Hair ties, maintenance trims for guys who want to keep their long lockdown locks

·4 min read

TORONTO — Stylists and shaggy-haired men in lockdown are adding lengthy tousled locks to the list of pandemic trends that have emerged amid stay-home measures.

From the wayward waves of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to the gel-slicked strands of Ontario Premier Doug Ford to the poufy helmet that tops Toronto Mayor John Tory, there’s a notable prevalence of unkempt 'dos and beards that some suggest could persist beyond the pandemic.

Toronto audio engineer Sam Staples says he has no plans to return to his usual short hair now that he’s let his dark blond curls grow for more than a year, the longest he’s ever gone without a cut.

"I've already put in so much time and effort," Staples says of deciding to embrace a new look.

"Finally, I had an excuse to grow it out (and) I also figured out some ways to style it and deal with it when it's a little longer. I've had fun with it.”

The 24-year-old says he’s learned to shampoo less often and use curl cream in a bid to tame his typically unruly mane, which now covers his ears and the back of his neck but extends to his shoulders when brushed straight.

"I obviously can't wash my hair every day, which is kind of a big part of being able to have it look presentable," he says, noting his previous single-session full-body wash-and-shampoo routine has now evolved into separate events that require some planning.

"I've also had to go out and buy hair ties for the first time."

Of course, not all long-haired fellows are going along with the hirsute look willingly.

Thick-haired Terrance Balazo says he's eager to get a trim whenever Toronto lifts its pandemic ban, noting he hasn’t had a haircut since June and it recently got so long he couldn’t wear it in his usual pompadour style.

The 44-year-old’s trademark lambchop sideburns have also gone by the wayside, but he admits that has been his own doing.

"I hate shaving. It's been a major part of my life and I have a pretty heavy beard so it's been nice to kind of not have to worry about it too much," says Balazo.

The Toronto actor and comic says he’s sported Elvis-style muttonchops for some 20 years, but can easily change it up for TV and commercial gigs because it grows so fast.

Along with his rockabilly hairstyle – which he estimates he's had for about six or seven years – the look has become a bit of a calling card for Balazo, who normally hosts trivia nights at various bars but now does them online on Twitch.

"That is kind of what my thing has become," says Balazo.

"Last week was the first of my live trivias where I just had my hair down and I had a full beard so people were commenting on it. So I have exposed this side of my life. But I will go back to the way it was when I can."

Not surprisingly, Sport Clips stylist and trainer Jodie Brown says the nationwide chain has seen more clients with longer, more unruly hair in regions that have resumed hair services.

"In B.C. right now, they've got a lot of mullets running through the doors," chuckles Brown, based at an Oakville, Ont., salon but whose job involves visiting outlets across the country.

But instead of asking it to be chopped short, many men want a cleaned-up longer version of their previous cut – most often a medium-length Patrick Dempsey-type mop that can be made to look professional or casual, she says.

Lots of teens and guys in their early 20s bring in photos of popular long-haired YouTubers they want to emulate, she says, describing them as more adventurous than the older crowd.

Clients in their late 20s, 30s and 40s are more likely to just ask for their sides to run a bit long, opting for "scissor maintenance" instead of the clippers, says Brown.

"They're definitely understanding the importance of keeping it clean around the ears, keeping it clean around the neck line, which still can be perceived as professional, while also being more modern and longer," she says.

Brown expects to see more experimentation amid intermittent lockdowns, noting self-styled shaved or partially shaved heads have also become more common.

"I feel like you're going to see a lot of people trying some different things over the next little while until they see something that they really like and it will get really trendy."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 24, 2021.

Cassandra Szklarski, The Canadian Press