How to pass the awkward phase

It’s pretty hard to grow your hair long without getting to a point where your head just looks round and like it’s too big for your body. That’s officially been dubbed, the awkward phase.

I’m Robert and I own The Mailroom Barber Co. We have barbershops and ethically sourced, handmade grooming products that help people look sharp, smell great, and feel their best. Here’s the advice I give my clients when they’re looking to grow out their hair.

What is the awkward phase?

For those of you who aren’t clear on this, the awkward phase is when your hair is in between long and short where it’s too big and heavy to style, but at the same time, it’s too short to look good as a long haircut. 

It won’t reach far enough back to make a ponytail but it looks like a mullet if you wear it down. This is real and yes, it sucks.

If you’re in this phase, you probably want to shave your head and be done with it. You hate the way you look most days so you try to shove all of that hair under a hat with no avail.

Don’t give up! Long hair is worth it if you can muscle through this phase and I’m going to tell you exactly how to do that.

How to get through it:

  1. Be honest about your hair

Make sure you have a hair type that will grow out well into the style you’re going for. You need to take an honest assessment because your hair type is the biggest factor in growing your hair long.

For example, I have thick, curly hair. Yes, I could let me hair go and it would get long but if I want it to do anything other than turn into an afro, I’m fooling myself. My hair only gets big and I personally don’t want to look like Bob Ross. It isn’t straight or thin enough to lay down. I’ve accepted this fact and that’s why I keep a short, neat haircut. 

Hair types that look good when long:

  • Straight, thin or thick
  • Wavy, thin or thick
  • Curly, thin

Hair types that don’t fall naturally:

  • Thick & Curly
  • Thick & kinky

If you do have thick, curly hair, don’t worry! You can always straighten your hair or turn it into dreadlocks. The reason I say these aren’t naturally good hair types for long hair is that you have to put a lot of work in to get it to fall into a longer style.

See a barber regularly

The biggest problem with the awkward phase is that your hair looks like an accident. It doesn’t look like you meant for it to look that way. That’s where a regular trim comes in handy.

Getting your hair cut regularly seems counterintuitive but as your hair grows, it gets out of shape and the ends get frayed. The ends fray from using heat from a blow dryer, wearing hats, regular shampooing, or any number of things that can cause wear and tear. Keeping those ends neat will keep the hair looking smooth and healthy throughout the awkward phase.

It will be wise for you to team up with a barber or stylist who has experience with long hair. They will keep it shaped up neatly without cutting too much length off. 

The main thing you need them to do is taper in the back and sides very slightly so that your hair maintains a nice looking shape without looking too unkempt or like a mullet. Trim the sideburns and the back of the neck and you’ll feel nice and tidy.

Side note: if you’re growing your hair out from a clipper cut, get a haircut asap with scissors. A scissor and clipper cut are dramatically different in how they grow out because clippers create rough ends. That’s fine if you get your hair cut short frequently but you’ll need the refined look of a scissor cut to keep the hair looking healthy as it grows.

Use the right product

A major issue people face is frizz.

Frizz is caused by a few things; dead ends, heat damage, dryness, etc. A big way you can combat this will be to use a good conditioner. Most guys missed the memo on conditioner but now that your hair is getting longer, it’s time you start using a good conditioner. I recommend using a conditioner with no sulfates, no parabens, and no silicones. 

Another product I recommend is our Matte Clay Pomade. I recommend this for all of my clients growing out long hair because it won’t give your hair an oily, shiny finish but it will keep down the frizz and tame the hair. It adds just enough texture and hold to keep it out of your face and in place but it won’t look like you have “hard hair.” Hard hair is the dreaded look of hair gel that is basically glue.

On that note, avoid hair gels and alcohol-based products in general. They don’t work well and they dry out your hair and scalp.

 

Here’s how Aaron is growing his hair out:

Aaron (@ahahodges) is an artist and maker living in Greenville, SC. What I love most about his grungey, rugged sense of style is that he can get away with a haircut that doesn’t look super neat and polished all of the time. Slightly disheveled and chaos-under-control is a preferred look in this case.

That’s great because his thick, wavy hair can hold tons of texture and have disconnection in a few areas without looking like he doesn’t care about his hair. 

The flow and shape of the haircut show that he cares about how it looks but the messy, gritty styling compliments the rest of his outfit and is much easier for him to maintain than a short haircut that would require a bit more attention.

I’m a big believer in a good haircut being the final piece that ties your image together and that’s exactly what we have here. It can be equal parts practical and visual

We decided on this medium length haircut because he’s currently growing his hair out but wanted to have it shaped up. I used graduation to build weight on the sides while keeping a strong vertical shape that doesn’t look too round and then I used point cutting to add some texture.

 

How to ask for this medium length haircut

If you have longer hair and you want to go for a look like this, let your barber know you’d like to keep a good bit of length but you want more shape and structure. Tell them you’d like to sweep the hair back on the sides and you don’t mind if it has lots of texture.

Keep in mind, a big factor in determining that this haircut was right for Aaron was his natural growth patterns and the existing thickness, density, and texture in his hair.

Your barber should make sure the haircut you want actually compliments and works with your style, hair texture, bone structure, etc.

Sometimes that means the look someone else has may not look quite the same on you but your barber will make sure the cut you walk out with is perfect for your head.

Tell your Barber you’d like to keep the edges soft and natural and let them know whether you’ll be styling your hair or not.

How to style this haircut

For this look, I recommend our Matte Clay Pomade and Beard Oil. (Can’t forget that beautiful beard!) I used a small amount of clay before styling with a blow dryer and then topped it off with another touch of clay to lock it in place.

When blow-drying the hair, focus the airflow in the direction you want the hair to flow. Use a brush to control it as you brush it back and after you run the last bit of Matte Clay through it, use your fingers to adjust how the sides sit and how the back interlaces.

As the hair grows out, Aaron just needs to get the ends trimmed a bit and make sure the edges are tidy. This look will grow out super well and in a couple of months he’ll have an effortless long hair look.

 

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