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The Modern Man’s Guide to Hair Gel

If the ‘80s were all about hairspray, then gel dominated the ‘90s (and the early aughts). Unfortunately, hair gel seems as stuck in past as the crispy manes it once overpowered, from the slicked-back Wall Street ‘dos to those outlandish boy band bouffants. But despite gel’s retro reputation, the proper hair gel can be used to achieve styles both cool and contemporary. The key to making gel work for you in 2013 is choosing the right product and styling appropriately. Here’s how.

Hold the Alcohol

With the exception of Mr. Pauly D, man has evolved to favor more natural hairstyles. Similarly, the goop that guys used more than a decade ago has also evolved to keep hair in place without the flakey death grip of an alcohol-based gels. The gel of today—and the future—is water-based. No. 4’s Firm Hold gel, is a good example. It hydrates roots and keeps your hairstyle stationary with a “touchable hold” that’s non-flaking and non-sticky. This stuff is about as far from “Dep” as you can get.

Don’t Get Ahead of Yourself

For a product as powerful as gel, a little goes a long way. Think along the lines of loose change: a nickel-sized amount for short hair, and a quarter for medium length. Be sure to work the product from back to front, distributing it evenly across your head. Then, use your fingers to sweep the top and bangs into a Dean-inspired ‘do, or pick up a wide-toothed comb to slick your hair into an old-school side part. Skip the micro-managing approach to sculpting little bits and pieces of your hair. And above all, avoid the dated, and dreaded, “front flip.”

Focus on the Clothes

When most hair gels still had the consistency of glue, boy band members made arts and crafts projects of their heads. And, judging by their Franken-getups—leather pants, oversized basketball jerseys, and superhero-themed bling—they did the same with their style. It took countless shaved heads, fedoras, and three-piece suits for us to forget Justin’s ramen noodle ‘fro and faded denim suit. Let’s just say you should use your best judgment when selecting an outfit.

Pair Your Hair with the Right Attitude

There’s no need for fist pumping or excessive blue steel mirror time. And yeah, you should steer clear of the Tiger Beat smirk. You’re a man who’s as self-assured and secure as his hair is, thanks to that long-lasting hold you get from your hair gel. Now act like it.

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