Perhaps you’ve seen him propping up the bar at your local club or snapping his Wall Street Journal to the jump page on the train. His dress sense is acute—John Lobb shoes buffed to a high sheen, Charvet shirt and Hermès tie as crisp as freshly minted T-bills. But just as you are mentally doffing your cap to this well-deployed style your gaze falls on his head, which has the hard, reflective appearance of Travertino marble. In the parlance of the marketplace, this fellow is shifting a lot of product. Hair product. And if you are so well-gelled that your do suggests you snap it onto your skull like a Lego piece each morning, then all the Prada in the world cannot save you. Because the only thing people see when they look at you is a frozen-headed nitwit.

“If your clothes are really together but your hair is refried hell, you look weirder than if you just rolled out of bed,” says Jessica Morgan, who with her coeditor, Heather Cocks, chronicles celebrities’ fashion faux pas on GoFugYourself.com. “These boys look misguided.

Like a guy with a knuckle-crushing handshake or too-white teeth, the overly gooped gent is broadcasting an I-try-too-hard S.O.S. And if he’s not careful, business associates and romantic prospects alike may find themselves asking the same question: Just what is he overcompensating for?

The biggest mistake these plastic men make is turning to gel in the first place. The stuff is worse than horse glue, says Jonathan Antin, owner of the tony West Hollywood salon Jonathan (and insufferable star of Bravo’s Blow Out).

“Most gels, because of the amount of polymer in them, are considered to be almost an adhesive,” he says. “A lot of guys put gel in their hair and when they run their hands through it, it gets all white and flaky. It turns into stale bread.”

Or Hershey’s Magic Shell.

“It’s crunchy,” says Carole Panick, a Los Angeles writer who often finds herself fending off the attentions of wrongheaded men. “The worst experience I’ve had is when guys are trying to do that ‘My hair is growing out, so I’m gonna try to make it spiky,’ and they do the whole tube of gel. It’s hard and—resistant.

Hair product in general, of course, is not inherently ill-advised. Most guys understand that a coif is something you have to maintain, and, ironically, the more unkempt you want to look, the more you have to keep up. Which is what makes the class of worst gel abusers so curious, since they always seem to be those buttoned-up types who are trying to do the least, texturally speaking—sweeping their hair straight back into Germanic orderliness, and then keeping it laminated there. If only they had consulted a professional.

“A little bit of product knowledge goes a long way,” says Antin. “A man with thinning hair needs to use a little mousse: just a pump or two. A man with hair that’s too thick generally needs something that is going to give his hair a sense of separation and definition, like a styling wax.”