No. 22: Hair gel

Dutch people are amongst the highest consumers of hair gel in the world. If you don’t agree go stand in the middle of any busy Dutch street and start your counting. As the numbers start quickly adding up you will have no choice but to stand by my grandiose statement!

Ooeey gooey good!

Truth be told, I have never seen more people in one tiny country use this gooey stuff to secure their locks. Oh, and the weirdest part here is that I ain’t talking about the women; it’s the Dutch men that are lovin’ the stuff! In fact, the love it so much, that they feel the need to pour a vat of it over their head every morning!

Common, you’ve seen the types. The tall ones who’s blond curls are slicked back to their head in a crunchy mess. Boys: it’s time for a haircut! 5 year-olds can get away with that look, but unmarried 35 year-old kakkers are a different story all together!

I will readily admit that I don’t understand the root cause of this phenomena. Is it because Dutch men are too cheap to get a haircut?  Is it a question of practicality: is it easier to re-apply gel in the morning rather than actually washing their hair? Or do they genuinely think the “semi-long-curly-blond-hair-doused-in-copious-amounts-of-gel” is a hot look? Please, all-knowing readers, do tell!

"Hmmmm, perhaps I should have used more gel today" Marco Borsato

I will admit that this crispy “Dutch hair” does often accompany a certain type of Dutchie. And in recent years it seems to have become particularly popular with the following groups: makelaars, frat boys, bankers, students, wannabe ondernemers, field hockey players, rowers, bnn-ers, and beloved football players.

You’ll be able to either spot them on their scooters (the makelaars in particular), their boats (perhaps even wearing red pants) or cycling through the city with their girly looking hockey sticks (I can’t help it, I’m Canadian and only ice hockey sticks look manly!)

Do dutch women like competing for mirror time in the morning? Do they not resent running their hands through greasy locks? Maybe it is not the men’s fault at all, but the women who encourage this look?!

Regardless, the look has made international headlines with the online Urban Dictionary defining the hairstyle as the “Dutch Prince“: A haircut obtained when you have long hair over your ears, and you cut your bangs to above your eyebrows. Very popular among hockey players who want to have long hair, but do not want impaired vision. A word of caution: do not be fooled by the glamorous name, there is nothing royal about it!


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95 Responses to No. 22: Hair gel

  1. helena68 says:

    All the people you’re describing here are “kakkers”, check out: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dWDIy8SGbII

  2. The hair gel is bad… But I do think the red pants, combined with a light blue shirt AND white t-shirt underneath is even worse! No wonder I have a ‘thing’ for British guys…

  3. I also don’t understand this gel-obsession. Haven’t for all my life. The tubs of gel in the supermarket would fascinate me as a child, and I couldn’t understand why they got so HUGE. But people go through them like it’s a jar of Nutella! Nowadays at the hairdressers every time at the end they ask by default “Do you want anything in your hair?” and almost go straight ahead expecting the answer to be ‘of course!’
    I adore and love hair and the way it feels. When my hair is greasy it needs to be washed. So why would I put grease in it myself? Makes no sense… And I’m pretty damn sure my lady would kill me if I’d take the possibility for soft-hair-stroking away from her…

  4. JD Willemse says:

    Bf and I have a term for this: BDH. It’s exactly what you describe, Bad Dutch Hair

  5. Hans M says:

    I donot have an opinion about the stuff, I don’t use it myself.Virtually no hair left to put it in.
    But did you know hairgel was actually invented by dutch manufacturer (Keune)? And also that it has very little or even zero resemblence with grease?

    • dot says:

      Ahhh, very interesting Hans! A dutch invention! I am not a bit surprised ; ))

    • Stella says:

      But Wiki says:
      Brylcreem
      Oude Brylcreem-reclame (afbeelding)

      Brylcreem is een haarpommade bedoeld voor mannen. Het product is in 1928 ontwikkeld door County Chemicals in Birmingham, Engeland.

