How TikTok is making this men's hairstyle a trend among Gen Z

Many mornings in Los Angeles, Darrell Jones’ girlfriend helps her curl her hair . Running a flat iron over small sections that have bee...


Many mornings in Los Angeles, Darrell Jones’ girlfriend helps her curl her hair. Running a flat iron over small sections that have been sprayed with a heat shield, she creates small curls, pinning them to her head to secure them. For a brief moment, he looks like he’s preparing to be the envy of the 1930s. After the tendrils cool, Mr. Jones, 21, fixes them with hairspray and runs his fingers through his locks.

Across the country in Wilmington, NC, 17-year-old Tristan Harrell creates a similar look with a somewhat modified routine. Mr Harrell starts out with wet hair and uses a sea salt spray instead of a heat protector (though his salon owner mom begs him to choose a protector) before blow-drying his hair forward. Depending on the day, he’ll either create inverted curls with a brush and hairdryer, or use a mini flat iron instead. He too defines the shaggy look with hairspray. The routine takes him about 10 to 15 minutes.

Joshua Rich VII, 19, of Easton, Pa., Wears the same hairstyle but has better maintenance luck. He simply wipes his hair with a towel and lets the rest to evaporate, sometimes adding a little salt spray for a better hold.

“There really isn’t much to do. My hair is awkward, especially if I just towel dry it and leave it on, ”he said.

These three young men sport a hairstyle that has become predominant among Gen Z: soft, fluffy waves or curls that sprinkle the top of their eyebrows and lashes, brushed towards the face and voluminous at the top – the cousin and the simultaneous antithesis of a banana.

Each also has a viral tutorial on how to get the look on TikTok, where style reigns supreme among a younger demographic. (At around 12 million views, that of Mr. Jones is currently the most popular.)

“I’ve seen it on TikTok. There are several guys that land on my ‘For You’ page who have the same hairstyle,” Mr Harrell said in an interview, referring to the landing page where the video recommendations TikTok’s customizations are fulfilled. When “I started changing my hairstyle, I really gained confidence because I felt good about the way my hair worked,” he said.

It’s no surprise that the look, which is often referred to simply as “TikTok Hair” or “TikTok Boy Hair”, is so popular. Some of the stars of the app, including Bryce Hall, Noah Beck and Josh richards, who all have tens of millions of followers, sported the tousled, textured cut. (Mr. Hall now has a mule, which also has a moment.)

And while the style may seem new, we’ve been here before, in many ways. Recent eras in which no man was immune to the pressure to try out a specific hairstyle include the early days, which brought about the resurgence of the banana which was apparently worn by every singer in every independent band.

There was, of course, the iconic Justin Bieber hair (read: bowl cut in italics) that served as a model for middle school kids around the world around 2009-2011. Eventually, and maybe not by coincidence, as Mr. Bieber’s bangs got shorter and the distance between her hair and her eyebrows widened, the man bun emerged as the new “it” look (circa 2015) – a hairstyle that everyone coveted, but few could pull off.

But men’s hair care and trends go back even further, for millennia. In fact, this specific type of hairstyle has passed through history time and time again, rising from the ashes every few hundred years like a phoenix in plume.

According to Katherine Schwab, professor of art history and visual culture in the Department of Visual and Performing Arts at Fairfield University, ancient Greeks and Romans wore almost identical hairstyles. The current trend in question, she said, follows two important cardinal rules of hair for men during these ancient times: First, that the hair is brushed from the crown towards the forehead (following the direction in which the hair is grow naturally) and second, and perhaps most importantly, the hair is visibly textured.

“The most famous is that Alexander the Great had very thick, tousled hair, and it always came from the crown,” said Ms Schwab, who was curator of a 2015 exhibition called “Hair in the Classical World”. She added, “I think the attention to hair now for men, and going to this, I would say, to this extreme, has a parallel in antiquity. This is nothing new.

In a way, Alexander the Great was an original influencer: Marice Rose, co-curator of Ms Schwab’s exhibition and associate professor of art history and visual culture at Fairfield University, said that the viral TikTok hairstyle was reminiscent of the first Emperor novel The portrait of Augustus, who modeled her look on Alexander, who was later co-opted by future emperors who hoped the look would create an association between them and those previous rulers.

