by Brian Kennedy
Iím not an especially vain person, but Iíve always hated my hair. Itís two (two! two!) heads of hair in one -- on the sides itís baby-fine and perfectly straight, and on the sides itís coarse and afro-curly. If I let it grow for awhile, I look like that guy from The Prodigy after a cheap curly perm. Every six months I have a nervous breakdown and get it all cut off, but that doesnít do any good either; Iím tall and I have big shoulders and a beginnersí beer gut, and with a buzz cut I look a lot less like Ewan MacGregor in Trainspotting than a Kappa Sigma chapter president out for an evening of Coors Light and Soggy Biscuit. Itís not really a look that says ďmeĒ (I hope). Usually I try to compromise with a generic sorta-short Super Cuts special -- I like to think itís sort of early Ď60s retro, but everyone I know says it just makes me look like a failing yuppie.
So whatís a hair-impaired boy to do, besides pray for baldness? The answerís been with us for years, and (surprise!) itís Vitalis hair tonic -- it just took me forever to give in to it.
My first run-in with Vitalis was through the indie rock crowd I ran with for awhile in college -- all those little Sebadoh fans were veritably addicted to the stuff. Iíve always suspected they liked it because it was suitably ironic, not for its inherent hair-management qualities; old-fashioned hair tonic fit in perfectly with their chain-wallet/mechanicís jacket aesthetic. It sort of tainted the stuff for me, since I was kind of on an anti-Irony kick at the time.
The indie rockers gradually ostracized me (never liked Pavement, kept spilling the bong, yadda yadda), and thoughts of Vitalis faded from my mind. I soldiered through the rest of school with the same short, dull haircut I had since eighth grade. Then one day I found myself desperate in a nearby Duane Reede drugstore, desperate for something to make my bad hair good. Vitalis was the only familiar face I saw in the rack of hair-care products; I picked a bottle up and decided to give it a shot, stupid counter-cultural connotations be damned.
And I discovered something -- Vitalis works really, really well. Itís also cheap as hell (about $4 for a six-month supply), compact (no bulky tubes or aerosol cans to deal with) -- and if you ever need anything that burns real good, itís extraordinarily flammable.*
Of course, using Vitalis involves getting over one of the central conceits of Real Guys -- that hair care products of any sort are inherently evil, just like cologne or bikini briefs. To a generation weaned on Flock of Seagulls albums and Miami Vice re-runs, this makes perfect sense; hair that goes crunch hasnít been cool for at least a decade now. Vitalis isnít like Finesse hairspray or Alberto mousse, though. It doesnít pouf hair up, it slicks it down. As in most things, the key here is moderation; just put a light splash in your hand, run your fingers through your hair a few times, and youíre set. Do it right, and youíre hair gets kind of spikey (but in a cool way) -- put on too much, and youíll look like a 1940s Panzer Commander. Thereís a definite knack to using the tonic, but itís a got a short learning curve.
Since discovering Vitalis I can grow my hair any damn way I want to -- if it gets unruly I can just slick it down a bit, if it gets too limp I can just spike it up. Now if I can just do something about those dark circles on my eyes...
*While writing this article, I decided to prove this statement by dousing my sink in Vitalis and dropping a lit match into it. My friends don't call me "Fucking Dumbass" for nothing.
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