Who thought humble gel would emerge as the hair hero of the year? We revel in runway-ready ways to use gel this New Year's Eve – be it sculpted finger waves or a slicked-back style
An '80s power product back in action, 2023 has been the year of gel. At least if you consider the runway to be an authority when it comes to hair trends, which we do.
It all started with glossily, slicked back low buns and ponytails, not to mention deep side-parts, at Copenhagen Fashion Week's autumn/winter '23 season. Here, we saw the minimalist vanguard (consisting of amongst others Mark Kenley Domino Tan and The Garment) propose high-shine gloss sculpted from strong-hold gel, smoothed back by densely packed hairbrushes and nimble fingers.
These were hairstyles that we offered the lazy among us a low-effort look for New Year's Eve, all without sacrificing even an ounce of high-octane glamour. The beauty of gel, after all, is that it makes the shabbiest among us look put together – having spent time slicking back our usually unruly strands. Better yet, it is a look that pairs perfectly with most evening ensembles: lending some laid-back cool to sparkly party dresses and leaning into the suave androgyny of a tailored tuxedo.
That said, these slicked-back styles only cover the basics of gel styling. If we think outside of the box, and are willing to put some more effort into our finished 'do, we find ourselves exploring a whole new world of glossy possibilities. The amount of product and how it is applied will shift of the final style, with a small dollop resulting in carelessly swept back hair (after all, Mean Girls thought us our hair looks sexier when swept back) that doesn't compromise on volume.
Then there's the simple braid; a style that those of us sporting fluffy butterfly layers dread. But with a tub or tube of gel on hand, it is easy to tame each rebellious strand, glueing them in place to form a sleek and slick braid. Albeit it slightly easier to manage, it follows the same sculpting concept as classic finger waves.
First popularised by flappers in the 1920s, now – 100 years later – we see the reemergence of these sculpted, swooping curls. Exemplified by Giorgio Armani's spring/summer '24 runway, they're trickier to take on. We suggest you take time out in between Christmas and New Year's Eve to practice, following video tutorials on how to make your swirls swoop just so.
Finally, there's the possibility to consider gel as an adhesive. Whether you want to reach for rainbow glitter – like the Erdem girls on the autumn/winter '23 catwalk – or bedazzle your slick-back with the addition or pearls, gel can function as an adhesive. Here, your imagination (and the hold of your gel) sets the limit for what type of sparkling style you can achieve.