“There are numerous historical, sociological and anthropological studies showing that hairstyle and hair arrangement have been – and continue to be – used to communicate information about a person’s individual and social identity throughout history. , around the world, ”Ms. Rose wrote in an email.

“I don’t think the TikTokers have the same propaganda goals as the Roman Emperors!” she clarified. But “our culture has also become extremely visual, with smartphones putting cameras and visualization devices in every pocket, and people recording and organizing their every experience for visual consumption by others. Now it’s not just the rich and powerful who can create portraits.

The ancient Greeks and Romans tried to convey a sense of power with their curls and waves brushed forward (which Ms. Rose said could be achieved or played by the ancient TikTokers counterparts with heated metal rods, olive oil, animal fat and even butter). In 2021, different considerations could be at play.

The hair historian Rachael Gibson thinks it’s about visibility and a feeling of rebellion. She compared the trend to similar styles that were popular for men in the 18th century.

At that time there was the ‘Bedford Crop’, a shorter, tousled style that emerged as a result of a shortage of flour and to protest high taxes on wig powder. There was also the ‘Brutus’, a longer style that was inspired by the ancient Greeks – and was a favorite of the socialite Beau Brummell and his followers.

And finally, the Regency men of the time also wore the “scared owl,” perhaps the most unruly of the three, a plume of curls achieved through infrequent washes and extra hair wax (think : M. Darcy of Colin Firth).

Hairstyles were meant to be romantic and poetic, unlike their purpose in Greek and Roman times. More importantly, these styles were meant to be seen.

“I think all the menswear of the Regency era is pretty dandy. You dress, you take a lot of your time, and you care about your appearance, ”Ms. Gibson said. “And this is a time when it was completely normal and normal and men were expected to be peacock and look pretty flamboyant.”

Ms Gibson said she sees a return to that mentality, in that there can be a sense of acceptance to take time with her appearance among boys and men today.

The styles were also meant to serve as a signal, Ms. Gibson added, that the man who sported them was also a man who rejected the ideals of the previous generation – “the fuss and excess of powdered wigs, but also what “They stood for: old-fashioned ideas and politics. It showed, immediately and visually, that you wanted to be seen as different.”

Seems familiar?

As Gen Z navigates the pandemic world, a tuft of fluffy hair perched on its head is surely a way to peacock, or perhaps even signal to older generations that the views and ideals of those on the rise are unlike those who have come before.

“With the world so slowly returning to an altered sense of normalcy and people coming out of their pandemic isolation,” Ms. Gibson said. “Most people just want to be seen.”

But it’s also important to recognize that this is just a hairstyle and happens to be prevalent among white men in today’s culture. Yes, it’s popular, but in many ways, the inordinate amount of attention it draws to TikTok is part of a similar model.

“Men from all walks of life have spent a lot of time and effort styling their hair. A lot of black men have pretty complex hair care routines and always have been, ”Ms. Gibson said. “White people, they say, ‘Oh yeah, we also use products.'”

It’s an idea “that you didn’t make up,” Ms. Gibson said. “You just found out.

It might not be that different from the tough braids of the 1960s, immortalized in the musical “Hair,” or the Mohawks and other punk styles that signaled nonconformity and rebellion from the 1970s. All of them have become better known for the way white men wear them.

But hair, or the lack of it, has long served as a vehicle for expression and resistance in historically marginalized communities. Of “Black is beautiful” 1960s movement – calling on black women and men to, in part, embrace their natural hair – to the cornrows, twists, braids, Bantu knots and more that have continued to be monitored in public areas even today, to women who continue to put on their hijab despite the The highest court in the European Union Considering this is grounds for termination, what you have on your mind can serve as a public demonstration of who you are, and perhaps more importantly, what you stand for.

“It’s a way of expressing who you aspire to be,” Ms. Schwab said.

Of course, sometimes a hairstyle is just a hairstyle. As Mr. Rich said of his own hair: Some people like it and some don’t. “I was told I looked like a sheepdog who was electrocuted,” he said. But as the style’s popularity grows, “it’s less and less like that”.

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