Hair Flair: Wet look

These three coiffure fads – pixellated hair, man buns and the wet look – have their fans and detractors

K-pop idol Taeyang. -- PHOTO: YG ENTERTAINMENT
Hairstylist Rina Kil loves that the wet look is easy to achieve. -- PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI FOR THE SUNDAY TIMES

Typically, leaving the house with wet hair is a sign of someone not having a hair dryer or not giving a toss about appearances.

But recently, this wet look is not just an accident that dries up over the course of the day, but a style statement.

Fashionistas are sporting what appears to be slicked- back, forever-damp tresses all day.

The look is achieved by adding gel or mousse to hair, brushing backwards with a fine-toothed comb away from the face to distribute the product, so that that the forehead and the entire face are revealed.

Simple, right? Hairdressers and fashion insiders also call this the "out of the pool look", though to the layman, the look could well say "walked in the rain", "accident with leave-in conditioner", or "no time to wash hair, sorry not sorry".

It is a high-risk look - walking the thin line between oily and cutting edge - but that has not stopped celebs from wearing it.

At April's Star Awards, actresses Jeanette Aw, Zoe Tay and Belinda Lee, as well as Taiwanese singer Ella Chen of girl group S.H.E, all rocked moist-looking hairdos.

Hairstylist Dexter Ng, 35, who styled Aw, says he wanted to give the popular actress a "sun-kissed look".

"The whole idea is that this girl just came from the beach, put on her gown and went straight to the red carpet."

The wet-hair look is also popular at fashion shows here, says hairstylist Mervin Wee, 56, who is the managing director of beauty and hair salon empire Jean Yip Group.

He says: "This type of hairstyle is very much in demand. It's easy and fast to do up. It has a vogue feel to it and goes well with outfits."

Hairstylists whom SundayLife! spoke to say clients ask to have their hair styled "wet" for gala events or wedding dinners. The price of such styling ranges from $35 to $400.

Industry insiders say the wet look traces its roots to runway shows spanning New York to Paris in 2012.

Ms Jesly Teoh, creative director of Picasso Hair Studio in Haji Lane, says that during that time, the hairstyles stressed "body and movement", but the look evolved to "slick, matted hair that stuck to the models' faces, scalps and necks like glue".

Since then, lots of variations have sprung up. Instead of the severe, pulled-back look, you can go for a tousled damp mop, such as that sported by K-pop idol Taeyang of popular boyband BigBang.

When he appeared on the hit Korean game show Running Man this month, he was teased for his current straggly pink hair, which hangs around his face in oily tendrils.

"How do you keep hair moist?" asked Haha, the show's host, who then attempted the hairstyle by pouring a bottle of water on his hair. (Note: It did not work.)

You could also do a mini version of the wet-hair look with part of your hair - such as the fringe or a few centimetres of the roots - and leave the ends dry and voluminous.

Experts say that while slicked-back hair is edgy and cool for formal events, scruffy wet hair can be great for casual outings too.

Take hairstylist Rina Kil, 34, creative director and owner of The Comb in Gemmil Lane, who sports a tousled mop on her days off.

"It's great for those who are lazy. Just apply wax, serum and mousse and run your fingers through your hair.

But hang on to that bottle of mousse just yet. While Derek Zoolander might have famously said, "Moisture is the essence of wetness and wetness is the essence of beauty", hairstylists generally advise caution before taking the plunge.

Picasso Hair Studio's Ms Teoh says: "It takes a lot of character to wear the wet-hair look, thus someone with sharp features will be better able to pull off this look."

Caldecott queen and style icon Zoe Tay has one of those faces. Mr Ryan Yap, 37, leading hairstylist at Passion Hair Salon in Orchard Road, who styled Tay for the Star Awards, says he was also careful to match Tay's wet hairstyle to her glamorous outfits - an elegant Carolina Herrera floral dress and a dapper black Dolce & Gabbana suit.

For her part, Tay, 47, was just happy that the slicked-back do was hardy and impervious to the elements.

She tells SundayLife!: "We actually wanted to go with a frizzy hairstyle. But because the red carpet was held outdoors, we were worried that my hair would get out of shape. For the wet-hair look, I wouldn't have that worry because the gel would hold my hair in place."

So, unless you have a lovely face and clothes to match, it may be safer to keep the wet look to the swimming pool or shower.

In any case, it is unlikely that the wet-hair revolution would take place in the general populace any time soon, even with its high-fashion credentials.

As Ms Hannah Chen, 28, an assistant manager at a statutory board, says: "What's so nice about the wet-hair look? It looks like the person didn't have the time to dry and style her hair properly. I prefer the dry-hair look."

Gwendolyn Ng

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