How to Talk To Your Barber and Get the Haircut You Really Want

Communication is key when you’re getting your hair cut and most of us have no idea what to say.
Try these tips to make sure you leave happy—and looking like the inspo photo you brought with you.
– Article taken from, Written by Garrett Munce – March 11, 2018 –

Guys: we have a communication problem. It’s not with our families (though, yes, that’s very real). It’s not with our coworkers (we’ll get to Roy in receivables another day). It’s not even with our partners. We have a problem talking to arguably one of the most important people in your life: your barber. Yet, according to nearly every barber I’ve ever spoken to, most men lack the know-how to articulate what they want their hair to look like when they’re in the chair. Or more accurately, a majority of guys don’t have the language to even begin talking to the pros about what to do with their heads.

It’s a good thing barbers are trained to interpret our babble. Any cutter worth his salt should be able to decode what you want. They might even be able to decipher what you want when you’re not even aware of that is. But when it comes to your hair, a barber’s number one priority is making you happy, so they’re going to take everything you say with a grain of salt until they can decipher what it is you’re actually looking for. It’s easy to cling to clipper settings (“I’m a one up to a three”), or technical terms you don’t entirely understand (“I want a fade”). But those won’t quite get you across the finish line.

So what do you do? We spoke to Matty Conrad, veteran barber and founder of Victory hair products, about how best to navigate the situation. Whether you’re walking into a new barber shop for the first time or you just want to let your current barber know, in uncertain terms, what you want, we’ve got you covered.

1. Don’t Speak with Words

You know Zayn Malik’s hair? Try to describe it. Tough, right? So when you sit down at the barber, pull out your phone. Have a few pictures ready before you walk in, even if it’s not the full haircut you like. Say you like this guy’s bangs, or this guy’s taper, or this guy’s edges, or all of the above—your barber can bring all those elements together to create the look you’re after. Hallelujah: all that time spent on Instagram was actually building to a purpose.

2. Know Your Hair

Everyone’s hair is different—not just in color. But in texture, thickness, and moisture. And knowing what kind of hair you have will help you understand what kind of cut will work best, and save you a lot of headaches down the line. Your barber will be able to tell you if the haircut you’re asking for is a good fit—and also give you some real talk if you’re thinking crazy. (Don’t know what kind of hair you have? You guessed it: ask your barber.)

3. Use the Right Terms

And by that, we mean no terms. Avoid using words you’ve heard from previous barbers or read on the internet: you probably don’t actually know what “texture” means, no matter how many times you’ve asked for it. Conrad suggests talking about how you want the haircut to feel, not look. “There are little things about that that will tell me as a barber what direction to go,” he says. For instance,
if you want movement on top, say that—instead of, like, “layers,” which you probably don’t want. “You have nothing to prove to [your barber],” Conrad says. So quit trying.

4. And Please Don’t Ask for a Fade (Unless You Want a Fade)

A quick PSA: stop asking for a fade. Not because you shouldn’t want one (it’s a classic haircut that will always look great),
but because what you think is a fade and what actually is a fade are not the same thing. A classic fade is when your hair is cut all the way down to the skin at your hairline (also professionally known as a skin fade). You probably don’t want that. If you want a gradient effect—but, y’know, without the skin showing—ask for a taper.

5. Forget the Number System

You might think that adhering to the number settings on an electric clipper means you can get the exact same haircut, no matter the barber. Sorry to burst your bubble, but it’s impossible to get the same cut from different barbers. The clipper setting numbers
(one, two, three, etc.) are good references for the haircut you got last time, but they’re not a good reference for someone you’ve never been to before. Different barbers have different clippers, different eyes and different interpretations. Hair is not a math equation.

6. Know the Difference Between a Cut and a Style

Think about what kind of hair you want. Now think about what you’re willing to do in order to get that hair. Will you blow dry every morning? Will you use multiple products? Will you use…any products? All of these things are crucial information for a barber, because if you’re not willing to put in the work, you’re not going to like the haircut. Remember this: a haircut is a component
of a hairstyle, but not the whole thing.