Easy and Elegant Life

The Search for Everyday Elegance and the Art of Living Well.

Crise de Cheveux

“I love it!” Said my Mother. “You look so Italian.”

But Mom, we’re Greek, remember?

“It’s very boy-ish,” said another friend.

“It’s a mane! You have wonderful hair,” says the exuberant Mrs. E. .

“You’re not wearing your glasses,” an actor friend noticed. “You really should, you know.”

I’m in the middle of a full-blown style conundrum. I’ve reached that age where people prefer me with glasses rather than without and with longer hair, rather than the classic “short-sides-and-back.” I suppose the glasses and hair distract from my rapidly expanding middle-aged waist.

So, I’m torn. Those of you who subscribe to the horoscopes will find it no shock that I am a Gemini and chalk it up to a split personality. And, to some extent, that’s true.

Certainly the longer hair is easier to deal with. Yes, it requires more work at first, but then it’s off to the races and don’t give it a second thought. Longer hair also seems to look better with the two-day beard. Perhaps the stubble (I refuse to succumb to the full-blown Barry Gibb) makes me look less feminine. It is a more “up-to-date” look for a guy who has never been concerned with fashion.

I don’t really have a public persona — no client meetings to attend, speeches to give, that sort of thing, so the hair/stubble isn’t a career killer. But I’ve always been clean-shaven and more neatly groomed. Well, since college anyway. Besides, I prefer the aesthetic of the “golden age of men’s wear,” the 1930’s. I even envy the man in the grey flannel suit as played by everyone from Fred Astaire to Cary Grant, Gary Cooper to … well John Hamm.

So I’m torn. There’s this kind of a look (And that is a very fair representation of the length of my hair at the moment…..) that people (women, really) find appealing on me.

(All photos of Mr. Dempsey via Greysanatomyinsider.com)

Which leads me to this side of me: our man in grey flannel.

Grant as Roger Thornhill via urbanite.com
Grant as Roger Thornhill via urbanite.com

The French would call my frustration “mal du siècle.” I think it’s more a “crise de cheveux.” And the fact that I’m even thinking this deeply about it is vaguely distasteful to me. Maybe there’s a middle ground…

Gary Cooper as Atticus Finch via yarnstorm.blogspot.com
(image via yarnstorm.blogs.com)

(Via Foxnews/AP/Chris Pizzello
(Via Foxnews/AP/Chris Pizzello

What do you think? Is elegance always to be attached to a certain timelessness? Or is it possible to modernize? We have such a tenuous hold on adulthood as it is (an executive at Droga5 is quoted in The New York Times as saying his staff “dress like teenagers with money.” Like that’s a good thing?)

Where do we draw that thin line?

Now playing: “Pencil Thin Moustache” by Jimmy Buffet.

16 thoughts on “Crise de Cheveux

  1. Hey, I’m Greek, too! (Only 25%.)

    Personally, I think a style shake-up is good. I just did it, so maybe I’m trying to convince myself of that…I just cut off 4+ inches.

    By all means, avoid the Barry Gibb beard. There’s no need to look like a Southern lumberjack.

  2. E&E – Funny, this is an on-going conversation in my house. I have said on occasion, “You talk about your hair more than I do” which is a lot, by the way. Mr. B goes back and forth. He, too, has absolutely-amazing-I-would-give-my-eye-teeth-to-have hair. Like Dempsey’s, it curls just enough. I adore it longer. I long for it longer. When we were younger he had to wear it shorter so as to appear to be the sort of person that might not just want a job, but might, in fact, show up for work. But now, firmly in middle age, he can wear it longer with aplomb. Every now and again he’ll cut it and then bait me with, “I know you like it longer.” I’m way to smart to take the bait. But, my point always is, if it’s one of your best features, you need to play it up. Especially at 40 and beyond. I vote for longer. And, you missed one of the best examples which is the relatively new J. Crew model – he raised my eyebrow just today.

