Last August Rakesh Baruah had turned 30, finished grad school for the year, and broke up with his girlfriend—as good a time as any to have an epiphany about his hair. "With my Mad Men high-and-tight, I'd been spending so much energy trying to be this person I saw walking through the streets," the New York filmmaker says. "It came from wanting to be a good kid that looked the part of an Ivy-educated, white-collar one-percenter." With every inch of curls he adds (eight and growing), his Don Draper phase is more distant, and he looks forward to this summer's wedding season with long locks.
Choosing long hair in hot weather might seem as silly as bringing sand to the beach. But many stylish men are welcoming the warmer months by growing out their man manes. It's a much less fussy 'do to deal with than the reigning cut-du-jour, Macklemore's swoopback. (On a hot day, who wants to sip warm whiskey while waiting two hours for a barbershop trim?) And a critical mass of leading men—like windswept Australian Chris Hemsworth—and nouveau surfers alike are proving that length looks good. "It's effortless and edgy, and I'm all for it since everyone's been doing short for so long," says Jason Schneidman, 44, a hair stylist for Owen Wilson and Hugh Jackman who's rocked a Moses since he was a skater kid in Huntington Beach, Calif.
The neo-Fabio isn't just for vacations, though. "The look seems to be becoming more welcome at work since it goes great with a suit," says Travis Smith, a 21-year-old model with stick-straight tresses past his chin, whose been booking more jobs that require him to dress up. Like forgoing a tie, or adding Common Projects sneakers, it's an easy, one-step solution to make tailoring feel less corporate.
Famous men know this trick well. In addition to Hemsworth, who tucks his hair behind his ears, there's a growing list of celebrities and designers who are letting it go (see our timeline of men with long hair)—in varying lengths and colors. Olivier Theyskens, the slick fashion designer who recently left his post at Theory, keeps his shiny-black locks anywhere from jawline- to bicep-level, while the poster-boy of outré ombré, of course, is Jared Leto, who donned the Moses-seen-'round-the-world with a Saint Laurent tux at the 2014 Oscars.
By shunning the buzzcut hegemony, men are discovering that these summer mops can also be versatile. At the beach, long hair guards against neckburn. And on steamy days in the city, some men like Baruah have started wearing their hair in a Samurai-style topknot. His mom approves: "All of a sudden, she's texting me, saying, 'Bradley Cooper has a man bun!'"
How To: Manage Your Mane
There's a big difference between appreciating longer locks and growing them out yourself—what does a salt spray do, anyway? Relax, and read on.
The Waiting Period: The perfect shoulder-length shag won't appear overnight, so brace yourself for some growing pains. "Product is your go-to trick to get through those awkward phases," says celebrity groomer Amy Komorowski, who's styled Justin Timberlake, Viggo Mortenson, and Gael Garcia Bernal. She recommends taking a fingerful of fiber or putty (we like Davines' Medium Hold Paste) and raking it through the sides to combat pouf. Hairstylist Julien Farel, who's cut for Rafael Nadal and Adrien Brody, says touch-ups are instrumental during this phase, if only for your mental health: "You need to get the sides thinned occassionally—if you're just waiting and waiting for the length, you're going to freak out and cut it off."
The Cut: Once your hair starts to graze your shoulders, it's time to give it some shape. Since this calls for more finesse than a high-and-tight, skip the barbershop. "You want the right people to execute it," says Farel, who recently opened a men's-only floor at his Restore Salon & Spa in New York. "You don't want to just look great leaving the salon—you should be able to see the shape when the hair air dries." Ask for layers so you've got built-in volume, and thin the sides to avoid the mushroom effect.
The Style: There won't be much upkeep. "With shorter hair, it's got to be styled, or parted," says Komorowski. "It's so much more low-maintenance to let it grow out a bit." Once you've hit the length you need, add a bit of grit and definition with Axe's Texturizing Salt Spray or Herbivore Botanicals' Sea Mist—you'll get more volume and texture, plus it helps seal each strand against humidity and frizz.
—Jon Roth, assistant editor at Details.