With age comes maturity, wisdom, and the inevitable gray hairs. And while many of us try to do whatever we can to turn back the clock, some of us are starting to challenge this antiquated mindset and instead, embrace signs of aging—gray hair and all. According to hairstylist Andrew Fitzsimons, “Oftentimes, there is a want to hide the natural aging process as much as possible, but [salt and pepper] 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."
Salt and pepper hair has become a sought-after style, even among some of Hollywood's leading men. But it's not just the hair that makes the man. “[Hairstyles] 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," says stylist Frederic Boudet. To show you just what we mean, we've put together a gallery of salt and pepper haircuts inspired by our favorite celebrities with pro styling tips from Fitzsimons, Boudet, and hair expert Robert-Jan Rietveld.
Meet the Expert
Keep scrolling for our celeb-inspired gallery of 20 men's salt and pepper haircuts.
Salt and Pepper Hair
- Maintenance level: Low to medium. If you've got lighter-colored hair, it will be easier to blend your grays. However, those with darker tresses may need to put in a little more work to maintain their color, especially if grays are not natural. Going in for a glossing treatment every three to four months will help to combat any brassiness and add shine. And regardless of your base color, using color-safe shampoo is key.
- Goes great with: All skin tones and undertones
- Similar shades: Gray, white, silver
- Price: Those with dark hair will most likely need to bleach hair first for gray color to show up. It's best to go to a colorist if you're looking for a customized salt and pepper look. Pricing will vary by salon, stylist, etc. For as little as $10, you can also purchase a DIY coloring kit and dye hair at home.
Low-maintenance yet versatile, haircuts that are shorter on the sides and longer on top are some of the most popular styles for men. Here, Chris Pine is sporting one such look: the quiff. "Since he has lighter brown hair with soft, natural highlights, the gray helps blend the color of the grow-out,” says Rietveld. “It also showcases the fullness of his hair, and the cool gray undertones pair well with his cool blue eyes.” To get Pine's dapper 'do, Rietveld suggests spritzing a salt spray onto damp hair, then blow-drying to add texture and volume.
According to Fitzsimons, if you've got a square-shaped face, show off your jawline. A low beard with minimal amounts of gray will add some softness to angles.
High Skin Fade
Unless you've got serious clipper skills, it's best to head to the barbershop to replicate Idris Elba's tight high fade. “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,” says Fitzsimons. “A full beard like this complements his heart-shaped face by drawing attention to his upper face and eyes to balance it all out.” Just don't forget the beard oil, notes Rietveld. Velvet Noir Signature Beard Oil ($17) is one of our faves.
If you have naturally wavy hair, show off your texture with a lifted, tousled style à la Patrick Dempsey. We love how the salt and pepper color scheme serves to highlight this cut's dimension and movement. A little bit of pomade, like Bumble and bumble Sumotech ($32), will help to add further texture to strands and keep this look lifted.
If you like to rock a beard—or are thinking of growing one—let Kingsley Ben-Adir be your guide. His impeccable beard seems to echo his close natural crop and makes for the perfect face-framing look. Fitzsimons advises styling with light oils and leave-in conditioners to moisturize curls while enhancing gray hair's shine. Scotch Porter Smooth & Shine Hair Serum ($20) will get the job done.
Kumail Nanjiani's pompadour is a 1950s style that remains popular today. Shorter on the sides with a little fullness and lift on the top, he finishes off this look with strong sideburns. “Because he has a square jaw, this cut softens the lines and his overall look,” says Rietveld. Meanwhile, “His salt and pepper hair color is elevated with the soft tussle above his head, which I think gives it a more boyish look,” adds Fitzsimons. To style, Rietveld recommends towel drying hair and working in a thickening, matte-finish paste-like Reuzel Fiber Cream ($16). Then, blow-dry the front for added fullness, and follow with more paste for extra structure and volume.
All hail, Antonio Banderas! His Caesar haircut is a classic style that features a short fringe. Those with thin or thinning hair will appreciate this cut since it doesn't require much of a mane to pull off. And not only that but Banderas's version sports gray sides with a dark top that naturally draws the eye upward, giving the illusion of more hair atop the head.
