When it comes to salt and pepper hair, men nowadays find themselves at an advantage. What used to be thought of as a sign of age, even previously referred to as “prematurely gray,” the salt and pepper hair men’s trend has attained a certain status as one of the most sought-after hairstyles for men, as more and more guys embrace their silvery locks.
“To me, salt and pepper hair represents maturity and wisdom,” says celebrity hairstylist Andrew Fitzsimons. “Oftentimes, there is a want to hide the natural aging process as much as possible, but this kind of hair color embraces that and celebrates the real, natural you. This can be extremely liberating for those who are looking to make a statement against standard beauty norms. Honestly, it's a bit of a cool factor!”
One burning question a lot of guys pursuing the salt and pepper hair men’s trend have concerns the difference between gray hair and salt and pepper. According to Robert-Jan Rietveld, grooming expert and co-founder of Reuzel, the answer comes down to numbers. “Over 75% gray is more silver fox, while between 25-75% gray is salt and pepper.”
Perhaps the most alluring thing about salt and pepper hair is how good it looks on the guys who have it, from Ryan Reynolds to Barack Obama, but as Frederic Boudet, a stylist at Cedric in New York City, explained, it’s not just the hair that makes the man. “These styles work for each man individually, not because of their salt and pepper color, but because the styles complement their face shape, hair texture, and overall aesthetic. As a stylist, when you look at someone, you don’t only look at their hair; you look at the whole package. Hair is a component of style, not just the hair on one’s head.”
So, to better understand the salt and pepper hair men’s trend, let’s take a guided tour through 10 celebrities known for their salt and pepper style and find out from our team of experts why each works so well and how to get the look at home.
Stylized Crew Cut: Short and neat all the way around, but natural enough to allow hair to do whatever it wants.
Why it works: “What’s great about this is that the sideburns blend down into the beard line, which works well on his face because the rounded soft haircut meshes with the rounded hair on the beard and rounded glasses,” says Rietveld. “This style is super simple and highlights Steve's longer face in a really natural way,” says Fitzsimons.
How to get the look: After towel drying, apply a low-shine styling product like Reuzel Grooming Cream with fingertips to add a bit of hydration and definition to the hair.
Loose Pompadour: Shorter on the side, tapered in the back, with a little fullness and lift on the top and strong sideburns.
Why it works: “Because he has a really square jaw, this cut softens the lines and his overall look,” says Rietveld. “His salt and pepper hair color is really elevated with the soft tussle above his head, which I think gives it a more boyish look,” says Fitzsimons.
How to get the look: Rietveld recommends towel drying hair and working in a thickening, matte-finish paste-like Reuzel Fiber Cream. Blow-dry the front for added fullness, and follow with more paste for extra structure and volume.
Elegant Caesar Cut: Short back and sides, longer on top, parted to the side.
Why it works: “George is the classic silver fox!” Fitzsimons says. “His ‘do is perfectly coifed with medium ends to give him both a relaxed yet elegant look, which works perfectly for a rounder face like his.”
How to get the look: He suggests parting hair to the side for a slight combover effect, then tussling out the ends with a little pomade to lock in a bit of volume at the root.
Texturized Side Swept Hair: Textured, wavy, side-swept look that’s perfect for hiding a receding hairline.
Why it works: “The medium length hair really suits an oval face like Hugh's with the tapered sides, especially with how thick his hair is,” says Fitzsimons. “Plus, being higher on top, this style lengthens his face,” Rietveld adds. “It’s a nice mixture of salt and pepper. The grays evenly soften the wrinkles, allowing him to wear dark glasses, which are the focus.”
How to get the look: Fitzsimons recommends using a light hold pomade to give some hold while still allowing movement.
Temple Skin Fade: Very high fade where even the longest part of the hair is very short and tight to the skin.
Why it works: “I like to call this one ‘with a touch of gray’ because, as you can see, he lets his natural hair color shine through with some gray peeking through in his beard,” Fitzsimons says. “A full beard like this really compliments his heart-shaped face by drawing attention to his upper face and eyes to balance it all out.”
How to get the look: Rietveld said such a precise fade usually requires regular maintenance by a barber, but once you’ve got the look, keep the hair and beard in top form with beard oil, which will also add a healthy shine. We recommend Velvet Noir Signature Beard Oil.
Soft Styled Quiff: Shorter on the sides, longer on the top, and parted to the side; a very classic look.
Why it works: Since he has lighter brown hair with soft, natural highlights, the gray helps blend the color of the grow-out,” Rietveld explains. “It also showcases the fullness of his hair, and the cool gray undertones pair well with the cool blue eyes.” “That jawline!” Fitzsimons adds. “Square-shaped faces like Chris Pine should never shy away from showing the lower face and killer jawline. The low beard with minimal amounts of gray will really add some softness to those angles.”
How to get the look: Rietveld says to start by spritzing a salt spray onto damp hair, then blow-dry to add texture and volume.
Short and Crisp Crewcut: Clean, neat, and low-maintenance, it’s a great look for highly textured hair.
Why it works: “You can see his grays have a coarser texture, so he keeps it short all the way around with no harsh lines. He embraces his gray, but it’s not as much a shock to the rest of his dark features, so it ends up making him more youthful,” explains Rietveld.
How to get the look: “He has gracefully grown into this gray style he's been rocking lately and just needs a bit of styling gel or curl cream to keep it all moisturized and frizz free,” says Fitzsimons.
Short Messy Textured Crop: Medium wave all the way around, with long sideburns that blend into the beard.
Why it works: “It would be a crime to have beautiful waves like Mark's and not let it grow out,” Fitzsimons says. “The curls sit nicely on the top but cut down at the sides to give them some attention, which continues in length to his full beard.” Rietveld adds it also opens up his face, making it more proportional to the longer length of the hair.
How to get the look: Fitzsimons recommends styling with a bit of matte-finish fiber hair paste to add texture without shine.
Natural Afro: Low-cut Afro with natural style.
Why it works: “The sleek, low afro with goatee combo is the perfect style on Morgan, letting his features really stand out, especially with the gray natural texture,” Fitzsimons says.
How to get the look: Fitzsimons advised styling with light oils and leave-in conditioners to define the curls and keep the hair moisturized, like Scotch Porter Smooth & Shine Hair Serum.
Ivy League: Slightly longer version of the crew cut, featuring soft tapering, length on top, and a side part that goes into a slight comb-over.
Why it works: “It’s a salt and pepper ombre, so to speak.” Rietveld says. “He doesn’t have a ton of gray on the top of his head, so he keeps the gray sides shorter and the top longer to accentuate the brown tones. You can also tell his hair is receding a bit, and the gray helps to camouflage the recession.”
How to get the look: Fitzsimons recommends using a bit of styling wax to add shine and keep hair in place.