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Here are grooming trends making a comeback to keep our heritage alive

Image: Getty Images

Gents, regardless of how your current grooming routine came to be, it is undeniable that the art of grooming has a strong tradition of generational passing down — whether you were an adolescent being taught how to shave by your father, or a young adult picking up some pointers from the local barber, or just figuring it out on your own along the way, with a few nicks and cuts, of course.

Among the older generation, the way to groom was the old gentleman’s way: in a barbershop, time-efficient and uncomplicated, having the minimal beard line-up and shave while enjoying some “banter with the boys”.

As Themba Ndlovu of Clere For Men explains, “Men have adopted a grooming routine over the years based largely on trial and error and a little guesswork. Face wash. Moisturise. Shave. Showering and keeping your hair neat, crossing off the items on your daily grooming checklist as quickly as possible and then going about your day.” While the world is on a nostalgia kick, some old grooming favourites make their comeback as gents lean into die-hard rituals to update their routines.

Hair: The Hair Tonic Revival

A clean, healthy scalp is a happy scalp and with everything from natural oils to daily styling products, our hair, our scalp, in particular, needs more care than we may think in order to have healthier hair.

Apart from using a gentle, sulphate-free shampoo that strengthens the hair while keeping your scalp clean, the return of scalp treatments and hair tonics, sees the old barbering favourite making a comeback.

“Hair tonics have been associated with traditional barbering for more than 100 years and every good barber should keep a stock nearby,” says David Hildrew, MD of The Bluebeards Revenge.  “One might even say that these products are the uncelebrated champions of barbering! Despite their long association with barbering, tonics are often overlooked for more modern alternatives. But thankfully barbering’s new-found popularity, and an appreciation for traditional grooming products among men has seen these great products revived.”

  1. Spritz the hair tonic into towel-dried hair and massage it into your scalp with the fingertips.
  2. When massaged intensely into the scalp, a hair tonic helps to condition and moisturise the hair while stimulating blood circulation in the scalp and promoting hair growth.
  3. After massaging in, style as desired.

Beard: Men’s guide to a hot towel shave

As the popularity of barbershops has grown and the more traditional barbering methods of our forefathers are being adopted, so beard care evolves and rituals are updated. In the past, a beard was mostly seen as a functional area of facial hair, kept short or close-shaven for easy maintenance — not quite the grooming statement that it is now. Modern bearded men are often very particular about shaping their beards, and at-home trimming is a growing trend. 

How to: Prepare a hot towel at home

You are likely to find this shaving ritual on the menu of most barbershops these days — and for good reason. Not only is it a great spa-like add-on during a shaving session, but it really can help to enhance your shave. A standard practice for close shaves using a straight razor, this ritual can still be added even if you are using clippers, as it helps to soften facial hair and prepare it for easy removal.   

Image: Getty Images
  1. Use a small hand towel or face cloth that will wrap snuggly around the face or beard area.
  2. Apply essential oils for an added spa-like feeling. Add a few drops of the essential oil of your choice (favourites for hot towels include lavender, peppermint or eucalyptus oil) onto the towel while dry. Run the cloth under water and wring out, if using the microwave method (Step 3). Alternatively, you can place the towel in a bowl and pour over some kettle-boiled water for a quick heating solution.
  3. Heat it up by placing the damp towel in a bowl and microwaving it for about 30 seconds.
  4. Leave the towel to cool until it feels warm to the touch, not piping hot, before applying directly to the face.
  5. Wrap face with a hot towel or just hold it over the beard area and for 30-60 seconds before proceeding with your normal shaving routine

Nostalgic cuts

  1. Hi-top fade

The hi-top fade or box fade, popularised in the ’80s and early ’90s by Black culture icons like the Fresh Prince, still holds the world’s gaze, as seen on local musicians Manu WorldStar and L-Tido.

      2. Twisted box braids

A ’90s staple, short box braids, whether twisted or plaited, have become a Gen Z favourite.

      3. Razor side part

Today’s generation doesn’t shy away from adding a deep razor-cut side parting to their classic fades or short afros, by way of a single deep parting or intricate razor-cut designs on the sides of the head.

This article first appeared in the September 2021 print edition of S Mag.

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