René Fris first uses volume spray, left, for a tousled look on a client at Salon SCK in New York. Rebecca Greenfield for The Wall Street Journal.

Slightly longer hair on men has been popping up on the red carpet, as well as on the street. Pulling off the look can be tricky, however. Too much volume or too much “bed head” in a tousled look can ruin the effect, says René Fris, a New York City hairstylist who has longer hair himself.

The look “has to have balance,” says Mr. Fris, or “it can look too messy and too down and dirty.” Mr. Fris is a stylist at Salon SCK in Manhattan.

Start with the right cut. “Always tell your hairdresser to keep the length on the top and shorter on the sides and the back so it does not look too compact or thick,” he says. “If wearing them, keep the bangs long,” which allows for more versatility in styling in the front.

Also, “always get layers cut into the hair but make sure the top is the same length so it is easy to lift up and mess around with fingers.”

Length is essential: Men’s hair should be between 3 to 6 inches long, Mr. Fris says. Anything longer than that and the look gets too shaggy, he adds, noting that David Beckham is a good model of how to do the look in a polished way.

“If you have fine hair,” he adds, it’s best to keep the length on the shorter side as “longer hair will keep too much weight and you will not get enough volume for the look you’re trying to achieve.”

For the best result, Mr. Fris recommends shampooing only twice a week, noting this look generally “works better the second or third day” after washing your hair. “If you’re a guy with fine hair and it tends to get flat and greasy though, shampoo it every second day,” he says.

When it comes to styling the look, Mr. Fris says there are two main types: a polished messy look and a more “down and dirty” one. For the former, start by wetting the hair slightly then massage a medium-hold hair gel or volume spray into the hair to lift the roots, he says.


René Fris then blow-dries the hair using his fingers. Rebecca Greenfield for The Wall Street Journal


Next, blow-dry the hair “in all directions from up and down—keep your arm above your head so airflow is coming down onto the shoulder and face,” Mr. Fris says. “It is important here to not blow the hair in one direction but blow in different directions to achieve a more messy look and use your fingers to create constant movement.”



Then “put a finishing product into the hair to give it hold,” he says, cautioning against any heavy or greasy products. “A light styling cream with hold or a paste works well. Make sure to work it into the ends of the hair with your fingertips to create the right lift.”

To get volume, Mr. Fris suggests lifting the hair at the root and pulling it out all the way to the end. “Then add volume gel or spray,” he says. Adjust the volume after looking in the mirror to tone it down or up.

“If your face is a little bit full you don’t want too big hair, and if your head is big, your hair could overwhelm your whole look,” Mr. Fris cautions. “With narrow or slimmer faces, you don’t want to go too high with the volume” as that will further elongate your head.

For a more down-and-dirty look, Mr. Fris suggests making sure your hair hasn’t been shampooed in at least a day.

“Use dry shampoo spray on the scalp to absorb any oils. Spray in and puff up with fingers all over,” he says. “Then get a styling cream or body lotion— Nivea cream is a good recommendation—and apply it through all ends and style it in the directions that you want.”


René Fris says pulling the hair adds volume. Rebecca Greenfield for The Wall Street Journal.

It’s important to keep track of how much product you’re using. “When you add too much product, the hair can start getting too clumpy or greasy or too compact,” Mr. Fris says.

While tousled looks may seem a little much for office environments, Mr. Fris believes there is a way to make them work. During the day, “keep the sides down and flat,” he says, so “it looks like it’s more calm.” After work, he says, you can add product and mess up the hair for a more bed-head look.

Generally, Mr. Fris says the look works well with casual ensembles but it also can add some contrast to polished, dressy outfits. “I like the guy in the tuxedo having the bed hair. I think it can be too much if the hair is too polished and perfect with a tuxedo,” he says. “I’d much rather go with a good contrast. It’s like somebody wearing sneakers with a suit.”

Write to Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan at

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