Men’s fashion is a fickle beast. Throughout the decades of style, we’ve seen things like the three-piece-suited factory workers of the early 20th century, the bell-bottomed groovers of the ‘70s and, more recently, sharply-dressed urbanites blending modern looks with past trends.
Hair, and the way it’s styled and shaped, is no different. Today, men looking to step up their hair game are presented with a choice: pomade, wax or clay. And, unlike choosing Charmander as your starter Pokémon when you were a kid, this choice needs some extra thought.
To make things a little more confusing, the recent explosion in popularity of premium men’s grooming products has seen the word ‘pomade’ used loosely when referring to any men’s hair product. While shopping for your new styling aid, be sure to read the description to check that you’re getting what you're after. Looks, or names in this case, can be deceiving!
The good news is that we’re a little too keen on knowing men’s grooming inside and out, so we’ve got you sorted with a simple breakdown of the three main types of modern men’s hair styling products and what sets them apart.
What: Pomades are your go-to for slicked-back hair. They won’t dry out, so you’ll be able to rework your style throughout the day to keep it looking crisp, and they are available in both shine and matte finishes.
What else: Traditional pomades were made with petroleum-based ingredients that were very difficult to wash out. Thankfully, modern pomades are water-based and will wash out easily with regular shampoo.
What: Hair waxes are seriously sticky stuff. They offer strong hold for all-day styles and typically have a dry finish.
What else: Some new waxes are blurring the boundaries with pomades by offering some shine, and using water-based compounds for easy removal – though usually with slightly less hold than a traditional petroleum-based wax.
What: Also known as putty, clays are the inbetweeners of hair products. They’re softer and more pliable than a wax, but will set more than a pomade. Clays and putties are a safe choice for everyday use and will accommodate most styles.
What else: Clays can offer more or less hold depending on how they’re applied. Application on wet hair will usually result in less hold, while more hold is available if applied to dry hair.
Simple, right? Pomades are ideal for slicked-back styles that won't dry out, while waxes provide strong hold and typically have a dry finish. Hair clays sit between the two, offering medium hold and are suited for most everyday styles.