Today’s beauty uniform is near and dear to my heart: my husband Alex Williams! Here, just for fun, he shares his go-to fragrance, the best glasses for big heads, and the dating advice he’ll give our boys…
As a style writer for the New York Times, do you have a product that you cannot live without?
Sunscreen. I’ve worn it on my face every day for decades. Most natural sunscreens are total greasepaint, but a couple years ago, I tried the Josie Maran’s tinted moisturizer at work. It’s smooth and lightweight, and I have been using it ever since.
You do know you’re 100% wearing foundation, right?
I guess I mostly know that. I like that it gives me color! I just have to be careful not to go too far. An editor at work once said, ‘Wow, you got some sun.’ I need to learn to apply it better, like how you’re always telling me, ‘You have to blend it into your beard, you don’t want to see the line!’
What is the most drastic thing you’ve ever done with your overall look?
I actually never, ever thought I’d be a beard guy. Growing up, beard guys were Grizzly Adams, and I wanted to be James Dean. But ten years ago, over Christmas, I got a killer case of stomach flu. Obviously, I didn’t shave that week. You liked it and told me to keep it. Now a beard has become my look for more than a decade.
Let’s talk about fragrances.
The first fragrance I ever got into — like every other college guy I knew — was Ralph Lauren Polo. I still have a soft spot for it and think it smells amazing. I didn’t wear cologne for many years in my 20s and 30s, but when we started dating, you gave me Kiehl’s Musk, which was a good gateway scent. Now I have four or five on rotation — especially Bowmakers from D.S. & Durga. It’s inspired by old violin shops, and it has a woody, almost whiskey-ish undertone. I love this stuff.
Did you wear any special fragrances while dating?
Oh, I have the most embarrassing story, I’m cringing. During the early days of the internet, I stumbled across this special pheromone fragrance online. I was like, you know what, it’s twenty bucks, it’s worth rolling the dice. So, I wore it on a date, and the whole time, I was like, this smells kind of funky, like a cherry air freshener for your car. Needless to say, we did not end up together.
Live and learn! What hair products do you use?
My hair is naturally wild and woolly, so I use a unisex bedhead product that I really like. And I have a small grey patch on my beard, which I cover up with the Just For Men beard dye.
Any beauty mistakes you remember?
Years ago, I was visiting a guy friend in L.A., but I had forgotten to bring any hair stuff. I remembered that an ex-girlfriend said, ‘Oh, fashion models use sugar and water and it works just as well as hair gel.’ I found some powdered sugar in the kitchen and patted some on my head. My friend was like, you look like a churro.
Glasses are such a big part of your look. What frames do you go for?
Regular Warby Parker glasses are too small for my giant head, but I’ve figured out a hack: their sunglass frames are larger, and you can fit them with regular lenses. For sunglasses, I love the Moscot oversized aviators. I’m obsessed with the Vietnam war, so when I wear them, I always think of Robert Duvall in ‘Apocalypse Now.’
Any drugstore products you swear by?
Salt deodorant. It’s basically a little salt lick. They last forever; I bought my last one five years ago and it’s still going strong. I haven’t purchased regular deodorant for 15 years and haven’t missed it a bit.
Can you tell us about your nutty bedtime routine?
I’ve suffered from insomnia (technically, delayed sleep-phase disorder) since I was a child, and I’ve seen a million sleep doctors. I’ve come to rely on a whole bedside table full of things. A noise machine, for sure. The Tempur-Pedic sleep mask is a must. (The cheap thin ones are uncomfortable and don’t block all the light; plus, the elastic stretches out so you can only wear it a couple times.) My doctor also turned me on to a new herbal regimen, and it works for me: 5 mg melatonin, plus Best Rest Formula, plus some stuff called Cortisol Manager. It’s not the knockout blow you get with prescription meds, but it eases me into sleep.
What did the men in your family teach you about beauty?
My dad washed his hair with bar soap (the cheap pink bars that came in plastic bags of six) and was so averse to any products, even sunscreen, that he had a permanent V-shaped sunburn on his chest from wearing T-shirts while doing yard work on the weekends. He was basically the exact age as Don Draper, and he had all the same mid-century male suspicions about anything related to “beauty.” My older brother was the same. He lived in the Mojave Desert, where the sun is so intense that it would literally crack the upholstery of a car, but still, he never wore sunscreen. We’re talking old-school dudes here.
Did they give you dating advice?
Not a shred. My dad married the first woman he dated. Girls naturally loved my brother but he had no game. All my high school friends were clueless. So, I went out in the dating world and made every conceivable mistake. You really do need an older friend or dad or brother to take you aside and tell you the ropes.
So, will you give our boys dating advice?
For sure. I’ll tell them: it’s important to have game, but not play games. Rules like ‘wait three days to call’ are utter horseshit. If someone likes you, they like you; if they don’t, they don’t. There’s not much you can do to “trick” someone. Also, just be nice. When I was young, I thought girls always went for bad boys and rockstars; I shot myself in the foot trying to be the angry young rebel. But in the end, every girl who ever liked me liked me because I was nice.
What non-beauty rituals make you feel good?
I bike to work most days — during the non-freezing months. Going through midtown Manhattan isn’t that relaxing, but overall it feels so good. Sometimes I’ll bike across the Brooklyn Bridge late at night, when it feels as if you have the world to yourself. You’re gliding over the bridge, every landmark in NYC is lit up on either side of you, and it feels like you’re flying.
How about fashion?
Years ago, I interviewed Owen Wilson in Texas. I remember him saying, ‘You know how people get on Prozac and all this stuff? Well, it is impossible to be depressed in a cowboy hat.’
Thank you so much, Alex! We love you!
(Wedding photo by Max Wanger.)