      Brylcreem wordt gebruikt om het haar in model te brengen en een mooie glans te geven. Later zijn er andere stylingproducten ontwikkeld, zoals haargels of pommades met andere eigenschappen. Het product wordt verkocht in tubes en potten. Brylcreem vormt de basis voor de zogeheten vetkuif.

      De jingle suggereert dat het product de dames aantrekt: But watch out, The gals will all pursue ya, They’ll love to put their fingers through your hair.

  6. Len says:

    Haha this is so true! But I always think about foreigners who would walk in public with a sheep on their head :-) it’s just how you see it :p

  7. hessel says:

    I have to make a note here it is makelaar with one a. NOT maakelaar.

  8. Rick says:

    no comment, never got it myself… then again i shave my head daily, so i am not realy your typical dutchie

    • Ana Maria says:

      You are:) coz a dutchie is it’s not curly, long hair, filled with gel, is bald :))

      • steve says:

        you know that ain’t true right cuz i have straight middle length hair only using gel if i have a bad hairday or if i want another hairstyle with my haircut, but i must say i’m born asian so i have more awesome hair than some dutch have xd

  9. Bernjan says:

    I love a bit of hairgel in my hair, Don’t like how it looks without the stuff.

  10. Dutchmanjoel says:

    As for me, my curls are a mess. (not blonde, that a positive ;) ) I like my hair a bit longer, and therefore it will get messier. In formal occasions, it’s an almost an unoutspoken rule that you look neat. Dutch people don’t see messy curls as neat. Therefore, on occasion, I sometimes put some gel in my hair. People see that as neatness, like you are taking good care of yourself. Don’t know where that came from, but that’s how things stand. xD

    • dot says:

      Yeh, but honey, hair with lots of gel in it DOESN’T look neat, it looks like a big greasy mess! ; ))

    • my boyfriend is Dutch ( i am english)..he has beautiful curly hair and yes puts gel on it..i dont care either way he is still a beautiful man

    • Stella says:

      A hairdo and make-up are suppose to make you look “verzorgd”. Without people do not want to recognise carefully clothing, washing, combing, brushed shoes. I don’t know if it is typical Dutch or typical people to check on one or two items to deside it is good or very bad.

  11. Meritdeperit says:

    I gotta be honest, since i was so used to our Dutch boys doing their hair like that (in holland i actually play fieldhockey) i was amazed to see that guys in America don’t put anything in their hair at all! I’ve been living in upstate New York for almost a year now and i’m liking their hairdo wayy better.
    At least now i can put my hands in somebody’s hair without getting stuck :)

  12. Amy says:

    American women like myself do NOT like shellacked hair. It’s worse when the inevitable baldness sets in because the gel makes the man look like he has even LESS hair, arranged like stiff wires covering his head! Okay, maybe it helps waterproof the hair and keep it out of the face if it’s windy, but in bed, PLEASE, wash it out first.

    • you literally took the words out of my mouth… !!!! my first action when I moved to the Netherlands was to take my Dutch boyfriend to the hairdresser :-)
      But it’s not only the gel… it seems Dutch men also have a thing for long hair! It was one of the first things I noticed here…

  13. Sandeman says:

    I have quite short hair (3-4 cm or 1.5″ for people with metric difficulties), but still use some hairgel in the morning. I guess my hairs dislike each other, because after half an hour they will keep a tiny distance between each and everyone of them. The result is similar to a “wc borstel”.
    So I stick the little bastards together with a bit of hairgel. Makes me look goooooooooooood =)

  14. I have even seen that gel in the toilet of a restaurant… just in case the duck salad made your hair look fuzzy or something; toilet with a small sink with only cold water by the way. The Netherlands is just The Netherlands :)

    • Tess says:

      Did you have to pay 50c for the toilet?

      • Lynn says:

        Tess, he probably had to, and I bet also another 50c for the dollop of gel.

    • Ana Maria says:

      This is the most silly thing i ve ever read! :)))))))

    • Lisa says:

      Well, I’ve been living in England for a couple of months now (originally Dutch) and noticed that they have ironers in the bathrooms everywhere which baffled me quite a lot. You can put 50 pence in it and it works for a couple of minutes. So I suppose every country has it’s own weird things in the bathrooms.

