You’ve been getting haircuts ever since you were small. You feel like you know the drill, and your hair usually comes out fine.
But the truth is, a lot of men aren’t asking for the haircut they want.
Your barber is not looking for a generic suggestion when he asks, “What are we doing today?”
“Short on the sides, long on top” doesn’t actually help him. In fact, most trending haircuts these days are a variation on that theme. “Like this but shorter” is another nonstarter, because terms like “long” and “short” are relative terms — even to barbers.
What they’re actually looking for is a specific explanation of how you want your hair to look.
Many men keep their requests simple for fear of saying the wrong thing and ending up with a bad cut. But don’t worry about that — a good barber will explain what he’s going to do before he does it and will ask for your feedback as the cut goes on.
The blog Art of Manliness recently took a deep dive into barber/client communication. Here are some key takeways that will help you get a better haircut:
- Be exact about how much you want taken off. Tell your barber, “I want X inches off the sides,” or “Take a quarter-inch off the sides.”
- When it comes to clippers, know your numbers. This electric, mutli-blade razor is frequently used for edging and blending, but can also be used for close shaves on the side or even the top. Clippers are usually used with guards, which dictate how close the cut is. The bigger the number, the longer the hair will be. When you find a length you like, memorise the number. If you don’t have a number, your barber will be happy to help you find it by starting form a longer/larger number and working down.
- You can’t just say “taper” and expect your barber to understand what you mean. A taper refers to hair that gradually gets shorter from one place to another on your head. Usually, this starts long on the top and gets shorter as it goes down. Most of the time your barber will automatically include some sort of taper, but there are short tapers and long tapers, and it’s best to explain clearly and directly to your barber what kind you want.
- Your barber may automatically texture your hair if you need it, but there are certain things you can ask for. Done by holding your hair and cutting it at a 45 degree angle, choppy texture will give your hair the illusion of more volume. For thicker hair with more heft, razored texture streamlines and reduces volume. There’s also thinning, in which your barber uses thinning shears to cut individual hairs. This also reduces bulk on thick heads of hair.
A word of caution: Keep an open mind. Explain the specific haircut you want, but listen to feedback from your barber. You don’t want to end up with a cut that doesn’t work for your face shape or hair type.
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