As long as I can remember, my hair has been, at best, never quite right, and at worst, a total disaster. It grows really quickly, is super-thick, and features an annoying cowlick directly on the crown of my head. Without anything in it, my hair puffs up and rides high, taking the shape of something like a furry helmet. I've tried a few different hair styling products, but nothing has ever quite done the trick (though I've narrowed it down to pomade as my material of choice).
So I told my mother I loved her and began my six-day journey into the wild jungle of hair products and pomades. On the seventh day, I rested, and collected my thoughts. Here they are.
Blind Barber 90 Proof Hair Pomade, $18, blindbarber.com
Smell: Slightly sweet with hints of coconut and vanilla
Verdict: Just like other things that are 90 proof, a little of this stuff will go a long way. While being light and airy, once I applied it to my hair, working it from the ends to the roots, I could immediately feel that my hair wouldn't be going anywhere anytime soon. This pomade has a matte finish, which is great if you want to imbue your perfect coif with an air of mystery: Does he use product, or does his hair just naturally look and smell amazing? Keep 'em guessing, handsome.
Balsem Natural Styling Pomade, $24, frankandoak.com
Smell: Woodsy, with a little bit of smoke
Verdict: This pomade by clothiers Frank and Oak was an early favorite. Loose and fluffy, it didn't make me feel like I was rubbing plumber's oil all over my head (an instant bonus). Plus, it smells great. For being so light, the hold was actually quite lasting, while giving my mane a nice level of moisture throughout the day. According to the label, this stuff actually works by supplying your hair with, among other things, Canadian Willowherb. This was my first encounter with the natural hair aid—but hopefully not my last.
Jack Black Wax Pomade, $22, getjackblack.com
Smell: Citrusy with notes of clementines and kaffir limes (I'm pretty good at this, right?)
Verdict: Contrary to what you might have thought, acclaimed actor and musician Jack Black isn't the mastermind behind this pomade—though he does indeed have some killer locks. No, this pomade comes to the Sweet offices straight from Texas, where, you'll notice, the cowboys always have great hair. This stuff is a little waxier and needs to be really rubbed down between the palms before it's ready for application. But after that, it's smooth sailing. This pomade gives you a little bit of a shine, but you'll never run the risk of blinding passersby—and it will last you all day without becoming dry or losing its hold.
Aveda Men Pure-Formance Pomade, $25, aveda.com
Smell: Mint, lavender, and lemon
Verdict: This was the thickest stuff I've put in my hair to date, and for good reason. I styled my hair just the way I like and went off to work, forgetting how great I looked (surprising, I know), only to look in the mirror around 5 and see my hair still looked exactly as it had when I left the house that morning. My mane was not going to budge. When the bathroom light glinted off my 'do, I realized that this is the most sheen-providing pomade I've ever used. It is for those who have no interest in subtlety; they are master hair artists, and all the world should know it.
Byrd Classic Pomade, $14, byrdhair.com
Smell: Pine, cloves, and spices, somewhat reminiscent of Christmas
Verdict: This one was sort of the understated hero of the week: It's not fancy, but it gets the job done. Though water-based, it's still pretty thick and holds strong. If you're the type of guy who likes to get in and out of the bathroom and onto more important stuff, this might be the pomade for you. To that point, allow me to highlight my favorite part of Byrd Classic Pomade: after you've worked it into your palms and spread it through your hair, your hands still feel surprisingly crisp and clean. In the world of pomades, that's quite a feature!
Bumble and Bumble Sumowax, $29, bumbleand bumble.com
Smell: Almost odorless, smells faintly of soap
Verdict: Calling all pompadour fans and teddy boy throwbacks! Remember when I said that the Aveda pomade was the thickest? I take it back. This solid wax bad boy is true to the "sumo" reference in its name, especially in regard to its strength. If you're looking to do some serious, creative styling with your 'do, this is the stuff right here. It might take a little more effort to make sure it's spread evenly throughout your hair, but knowing that your hair will look just the way you want it is worth every second.
After resting my mind (and my hair), the winner became clear in my mind: Balsem Natural Styling Pomade was the one for me. Its lightness was less intimidating, and its results were impressive. It left my hair with a pliable moisture all day long, meaning I could absentmindedly run my hands through my hair without getting tangled or ruining my handiwork. But hey, that's just me. Any of these other great products could be your new fave.