  15. Citizen_Stu says:

    Don’t forget about the famous Dutch mullet

  16. Laura says:

    I don’t really have an opinion on whether this is right or wrong (depends on the way the hair is cut) but it is kind of funny. It is not just for the lazy guys who do not like hair cuts. I see it on guys with short hair too. Like one of the commenters above I think it is seen as a symbol of neatness, that you look like you take care of yourself. The copious amounts are because there is no other way to keep the hair in place for an entire day because have forbid one hair should fall out of place.

  17. Aida says:

    I go crazy when I see INFANT BOYS IN THEIR STROLLERS WITH GELLED LITTLE MOHAWKS. Maybe the consistent use of hair gel causes allows some chemicals to seep into brains and thus affects judgement (red pants, seriously?). I made my Dutchie fiance stop using hair gel early on because my hand would get stuck in his head. He’s much handsomer for it too.

  18. Rebecca says:

    Good fun to read your blog. You probably mean BN-ers (Bekende Nederlanders) instead of bnn-ers. Although bnn-ers do exist as well I guess, as BNN is quite known as well (omroep organsatie, isn’t this something really Dutch as well, that you can become a member of a omroep, like Vara, KRO, BNN etc). Does this exist in other countries? This originates from the verzuiling. If you were a socialist in the past, you would join the Vara. If you were catholic you would join KRO. Same for schools, football clubs etc; there are different ones for catholics, protestants and non religious.

  19. Anna says:

    Personally, I don’t like it. I guess it’s just normalcy, because almost everybody does it.
    But it’s not because they won’t get a haircut or won’t wash their hair, because they also do it after that.

  20. Jolene says:

    I guess the fact that I grew up with it, has made me kinda like it (don’t kill me!). I often think that guys without anything in their hair look like they’ve just rolled out of bed!

  21. Dee says:

    Like stated above, I really think it’s just normalcy. I really don’t like it either, and I think a lot of people don’t, but using hair gel shows that you actually took the effort of styling your hair. And I agree that those idiotic 14-year-olds with the overdose of gel look absolutely ridiculous, but there are some right ways to use gel…

  22. Thank you for posting this!! It’s amazing, I was an expat in Amsterdam for 3 years and this just brings back some amazing memories!!!

  23. anaora says:

    I moved here from Canada as well, and the long hair, with tonnes of gel was and still is a big turn off from the Dutch guys. It makes them look greasy and/or balding. Either way, not a good look!

  24. Alexandre says:

    The following theory came from a former roomate of mine, American himself:

    it’s the only haircut that doesn’t get messed up when you ride your bike.

    Simple as that. Go with the spikes, the fringe, or anything else: it’s all over the place as soon as you step off that oma fiets. Hair geled back: not a milimeter of it has moved by the time you get to your destination, reglardless of how crap the weather decides to be – and we all know that tends to happen way more often than needed.

    Bike + wind + rain = one way out: aerodynamics.

  25. Kees says:

    Well I don’t know. For me, a tall, blonde Dutchmen with indeed longer hair than the average US guy, the main part if lazyness and a healthy dislike for haircuts. One could argue that getting a short haircut once and maintaining that would not be that much of a hassle. However, I’ve had quite some positive reactions here in Chicago on the hair. Of course many comments as well about being to poor for a haircut, but overall in bars and clubs girls always end up with hands in my hair. Maybe it works better here where I’m one of the few with longer hair, whereas in Amsterdam I would be one of a small army, but so far no complaints!

  26. Robin says:

    Haha yes it’s tipical Dutch soo?
    I like it because people who lives on the other side of the sea knows who we are!