  3. Actually, you’re very lucky to have this crisis. My husband is on the brink of a Bruce Willis shave-off. “Thinning” is quickly morphing into “bald spot.”

  4. Well, fellow Gemini… I’ll confess… Mr. Venti has a mane similar to Mr. Big’s in SATC and I adore it. I think Dempsey, Grant and (dare I say it?) Hugh Grant is sublime on the right men.

    If untamed, it can look a bit off… but for the most part it’s nice look on a man. If you can pull it off, go for it!

  5. A Gentleman visits his barber every two to three weeks. To say hi at least and get the local gossip. Just last Saturday I was driving through my old home town in northern NJ and drove past the barber shop where I had my first haircut. It hasn’t changed one ioto in fifty years except for the price. In my day there was Dad Tony and Son Tony working the chairs. Last Saturday there was Son Tony still standing behind the chair and my heart cheered at such continuity, but my recently shorn head kept me from stopping by for a long, long hello.

  6. Let it go a little longer! It’s elegant…more elegant than the classic “short on the sides and back”. It doesn’t have to go Eddie Van Halen length or anything. Dempsey has it just right.

    And if you do look more italian, you’re the envy of the town-dare I say. Most Italian industrialists from Luca Cordero de Montezemolo to the local shop keeper wear their hair longer. Here it’s a sign of creativity and passion.

    Used to wear mine short. Then my last girl told me outright (she’s 15 years younger) that I just looked more devilish. Didn’t even think twice and my barber agrees even though I only see him once every two months.

  7. My mother-in-law takes great pride in the fact that her son (mon epouse) has a full head of hair while he walks amongst many a bald head.
    Longer hair holds intrigue for many while short has a clean cut vibe. It’s the “pony-tail” that does noting for me.

  8. You ARE lucky that you have a choice. Hair grows pretty quickly. To relieve your boredom, why not go for a shorter summer look and then let it grow longer for a more elegant, European look for winter. And I think glasses look sexy/intellectual on anyone.

  9. Personally I prefer the clean cut look in the Cary Grant/Mad Men mold; short and tidy on the sides, a bit longer on top, nicely groomed. But if you have a great head of hair ala Mr. Mulroney why not revel in it from time to time and let it grow out for the heck of it when fancy strikes, particularly if you are accountable to no-one but the mirror and the Mrs. No need to keep the same look day in and out over time. Where I do draw the line is that I believe men over the age of 40 need to be very careful with facial hair — a “mature” man with a two-to-four day stubble is at risk of looking like he’s just stumbled out of the hospital ward vs. off the runway, particularly if its flecked with gray. Need to take a gimlet eye to whether one can really carry it off anymore and accept fate vs. fighting it.

  10. I’ve noticed that most men prefer to wear very short crops, but tend to admire the slightly longer look on other men, in accord with women. Perhaps because somehow a man’s haircut looks more relaxed and chic when it’s just an inch or two longer. Certainly no longer than your perfect examples of Sean Penn, which, by the way, is the length Hugh Grant has opted for.

  11. My goodness, I hadn’t expected this sort of response. In early May, I had to cancel an appointment to have my hair cut and just didn’t get a chance to reschedule. Here I am three months later with a bit of a mop. I think I’ll keep it until the back gets unruly and head for the Hugh Grant Eaton flop for the winter… why not? The trick, it seems to me, is to be more Elvis ’68 than Elvis ’72…

    When and if the time comes, I shall take as my role model Yul Brenner.

    As an old friend of mine used to say: “skin, will win.”

    Thanks for the very interesting and varied points of view!

  12. There’s an Orson Wells quote I’m having some trouble hunting down, but the essence was about the importance of being able to relate to our mode without being trapped in it. We neither want to go along with fads nor be nable to relate to our own times.

    Taking what you like from today while retaining the best of what’s past is the challenge rather than wholly rejecting one or the other. How to do that often lies in the rationale. Is there a reason for change? Change without reason and refusal to change despite a strong reason to strike me as equally unwise, whatever the subject (style, politics, what have you).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.