The vintage Brylcreemed slick can come off as a little costume-party. But this modern version, with closely cropped sides and no part, is every bit as clean and masculine as its predecessor—a way to nod to the past without living in it. Leonardo DiCaprio made it his go-to red-carpet look, while Adam Levine traded his signature faux-hawk for a comb and some product and landed People's Sexiest Man Alive cover. Results will vary, of course, but here's how to get the look.
The specific length depends on your hair's thickness; the finer the strands, the longer you should go. The key is the fade, which should start at the temples. Leave at least a fistful of hair on top so it will lie back easily.
Apply a setting spray on damp hair for hold and texture, then grab a round brush and blow-dry in segments from back to front to create height. Finish with a high-shine pomade. "The application of the product is far more important than the amount," says Aaron Grenia, a senior stylist at New York City's Rheanne White salon. "That's not saying to only use a little, just use it properly." If you avoid blow-dryers, work a water-soluble gel or cream into the roots of towel-dried hair and then comb back with fingers.
Baxter of California's Hard Water Pomade delivers strong hold, separation, and shine—without adding too much weight.
American Crew's Alternator is a lightweight, nonaerosol spray. Add as a base before blow-drying or apply as a finishing touch.
Martial Vivot's Creme tames flyaway strands (crucial with a cut this precise) but allows for more natural movement than a gel or a pomade.