    But you’re right, I’ve a red trouser, but I have not a vat, but a tube. It’s more easy when you go on holiday or at school.. Yeayea

    Soo……. I still hope you like us! People on the other side

  27. Frank says:

    This Dutch cultus is also caused by the weather. Because of the fat the rain doesn’t stick in your hair. And as for the women; they wear raincaps

  28. James says:

    I’m Dutch, but I’ve always found the messy hairgelly lump of curls look to look aweful. I don’t like hairgel at all so I never use it. I just keep it short, gel-less and soft :)

  29. Katherine says:

    Well, from what I know they just use Hair Gel simply because it makes the hair simpler to get ready; so when they get up, shower etc, put some gel on their hair and are ready to go :)
    It’s just simple as that and it’s culture.. I think it’s pretty coool that so many people of a country have such a habit. It distinguishes them as unique. ;)

  30. S says:

    This one made me giggle big time! The long, greezy hair just looks very unclean and nasty, I honestly don’t know any other place where grown-up men walk around with such bad hair.

    “or cycling through the city with their girly looking hockey sticks (I can’t help it, I’m Canadian and only ice hockey sticks look manly!)” – Brilliant! As a Nordic myself I have caused a number of arguments with my Dutch male friends by making this statement :)

  31. jorg says:

    I really need to show my girlfriend these comments.. she’s trying to force me to use hair gel… and i hate the stuff :p

  32. Peter Cederblad says:

    My two year old son goes to kindergarden here. The first three months, every single day he would come home with hairgel in his hair! To the point we had to ask them to stop putting the stuff in his hair! Everyday for months they did.. Unbelievable when you think about it..

  33. Dutchie says:

    I am Dutch, and I moved to America a year ago. I have to admit, I love it over here. But there are a few things I can’t get used to! Everyday I wonder why all those American guys have no idea how to do their hair. I keep wondering why they don’t put any hair gel in their hair. They look ridiculous without, it looks like they don’t care how they look like, what is probably true. Dutch boys care a lot about their appearance.
    I actually gave a tube of hair gel to an American friend for his birthday – with the comment that he should use it. He was surprised… but it looks so much better!! Just guys in general, they have no idea what a guy should look like, what kind of clothes to wear, I don’t get it… Maybe that’s because I’m used to all the girls that dress up their boyfriend. You haven’t mentioned that yet, but it happens all the time! And yes, we think that’s normal…

    • blambazaar says:

      right on, dutchie. it’s also egalitarian. everyone can be trendily gelled. you can be a tax auditor with cool gelled hair, or a streetsweeper. gel rules, ok?

    • Tomm says:

      What is ridiculous is to constantly have some weird fake goo on your head. Which is why in the rest of the world people don’t wear gel, unless they’re 14 maybe. There is nothing wrong with hair, just as they look naturally. I can’t believe you’d be so ‘disgusted’ with all the rest of the world, since you are the only ones going around like that! And I also don’t like the way dutch guys dress, by the way.

  34. femkestrietman says:

    Actually I think pretty much EVERY guy between 15-30 uses hair gel here. Even if you only have a little bit of hair, it’s drowning in hair gel. If you touch it, your hand will either hurt (because concrete hair will spike you) or covered in grease. Yuk

  35. My dutch boyfriend is 35 and still gels his hair. I tell him it looks great ungeld but that doesnt stop him from every morning slabbing gooey gel in his hair

  36. Chicagoan in Amsterdam says:

    The fact that Dutch guys consider that look as “neat” is laughable. Gel is so 90′s. Adult men here look like clueless teenage boys. Disagree with Dutchie about American guys, at least in any large city – I’m from there, they care plenty about their hair. Something every Dutch guy with that hideous greasy curly mess on this head should be introduced to: hair putty & wax. The Dutch live in a bubble. Welcome to 2012.

  37. Bas says:

    Hahaha! Yes! We do! :)

  38. Allison says:

    Well this explains why my dutch boy friend uses a lot of hair gel xD

  39. irn says:

    May be it has to do with Dutchies not wanting the wind to mess up their hair all the time (?) added to the fact that they like to look all nice and beautiful all the time (and somehow they think it even works when they pick their noses). Bloody wind made me feel like MaryPoppins several times when I lived there: the tinny little flying latin girl with the yellow umbrella trololo tralala. So immagine what it can do to their hair if they are 1 mt taller than me! :P

  40. Olleh says:

    Can’t live without it. Rather put in 1 jar at a time than not having it in at all. I hate walking with a dead sheep on my head.

