It used to be just gel and mousse, but now the hair-product aisle is packed with pomades, waxes, powders, and something called sodium spray. Here’s the scoop on all those goops
a.k.a.: Clay, mud, or fiber
What It Does: A dry, tacky product with some muscle that’ll make your hair seem less like it’s full of goop and more like you just took a day off from shampoo. If you can’t find Fatboy, get the same nice grit from Axe Messy Look Paste.
Who It’s For: Got short hair and want that intentionally tousled style? You’re a putty man.
a.k.a.: Just gel. Always gel.
What It Does: Unlike the fluorescent glue you may have used in the eighth grade, the updated, upscale version doesn’t have a sticky feel or leave your hair crisp as kindling. Today’s stuff is light but built to freeze a side part into place. Bonus: It washes out without scrubbing.
Who It’s For: Acolytes of Pat Riley, Clark Gable, and Gordon Gekko.
Jack Black Hair Gel, $16
a.k.a.: Hair dressing, pomade
What It Does: The old-school classic for a perma-wet finish and OCD control. The only catch: It’s damn impossible to wash out, so use it only if you’re committed to the look for a while and are okay with the buildup.
Who It’s For: White guys craving one of those ’50s-style pompadours or black guys who want some waves.
Dax Wave and Groom Hair Dress, $5
a.k.a.: Surf spray, beach mist, sea vapor… You get the point.
What It Does: Spray it on dry hair, work it in, and you’ll replicate the weird effect of ocean water: random waves that make your hair appear thicker. Just stay away if you’re prone to flakes—the spray has actual salt as an ingredient, so it’s dehydrating.
Who It’s For: Men with thinning hair and prepsters doing that windswept Nantucket thing.
Cold Spring Apothecary Sea Salt Spray, $23
a.k.a.: Glossing cream
What It Does: A lightweight cream like Malin+Goetz’s or Mitch’s Clean Cut spit-shines your hair. It doesn’t offer much support—it’s just made to fix straggly, messy strands.
Who It’s For: Frizzy guys who want to deflate their Seth Rogen ‘fro and add a bit of business-ready polish at the same time.
Malin+Goetz Sage Styling Cream, $20
a.k.a.: Water wax
What It Does: A happy medium of shine and hold that fixes up most low-maintenance hairstyles. Translation: It’ll never lock in a foot-tall Mohawk, but it can give you wet-and-spiky. Plus, she can run her hands through your hair without getting a grease bath.
Who It’s For: Just about everyone, especially newbies who aren’t ready for ultra-specific hair products.
Hanz de Fuko Hybridized Wax, $18