From afros to Allen Iverson's intricate braids, men have long enjoyed embracing their hair texture even when met with discrimination as a result. In 2018, a Black Texas teen was forced to cut off his locs before a wrestling match, and in 2020, another Black teen was told he couldn't wear his locs to graduation because his hair "would be out of dress code." Thanks to the CROWN Act that has now passed in seven states, we are moving closer, with the help of legislation, to ensure Black hair is no longer legally able to be discriminated against.
As men continue to embrace and experiment with their natural texture, we thought it best to tap a professional hairstylist for their top hair tips for men who want to give protective styles a try.
Meet the Expert
Stefan Bertin is a London-based celebrity and editorial hairstylist. His specialties range from creating red carpet-ready looks to working with textured hair and more.
Take It Slow
Bertin's first rule: "Take it slowly and don't expect a miracle overnight." Those of us who have journeyed down the road of natural hair knows this to be true. However, finding patience can be a challenge. "It’s definitely going to be a process and you’ll learn as you go. No natural hair journey is the same," he says.
For guys just starting out, you may be wondering where you fail on the curly spectrum, but Bertin says knowing your hair texture isn't the most important factor in caring for your hair; however, there is one detail you do want to know: "As you experiment, pay close attention to how your hair reacts to products, but don't overthink your hair type," says Bertin.
"What matters and will affect your understanding of your hair much more is your hair porosity. Do your research and reading on that more than anything." We know you may not have come here for a haircare lesson, but we like to lay a solid foundation before we get to the good stuff: protective styling.
Start With a Protective Style That Works for You
Braids, plaits, locs, and twists are among the most popular styles for Black men. With the right stylist, any of these looks are achievable, but caring for your hair properly is a must if you want to grow healthy hair. No matter which style you choose, dedicating time to wash, condition, and even trim your growing hair should be a priority.
For those just trying out protective styling and looking for a low-maintenance style, Bertin recommends cornrows. "I would say that cornrows are probably easiest to keep up at home. All you really have to do is protect them at night and keep them moisturized."
Locs are another style Bertin finds easy to not just maintain at home, but an option he says can potentially be started without any professional assistance. (Well, at least to get the process started). "To create the loc’ed style that I currently have, all I did was rub a small towel across my head in circular motions every day for a few months, and that formed my locs," he tells us. This method is particularly beneficial for those who are going for a fluffy look. "I don’t like [my locs] to look fresh and shiny–they’re less obedient that way. I like them to be fluffy. So out of all three, I’d say that locs are easiest to create at home as that’s what our hair does naturally. But braids are easiest to maintain as they require little to no styling or manipulation every day."
Pick Up a Leave-In
Bertin says a leave-in conditioner, like the Shea Moisture 100% Virgin Coconut Oil Daily Hydration Leave-In Treatment ($11), is an ideal starter product if you're just getting into caring for your hair beyond a low fade. "Start with a leave-in conditioner. I spritz it on my hair every evening and even more liberally on wash day after rinsing out the conditioner."
Develop a Nightly Routine
Aside from applying a leave-in to keep the hair moisturized, a durag or a satin/silk pillowcase is essential for nighttime haircare. "It’s so, so, so important to stop that moisture loss," says Bertin. "You’ll notice such a difference. The cotton of a normal pillowcase will strip so much much-needed moisture from your hair." Try Taelor Boutique's Black Silk Durag ($15). Nighttime routines don't have to have a lot of steps, we promise. "Spritz in a leave-in conditioner and put your durag on. You’ll wake up with moisturized hair that will stay healthy and supple throughout the day," says Bertin.
Say Goodbye to Your Multitasking Hair Products
Bertin emphases one final note on the haircare front: get rid of the product that says it "does it all." He explains, "Put down the three-in-ones. While they’re not the evil they’re sometimes made out to be, I just feel like it’s a 'jack-of-all-trades, master of none' situation. Use a separate shampoo and conditioner. They’ll each be formulated specifically to efficiently do what they’re supposed to do without being overly stripping or moisturizing." Finding the right cleansers and conditioners can take some time, but don't get discouraged.
Remember: Give yourself some haircare grace, because the natural hair journey is a marathon, not a sprint. Once you get to the finish line, we promise it will be worth the wait.
Anyone else getting Busta Rhymes '90s vibes?
The key to moisturized braids is a healthy base, meaning hydration via deep conditioning and a proper leave-in. If you find frizz cropping up, embrace it. It's just a part of being natural.
Loc'd Man Bun
Man buns are always a good idea. Don't be afraid to add a few embellishments or hair color to your locs.
Tapered Man Bun
For guys working to grow out their hair while maintaining hydrated coils or twists, the LOC method will be your best friend.
Cornrows with a fade are a hybrid of two tried-and-true looks. If you do give this look a try, be sure to keep those cornrows moisturized with a spritz of leave-in conditioner.
Braids with a Crisp Fade
A clean line-up with two braids is always a good look.
Single Braids with Added Length
Travis Scott's hair is his trademark. Here, there is a little length added, giving his go-to braids a new edge.
A sharp set of cornrows is the perfect protective style for a formal event, as seen here with this look on John Boyega.
We love to see a hair journey, and Big Sean's doesn't disappoint. Four cornrows are a simple classic that can be done on a variety of hair lengths.
This shoulder-length loc style is incredibly handsome.
With tapered sides and a short, full loc'd crown, this look is one that could be recreated with ease (and the right stylist, of course).
Call them mini braids or plaits—no matter what you call them, they offer up a low-manipulation, attractive protective style.
Aminé never misses an opportunity to experiment with his style or hair. His embellished Bantu knots are a must-try.
Face-Framing Box Braids
Going back to the '90s is always welcome. For those with shorter coils, this style offers an opportunity to try something new at any length.
Cornrows are incredibly versatile, so don't be afraid to ask your braider to try new patterns or lengths.