You walk into the barbershop…
It's been a good day… time to relax…
You take a seat…
…and give some general direction of what you want to the barber.
Then 20 minutes in you realize…
Your hair is gone!
I guess “just a trim” wasn't specific enough.
Your haircut is ruined…
but who's REALLY to blame? You or your barber?
The truth is… it's both.
Chances are it was due to poor communication, not poor skills.
Communication is key for any relationship…
Don't be just his customer – be his friend too.
That's how you'll get the perfect haircut.
So follow these 5 useful tips to help you build that kind of relationship.
1. Find The Right Photo
There’s a whole lot more you can do with your hair… if you can visualize it. The first step is having a good picture of the style you want before entering the barbershop.
Browse through pictures online or check some magazines (you might even find the best ones inside the barbershop). You want to select a style that suits your facial features and personality.
Using the photo, show your barber the exact parts of the hair that you want copied to your own. Sometimes the guy in the picture has a different bone structure or head shape. So you both need to be on the same page in terms of what's feasible and what's important.
You want a mutual understanding, and a clear game plan is required. This is NOT the time for you to be shy or disinterested. Remember that it's your money, your needs – you deserve to speak up.
2. Be Specific About What You Want
You have to give specific descriptions so your barber himself can visualize what you have in mind. Use your hands to guide him towards the areas that need more trimming, and those that need less. Don't expect your barber to fill in the gaps. They are experts at cutting hair – not reading minds.
Avoid using the following statements:
- “Just take a little off” – How much is a little?
- “Just a trim” – This wouldn't be a problem if you're a regular in the store. But if it's your first time in, how is the barber supposed to measure “just” which is very subjective?
- “Whatever suits me” – In this case, the barber will most likely give you a shorter version of the one you walked in with. If you want something different, tell him what you like about your current style and what you want to change.
Instead, use the following hairdressing terminology to explain lengths and cuts:
- Fade/Taper – Refers to the gradient of your hair length (gradually fading from longer to shorter). The fade is generally achieved using clippers and guards of various lengths.
- Thin – The barber will use thinning shears to remove some of your hair's volume by cutting selective strands of hair.
- Layered – Hair of varying lengths, with longer hair resting on top of shorter hair. Layers can emphasize the volume and depth of your hairstyle.
- Buzz – Also referred to as a military cut. It's shaving the whole thing off.
3. Describe The Length
This is the part where it's really a team effort. As your barber starts cutting, you should keep telling him whether to keep going or stop at a certain point. It should always be in the back of your mind – how long or short do I want the top and sides?
That question must be addressed before you even step into the shop. It depends on how you're going to style your hair. Most men prefer a size 2 clipper on the sides, and although that's short, it's not short enough to reveal much of the skin. It also keeps the hair looking clean and well-trimmed for a month.
Be as specific as possible. If you're not in the mood to keep waiting for those “stop” points, break down all of the details by inches – like say “an inch on the side and a couple of inches on the top.”
And also tell the barber if you're unsure about a certain area. Let him start by cutting off a bit, then give him the GO signal if you want him to continue.
4. Show Exactly How You Style Your Hair
It also helps to show the barber how your hair looks on a typical day, and what products you use. This will especially come in handy when you describe the style you want. Since he's the expert – he can explain the possibilities and limitations you will face based on your hair.
It’s easier if you know the name of the hairstyle you want. This requires some reading up before the day of your appointment.
This is how the both of you can be clear on whether Haircut A is going to work, or if it can only be applied to a certain extent… or if a hybrid between Haircut A and Haircut B is the best option.
5. Defer To Your Barber
You’ve done your research and believe you know precisely what you want.
Now it's time to be open and ASK for suggestions. This is where it matters to trust your barber’s experience. If you've shown enough of a friendly vibe and he responds well to it – it makes that trust much easier to build.
At some point, there's no other piece of instruction to give and it's all in the barber's hands. So listen to your barber's expertise if he senses that something may not work, and defer to his opinion. You need to have faith that he has your best interests in mind.
Then again… if your gut is strongly against it… you should be able to assert yourself. In the end, YOU are the boss. You should be listened to first and foremost.
This kind of conflict happens a lot when it comes to the tapered neckline. It suits some men really well, while others are unknowingly better off with a blocked, clean look. Your barber will most likely suggest that it's better to go with a part, and then learn the right technique of combing your hair. Trust him on that.
Bonus Tips: Barbershop Etiquette & How To Reach “Friend” Status
Show up early for an appointment.
Being late makes it hard for the barber because it puts him in a tough position on whether or not to cut your hair. You might set him back on his schedule for the entire day.
Tip well if you had to reschedule.
If a client runs late once, but then reschedules and leaves a big tip next time… he's cool in the barber's book. That's how the barber knows you're showing appreciation for his (sometimes) thankless job.
If you're not the chatty type, be polite and respond to your barber's attempts at small talk. Someone has to break the ice… and it's only fair that the second person keeps the ball rolling.
Enjoy a good conversation.
The key is small talk… with smiles, harmless jokes and nothing too sensitive to discuss. Save your sob stories and avoid controversial topics. But sharing some personal information with your barber does create a bond that will help you communicate better next time.
You need to follow up a great haircut with the right hair products. You might want to ask your barber for product recommendations as well as tips on hair care.
If you feel like trying a new product, try it at the barbershop and leave it in your hair for a day before you decide to make a purchase. That's enough time to find out if it actually helps you style your hair appropriately.