  41. Oh man, this is so true.

    My girlfriend and I are expats living in Rotterdam – the guys here can\’t get enough of the gelatinous mess! I mean there is \”doing your hair\” and then there\’s pouring a whole tub of gel on it in an attempt to look \’hockey\’. The former makes you look nice, and the latter makes your head look like a slick backed car crash.

    Funny post as always, keep ’em coming!

  42. Harm says:

    Hahaha my brother and I were just wondering why American guys who are, for example, defined as ‘cool and popular’ in stuff like MTV usually look like they don’t care how they look, don’t do their hair and look like complete nerds to us. He said it was the same when he visited a Highschool over there.

  43. Yael says:

    The Gel– spot on! You never see so many hair products for men elsewhere!
    Dutch men; that’s just a whole other post. The normal, average male wears a TON of Gel (or Wax; for the more sophisticated Dutch guy), wear bright colored sweaters (usually picked up by their wives/girl friends; electric green, magenta and orange– colors you usually would dress kids in) and wear these rectangle, edgy specs. Mostly a pair of jeans- nothing new here. They like shirts with prints (something only kids wear in other countries) and wording in mostly English- words that make no sense at all! Nice and tight to show off their beer belly! They buy them at the WE or C&A. Shoes are usually most expensive of the ensemble ranging between sneakers and pointy leather numbers with a twist- bright laces or a print. Granted most Dutch males have huge feet, so one can not really overlook those ‘zijlboten’ (sail boats) of shoes that mostly add a couple sizes. Here you have it, your typical Dutch male. Oh, did I mention most of them have a windbreaker as coat, preferably the same one as their partners? They get these at the ANWB (the Dutch AAA road assistance accessories) store—so funny!!

  44. Yael says:

    Some call the gel looks where Dutch males try to create ‘spikes’; ‘alle kanalen binnen krijgen’ = getting all the channels!
    Love the posts- so much FUN!

  45. It’s the humidity and wind. Makes all hair frizzzz…

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  48. My boyfriend is Dutch and he uses so much hair gel!!! He knows not to wear it when he’s just with me but if we go out with his friends or if he’s at work, he whips out the gel. I just don’t understand!!!!!

  49. marijn says:

    The variety of haircuts you can make with gel is way larger than without. Also, hair gel doesn’t feel greasy at all: It just dries up and becomes hard. I currently don’t use hair gel, but I probably should, because I have “wings” and they would probably be more stable with gel.

    I’m Dutch and most young men here in the south (Brabant) indeed use hair gel. Generally, it doesn’t look meesy at all.

  50. draske says:

    Being Dutch and using gel myself I am always surprised to see the lack of care guys in other countries take with their appearance. What is the problem with putting your hair in a nice way, and taking care of yourself ? I’m traveling often to Romania and the girls look stunning, but the guys all look like they just came out of bed.
    This is probably a very cultural thing and if you are not used to guys using gel it probably looks very weird to you, just as it looks weird to me not to use it.

  51. Anke says:

    Hilarious observation! Maybe it’s got something to do with Dutch hair being generally not so thick and of undefined colour? (melkboerenhondenhaar). Imagine that after a good shower while biking to work/school/the pub in a country where hoods are for sissies and gangstas and you might understand why so many are unwilling to give up this 80s fashion…… And do not interfere with a Dutch man and his dress sense in the first place :-)

  52. jess says:

    Asian men have a love for hair product too. I understand it though, because my husband’s hair is so naturally coarse and straight. Without the putty his hair would just stick up and out like a big koosh ball. He used to use gel but then I suggested he tried styling wax or putty instead since it doesn’t make his hair crispy and flaky.

  53. Olivia says:

    lol. No way. You should visit some countries in Latin America. Travel a bit more.

