For all the reasons you love summer (fewer layers, casual Fridays, 15 hours of daylight), easy grooming is probably up there somewhere. In the warmer months, everyone gets a free pass to look just a little more relaxed. Hairstyles follow suit, and this summer’s hottest look is no exception: “We’re seeing the undercut ombre-fade look in a big way right now,” says hairstylist Daniel Alfonso, who owns a namesake salon for men in L.A. “It’s a look just about anyone can pull off.” To wit: Personalities as diverse as the Giants’ wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. and country rocker Keith Urban (on the cover of his Ripcord album) can pull off this style.
That’s the good news. The less good news: You won’t be pulling it off on your own. “All great hairstyles start with a great cut,” Alfonso says. “You need to see your barber or salon first.” Here’s how to get that part-surfer, part-hipster hairstyle in time for summer.
You want a look that says off-duty but doesn’t raise eyebrows at the office. Basically, you want a two-fer, says Alfonso. “You want to be able to get at least two or three styles out of your cut,” he says. “That means, having enough length on the top of your head to allow it to be styled different ways.” Length is somewhat dependent on your hair texture he adds, but in general, go for three to four inches on top of your head, and then short and tight on the sides (to maintain the look, you can use the 1½ guard on your razor and trim your side hairs until you see a little skin). Also, “the back should be a clean taper,” he says, “so the focus is on the styling up top.”
If you’ve never had your hair colored before, don’t panic. Not all dye-jobs result in colors heretofore only seen in science labs. Ombre, a dye-trend first spotted in 2014, is back for the summer in a big way, says Alfonso, who owns one of the first and only men-focused salons in Los Angeles. “It’s basically a fade from dark to light, that gives you that summery look,” he explains. Unlike a typical dye job where all your hair gets reworked, ombre style starts an inch of two from your roots, and gets progressively lighter toward the tips. The basic trend is from dark to light, but the exact hue is up to you. Alfonso suggests working with your natural skin color — darker skin should pair with more of a rust-tinted ombre, while lighter skin should go with a yellow range.
The best part of this hairstyle is its versatility. “If you’re dressed up for going out in the evening, or you go to work in a suit, you can get that clean, parted Leonardo Dicaprio look,” says Alfonso. “After showering, towel-dry your hair, then use a pomade or cream to add sleekness and shin to your hair.” Two to try: Baxter of California Soft Water Pomade ($20, baxterofcalifornia.com) and Hanz de Fuko Scheme Cream ($17.50, hanzdefuko.com). Part along the center, and comb flat. If you prefer less shine and more hold, apply the cream to your hair once it’s fully dry.
For the weekend-at-the-beach look, use sea salt spray such as Lavett & Chin Texturizing Sea Salt Spray ($25, toddsnyder.com) or a clay like Hanz de Fuko Claymation ($18.50, hanzdefuko.com) to give your hair a more disheveled appearance. “Apply the spray to dry hair,” Alfonso says. “It’s like a bed head look, but more controlled.” The key for this look he adds, is using products to get the texture right—you want to allow for enough movement that it has the carefree summer feel, but not so much that it looks sloppy. After applying, run your fingers through your hair in a massage-like fashion, as if you were working up a shampoo lather. The result: A wavy, beachy carefree look that lasts all day long.
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