I’ve been rocking a mohawk as a haircut for over seven (7) years now and it always gets a heap of positive comments. Random people always come up to me to say “hi” and tell me they love my hair and families and tourists ask if I can pose for photos with them. I originally did it as a way to get over my social anxiety; I was always afraid and paranoid people were staring at me and having a mohawk meant I knew they were but for cool reasons.
A lot of people over time have asked me how I do it and I usually give a brief explanation, but thought writing up my process, tips, and recommendations would help. My hair is pretty thick, so keep in mind the advice I’m giving is tailored towards thick, straight/wavy hair. You may have other ideas or recommendations and I’m always happy for you to reach out if you’ve got other suggestions or tricks.
Up to three inch length of hair and you can probably get away with a strong hold wax/mud and some gels, but you’ve got to try a few products to find something that works. It’s important to make sure it’s set really solidly before you go off for your day otherwise you won’t notice it starting to fall over until you walk past a shop window and it’s too late to go home and fix it up.
Beyond that length you’re acting against physics. Hair gel/wax/putty/mud is heavy and you’ll find that towards the back of your head, where your skull starts to curve down steeply, the hair that you’re trying to make stand straight out on a roughly 45˚ angle will refuse to stay up because of the combined weight of your hair and the product. That’s when you should move to my longer hair recommendations.
There’s a lot of things people recommend, but I’m going to focus on my hair spray + hair dryer technique. This is designed to give a tall, consistent look that also doesn’t appear too thin when viewed from the front/back as some techniques (like laying it flat on cardboard and hair spraying it) are wont to do.
Please keep in mind that this will probably damage your hair if you do it regularly and some of the tricks will break a bunch of hair too. Do this at your own risk. Full disclosure, every couple of years I shave my head and start again due to the damage this causes.
Pretty simple, you can do this in the mirror and it takes about 20 minutes, although in some cases I can be ready to go out in as quick as 5 minutes. Make sure to do it on dry hair.
Bend over so your hair hangs down and grab a handful of your hair, aligning your hand to grab the maximum amount without scrunching it into one bunch. See the photo below for an example.
While holding the hair, you’ll want to spray a solid amount of hair spray over the front and one side using your free hand. Still one-handed, grab the hair dryer and blast at full speed and highest temperature for a few seconds to get it to set. Now you’ll want to hair spray the other side and blast it with the hair dryer too. I find it easiest to swap hands at this point.
Next, grab the next segment of hair in the same manner, making sure to overlap with some of the already mohawked section. See the picture below for an example:
Do the same hair spray and hair dryer trick to both sides.
Continue this process until you’ve done all the way back and you should have a pretty stellar mohawk.
I’m Aussie and pretty much only buy hairspray from grocery stores and chemists, so that should give you context for my reccies. I’m not looking for anything spenno, so I aim to find the best product at a cheap price that’ll last a decent time. My current recommendations are:
- Schwarzkopf Silhouette hair Spray Super Hold
- Tresemmé Hair Spray Salon Finish (5 Hold)
The former has the least noticeable scent in your day-to-day life, the latter has a bit of a smell but quite a pleasant one, similar to Tresemmé shampoos. Both have really good, firm hold. I’ll apply it in the morning around 06:00, spend the day at work, go out for dinner and clubbing and even when I come home at 06:00 the next day it’s still looking strong.
There’s a few other options:
- Schwarzkopf Extra Care Super Styling Lacquer Maximum Hold (silver and purple can) - Similar hold to the others but a strong aroma that smells like a smoker’s perfume. Not a bad smell in small doses, but the amount you need to form a mohawk makes it overpowering for you and those around you.
- Schwarzkopf Got2b Glued Hairspray (yellow can, black writing) - Decent hold but a weird fake banana scent that can get overpowering and there’s cheaper options. If you do go this one, I’d suggest going over it with something with a more neutral scent like Cedel Hair Spray Extra Firm to seal in some of the fragrance.
Almost all the other cheap, common hairsprays I’ve tried don’t past muster in terms of hold.
Make sure to shampoo and condition your hair at least twice a week. I recommend doing a treatment, leave-in conditioner, or coconut oil at least once a fortnight for about 36 hours. It’s a right pain to try and mohawk after doing this, so you’ll probably want to shampoo and condition your hair again before you spike it up.
It’ll be easier if you’re spiking up dry hair after it’s been washed properly. If it’s been about a couple of days since you last shampooed your hair, the natural greases that have built up will make it difficult. You can use some volumising powder to make it a bit easier.
If your hair is mohawked up but you’re not ready to shampoo it just yet, you can still run it under water and get it nice and wet and help separate it a bit with your hands. Two benefits:
- It’ll be easier to mohawk once it’s dry because there’s residual hairspray adding texture and helping it be more cohesive.
- If you fall asleep after soaking it in water you won’t wake up glued to the pillow.
When you sleep, the heat from your head that’s trapped near your pillow will melt some of the hair spray and cause you to end up slightly stuck to the bed. Before when I’ve come home drunk and passed out in bed with my hair spiked up I find I wake up about 2-4 times during the night when I try and roll over and actually need to put some effort in to peel my head up.
If you don’t want to wash it out before bed, my suggestion is using your hands to slowly separate it, working from front to back. You’ll find it still stands up (although much softer, gently swaying) but also you’ll be less likely to glue yourself to your pillow, your partner, or your favourite cuddly panther.
Tips & Tricks
- A tall mohawk is like a sail ship and you’ll find you have to tack into the wind a bit, otherwise strong enough gusts will cause it to suddenly slump over. While it will return to shape when the breeze passes, it damages the structural integrity and will start to separate or droop a lot faster.
- A very light mist of rain won’t destroy it, but continued water or high humidity will weaken it.
- Warning: This can cause your hair to break a bit. If you’re finding one section isn’t looking right, you can just run a hairbrush through it a few times so it’s all separate again, then repeat the usual process (one hand hold, hair spray, hair dryer). Now all the individual hairs have a lot more added texture and grip and should stick together in a more aesthetically pleasing manner.
- If one part is reticent to stay stuck to the rest of the mohawk, hold it separately in one hand and hair spray it. Then hair spray the closest segment of the mohawk. Now grab both parts in one hand and use the hair dryer. You’re using the hair spray like a heat-hardening glue to help bond two segments together.
- Be extra nice out and about (except to fuckwits). Mohawks aren’t super common and you stand out. People may want to chat to you about it; be polite and friendly, answer questions, smile. Punks with mohawks have a bad rap in the media and we can do our part to show people we love everyone but the state. I have made uncountable number of peoples' days by being super kind to them and their kids.
- Don’t let people touch it without your permission. It’s your body, people need to consent before touching you. I’ve found most people - even absolutely cooked units in the club - will ask first if they can touch it and feel free to say no if you aren’t comfortable. If I let people touch mine I tell them to be gentle and to poke it lightly from the side so they can see its structural integrity.