Working with your natural texture will not only cut down on style time but in Mark Ruffalo's case, it will also give you a covetable red carpet look. “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.” It also opens up his face, making it more proportional to the longer length of the hair, adds Rietveld.
Short and Side-Swept
Skip the trip to your colorist—a shimmer of gray hair is the equivalent of natural highlights. Here, they add dimension to Jackie Chan's dark, straight hair. To style, simply brush hair to the side and spritz with non-scented Fragfre Hair Finishing Spray ($16) to boost volume and shine.
Nick Sagar's curly crop has got the best of both worlds: It's short enough to manage thick hair and long enough to show off natural texture. Glistening with grays, “It’s a nice mixture of salt and pepper," says Rietveld. “Plus, being higher on top, this style lengthens his face."
A cut that features volume, texture, and/or lift on top works well on oval-shaped faces but would be especially flattering on round face shapes. It draws the eye upward and elongates a rounder face, bringing balance.
A slightly longer version of the crew cut, Ryan Reynold's Ivy League features soft tapering, length on top, and a side part that goes into a slight comb-over. “It’s a salt and pepper ombré, so to speak,” says Rietveld. “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.” To add shine and keep hair in place, Fitzsimons recommends using a bit of styling wax.
Salt and pepper color plays out wonderfully in Ken Watanabe's gentleman's cut and perfectly groomed facial hair. His short comb-over is a go-to style for thin hair and flatters a receding hairline. Style by sprinkling on some volumizing powder, such as Slick Gorilla Volumizing Matte Effect Hair Styling Powder ($17), then follow your natural part line—or create your own—and comb hair over ever-so-slightly to one side. Baxter of California's Comb ($23) will ensure every hair is put in its place.
Clean, neat, and low-maintenance, Laurence Fishburn's crewcut pairs perfectly with textured tresses. “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, so it ends up making him more youthful,” says Rietveld. To keep this style moisturized and frizz-free, Fitzsimons suggests a bit of styling gel or curl cream.
Short and Textured
Gael García Bernal's clean-cut look gets some edge with salt and pepper color and a few wispy strands. If you have straight locks like García Bernal, ask your barber to throw in some texture by cutting the longer, top portion into varying lengths. The effect is a cool and effortless aesthetic.
Viggo Mortensen's hair is a timeless classic. “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,” says Fitzsimons. To get the look, apply a dime-sized amount of Oribe Hair Cream for Style ($42) to hair and brush through using a fine-toothed comb.
Steve Carrell's 'do is short and neat all the way around, but natural enough to allow hair to do whatever it wants. “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 naturally,” adds Fitzsimons. After towel drying, apply a low-shine styling product like Reuzel Grooming Cream ($14) with fingertips to hydrate and define hair.
If your hair is too short to part naturally, follow Charles Venn's lead and get a hard part. It's what makes this minimalist style so eye-catching. That, and his salt and pepper color, of course.
Another quiff haircut to make our list, Chris Noth's iteration accentuates volume and movement—with a side of 'stach. Its streaky monochrome palette lends depth and dimension to this side-swept style. Fitzsimons recommends using a light-hold pomade to give some structure to this look while still allowing movement. Tussling out ends with a little product will lock in volume at the root.
If the only grays you're sporting happen to be in your facial hair—as is the case with Joe Manganiello here—you may be tempted to shave it off—but don't. A full-on salt and pepper beard shows confidence and is incredibly attractive.
What's the difference between gray hair and salt and pepper hair?
According to Rietveld, the answer comes down to numbers. “Over 75 percent gray is more silver fox, while between 25-75 percent gray is salt and pepper."
Can you dye your hair salt and pepper?
If you are looking to reduce gray hairs rather than dye them all (which can sometimes look unnatural), there are at-home coloring kits, such as Just For Men Touch of Gray ($9), to DIY salt and pepper hair. You can also reach out to your colorist to see what the best option is for you.
How can you maintain salt and pepper hair?