This is not a definitive guide to pomade. No such thing can properly exist, because pomade is for hair and nobody’s hair is quite alike. Plus, everybody styles their hair in a different way. So try and ignore the word “guide” in the title, for this is a pomade odyssey—dare I say a “pomadyssey”—chronicling some of the things I have run through my hair over the years.
Murray’s is where it all began. As far as legitimate hair products, that is. In college, my roommate and I had a little competition going to see who could cultivate greasier hair. He would stand in the shower basin and pour beer onto his head before bed. I would slick mine back in the morning with hand lotion. Murray’s came later. While it was a marked improvement, it was still a thing between dudes. A houseful—four grimy, boozy skateboarders sharing a rented home and, in the bathroom, a tin of this stuff.
Murray’s works well for giving your hair a “still damp” sheen that sticks around all day. You can also recharge its luster by slicking your hair back with a comb. The drawback hits in the summertime when it mixes with your sweat and runs in rivulets down your forehead, leaving trails of plugged pores in its wake.
I met my wife, Niki, when I was in my Murray’s phase. She was headstrong and in beauty school. I was still drunk and greasy. Through a fortuitous tilt in the universe, she arrived in Chicago to cohabitate with me a few years later. She was cutting my hair regularly in a salon that stocked American Crew products. This stuff was a quantum leap from the tin of Murray’s I still kept in my medicine cabinet (though I had moved on to their ultra-light formula).
The Fiber was the business for some time. My hair was pushed forward and messy and this kept it thick and sturdy. I only moved to their Pomade when, again in the summer, the stuff mixed with my perspiration and created a strange Icy-Hot sensation all over my scalp. This goo was not nearly as pliable, but it kept my hair where I wanted without the tingling.
By the time we moved back to Denver, my wife was bored cutting my hair the same way. We were talking about it one day near a magazine with David Lynch on the cover. Dude has a legendary mane, and my wife decided to cut mine in a similar fashion. Afterward, I had to learn to blow-dry my hair (easy and cathartic it turns out) and it would stay up for a few days before I washed it again, thanks to Bumble and Bumble Sumo Wax.
Inspired by the wax that sumo wrestlers traditionally put in their hair, it works best warmed a little. I rub it in my hands and then sort of lightly graze my hair after it is dry. Then I go back through with a heavier hand, brush it back, hit it with hairspray and up and back it stays for 79 hours. Their Styling Wax is good for days between washing your hair, as it is a little lighter and keeps your hair from getting gummy.
Oribe Pomade is an Escalade among hair putties. The casing looks like a pricy rim and the stuff inside sits in a little pot inset a ways from the edge, like some protected jewel. It has a damn fine consistency on your fingertips, but kids love it. The outward shininess appeals to their raven-like tendencies and the pomade itself moves about like sticky modeling clay.
My pot of this stuff was ravaged before it even reached the bathroom cabinet so what little remains is jacket-and-tie pomade. Takes some getting used to the thickness of it, but when used in the proper amount, it defies most gravity. It is a pomade that makes you feel like a pomade should: evolved.
Speaking of evolution, as salon owners, Niki and I took special care in selecting the pomades we offer our guests. Hence, my current favorites come from the lines we carry. I like the Kérastase Densifique because is adds density to my hair and delivers flexible hold. Kevin Murphy has a whole raft of amazing putties, but lately, I've been partial to the UN.DRESSED fibre créme, which boasts a natural look and has the manly odor of sawdust.