hold. Here's how to do it:
Begin with your hair fresh from the shower; it is most pliable at this state. Towel-dried until it is very slightly damp, parted where preferred.
Start by blow-drying the sides of your hair closer to the head for a slim, sleek profile. Comb the hair down and back, and follow the motion with the hair dryer. Repeat until dry.
Take time to blow-dry the top portion of your hair that falls right opposite the part: this section will carry the most weight, and blow-drying it would prevent it from collapsing throughout the day. Brush back with the comb and follow with the hair-dryer on high.
When all is dry and set, it's time for gel or pomade. I like the sharpness and the volume that gel permits, but if you prefer the more throwback, closer-to-the-head sort of slick-back, by all means use pomade. I use about two teaspoons of Goldwell's mello goo gel, it's thick as jam.
Rub the product thoroughly between your hands, and carefully shape your hair the desired way. I think having it slim on the sides, with a slight bit of volume on the top-front, gradually tapering down is universally flattering.
Follow through with a comb to distribute the product.
And set with hair spray.
I like to run my fingers through the top about ten seconds after spraying it. It gives my pencil-straight hair a bit of texture and it makes for a bit of a controlled messy look. For something more runway-pristine, skip this step and use more hair spray. Make sure to lay the hair spray on twice as heavy on the top portion right opposite the part; this section needs the most support. Set everything with a hair dryer on low.
As an extra flourish, I like to finish it off with a glossing serum. I use the medium-thickness Nigelle Rx from Hair Mates in the East Village.
Rub a squirt or two vigorously between your palms.
And carefully work it through your hair. That extra glint, that shine when the halogen lights at a gallery opening hit your mane, ah, with that perfectly slicked-back mane you will stand out in the crowd.
Finished. Smile, you movie star you.
photographs by Austin A. Wong