For the most part, Barbers are pretty skilled in their art. (See "The Classic Pomadour Here) Most will agree, 50% of their job is sizing up a customer and reading their mind from the moment they walk in the door. From what you’re wearing to how you carry yourself, barbers have an uncanny ability to read minds.  This unfortunately isn’t true all the time. Because of this, we have pieced together the “Field Guide” on how to talk to your Barber… Not about your how wasted you got last night or your ex, they could give less of a shit about that, but about how you style your hair and the exact cut you’re looking for. 

1. Explain Your Normal Styling Habits

The first thing a new barber will ask you when you sit in his chair is: “So, what are you looking for today?” or something along those lines. This is code for “What EXACTLY do you want your hair to look like at the end of this?” By doing this, he is working his way backwards and starting from the end to find out exactly how you style your hair on a regular basis. Do you use Pomade? Do you use clay? Do you use peanut butter?(Not recommended) Are you looking for a more classic haircut or something a little more modern? Is this a new style your looking for or is there something in particular you want to try out. Be precise, use hand gestures or bring a photo of the exact cut you’re looking for (Please avoid David Beckham, Barbers hate that shit)

2. Know your Guard Length

Knowing your “Guard Length” is one of the more important aspects of getting your haircut from a barber. The guard is used to trim the side and back of your head and is the shortest part of your cut.

  • 0/No Guard – This is usually used for a “Tight/Skin” Fade. The barber will use no guard and cut your hair as short as possible.
  • 1-2 Guard – This is used for more modern styles. Usually relatively short, think military.
  • 3+ Guard –Think military cut…just 2 weeks later. This would be comparable to a Don Draper cut.

3. “How much do you want off the top?”

After the sides have been cut, a Barber will want to know the amount he or she should take off the top. This usually depends on your styling habit. For the most part, Barbers are pretty capable of guessing. If you know the exact amount, pull up a group of hairs, place it between two fingers and let them measure this by replacing your fingers with theirs (avoid eye contact during the pass off, it could be very, very weird)

4. Round or Square Back?

The final part of your cut will be using either a straight edge or skin razor to clean up your neck area. This is completely up to your discretion and will depend on how you like the back of your neck area to look. 

5. Product or No Product

Owing to the resurgence of Pomade and it’s use, many barbers at the end of a cut will ask if you want product in your hair. Once again, this is your discretion. No one knows exactly how to style your hair except you. Because of this, we usually recommend adding no product into your hair unless you’re absolutely positive the barber knows what you’re looking for or if they are ok with handing the comb over and letting you do this yourself.. Below are some of the types of products you may be offered:

  • Lite Hold Matte Clay – A Matte clay is a product for the guy who likes to look like they don’t use product. These products are more for texture than actual style, you should be able to easily run your hands through your hair after applying.
  • Medium Hold Fiber Pomade – This product is for the messy but put together look. Usually used for more “Modern Looks”, this product is best for a low shine, medium hold and pliable feel.
  • Strong Hold Classic Pomade – This product is for the Classic cuts. Mainly keeping every hair in place, high shine and a more “Upscale” styling. 

In the end, all barbers are different and have different approaches to different cuts. The best thing we can recommend is finding a great local barber and sticking with them until they have mastered your cut and none of these steps need to be taken. For the most part, a barber will only need one visit to know exactly what you’re looking for, if it takes longer…bail and find another.

Happy Styling!