  54. Humus says:

    This has a very simple and straightforward explanation. (yes I’m Dutch)

    As a boy, you start worrying about your hair when you hit puberty (before that it’s you mother’s problem :) ) And at that age you are riding you bike to school.
    So after a few tries basically everybody starts accepting that any hairdo that is stable (looks the same when you arrive at school) needs ‘a bit’ of gel.

  55. S-J says:

    This is a great post. By the way not many talk of the ‘dutch hair gene’. Some friends and I have named it this because a lot of Dutch guys are lucky enough to have hair to keep putting the gel into, well into their 40s and beyond. Hair here is generally thick and curly (also later in life) whilst in the UK it all falls out a lot earlier. I say they should therefore be able to do what they want with it, despite it not being to everyone’s tastes :) Go dutch hair gene!!

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  57. I lived in the Netherlands for a while, and this is exactly one of those things I will always remember..fire hazardous hair gel everywhere! Once we had a field trip away from uni and our dutch course mate took two bottles of hair gel for a 3 day trip, we were astounded to say the least :) However, he and others were very nice people, gel could never get in the way of that :)

  58. Nana says:

    My Dutch boyfriend has BEAUTIFUL curls, and it took me 2 years to convince him not to chop them off. He used to get really short haircuts and use hair gel. Fortunately he gave up both. Life is beautiful now. ;D
    I guess Dutchies generally prefer straight hair, and this is one of those few points where they tend to switch from the “natural” to the heavy-gel (and over flat ironing for ladies) “do” !

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  62. Rachel says:

    I have Dutch American hair, and it’s very thick and unruly as is the rest of my family’s. Cowlicks, etc. It is difficult to keep (or get into) in a style that we like. It could be that the gel just keeps it more even and controlled. To be honest, I have used gel this way, as a woman, to keep the hair where I want it, and yes, I used lots. :) I didn’t know that the Dutch invented hairgel. Fascinating!! Makes a lot of sense.

  63. Leon says:

    Probably because it’s very windy in Holland!

  64. Frank says:

    Seeing that if I don’t use hairgel my hair looks like I’ve been electocuted I am a user of the goo.
    But it is like everything else, too much is never a good thing. Just a little to keep things in place.
    Not crispy, no wetlook. Just damage control
    (the poldermodel for using hairgel) :)

  65. Róman says:

    worst subjective piece i’ve read about this topic from affar…. wow, how about not thinking with a tunnel-vision and asking dutch people about it? that would have widened your perspective a lot.

  66. Mandy says:

    The problem is that Dutch men are Mamma’s boys and Dutch women put up with them….
    Dutch men are as vain as the Italians. With 2 obvious differences:
    1 they think they aren’t (vain or mamma’s boys)
    2 no sense of style……

    I married a Brit and escaped…..

  67. Jan says:

    Hate gel, but one tiny remark.. I dare to play hockey as you Canadians call it, but hockey? To play it, you’re not over protected, as in icehockey…

  68. Hmmm I never even realised this was such a typical ‘Dutch’ thing. I, as a girl at an age of 17 years old, really prefer the gelled look. I think it looks more cared for and I like that everything stays in place. I really don’t mind the gel in the guys hair when I go with my hands through it, maybe because I’m used to it already? I just love the gelled look! Some people aren’t just born with perfect hair. So, am I a typical dutchie? Maybe, but I prefer to be one, because I like the gelled look better than the ‘just out of bed’ look

  69. Stella says:

    I will never get used to the gel heads and the look of undtended wetted hair after a short douche.

  70. Señor Sjon says:

    1) Without gel, it looks like a toilet brush after it has dried from the shower.
    2) DO NOT touch the hair when gelled. It is constructed very carefully every morning and we don’t like it when anyone messes with it, especially when we still need to go outdoors.
    3) There is always wind around here, it makes a mess of any unprotected hairstyle.

  71. Ms L says:

    Haha! Never thought of that (hair gel phenomenon). My Dutch partner would never use gel ( thank God) but now that I think of it – he is quite particular about his hair. Seeing an old picture of him explains why he prefers keeping his hair very short: it would be very frizzy. Some tackle it with gel.

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