Are you happy with your haircut?
No? Well, you’re not alone. What should, in theory, be a pleasurable and relaxing experience can often turn out to be anything but. For many of us, getting our hair cut is much more tiresome than it needs to be – whether because we leave forlorn with a subpar fade or find that we must not be making ourselves clear when we say we actually did want to keep the fringe, thanks.
Unlike a pair of poorly-fitting trousers, you can’t take your hair off. So, to help you in your search for an unbeatable barnet, we asked four esteemed barbers for their advice on getting the perfect cut.
1. Do Your Homework
You wouldn’t buy a tux without doing a hefty bit of research and, unlike your haircut, you’re not going to be wearing that every day.
It pays to shop around before committing to a barber or hair stylist. Expense does not equal excellence – just because a haircut costs you the price of a three-course meal, it doesn’t mean you’re going to get exactly what you want. Dropping by the nearest salon or taking advantage of a student-run complimentary cuts promotion is risky business.
This is especially true for those with afro hair, explains celebrity hairstylist Jamie Stevens: “Afro hair can present different challenges for every individual, so it’s important to book in with a stylist who fully understands your hair type and is confident working with it.”
Rather than simply going on rates and judging establishments on their taste in interior design, spend time browsing online reviews and ask your mates for recommendations instead.
“Most of my clients have heard of me through word of mouth,” says Carmelo Guastella, British GQ‘s ‘Barber of Choice’. “We all trust a friend’s advice.”
2. Come Correct
Fail to prepare, prepare to fail.
If it’s a dry cut that you’re going for, then it’s best to arrive for your cut with hair that is product-free. Hair that has been washed and towel dried is the best blank canvas for your barber to work their magic:
“It’s preferable to arrive for a haircut with clean hair,” says Sam Hickey, Senior Barber at Murdock at Hackett, Spitalfields. “If your hair is full of product, the way your hair naturally sits can become distorted.”
If, on the other hand, you’re opting for a shampoo as well as a cut, then your hair needn’t be so naked:
“You can arrive with your hair lightly styled – but don’t use too heavy a product, as this will allow your barber to comb through properly when snagging hair,” says Alex Glover, Master Barber at Murdock at Liberty, London. If you’re looking to keep your style as is, then turning up for your cut with your hair styled allows your barber to instantly assess what you’re looking for.
“If you have curly hair, it’s advisable not to shampoo your hair for the two days before your haircut,” says Alex Glover. “This will leave your curls more naturally toned so your barber can see how they sit.” The easier it is for your barber to see how your curls fall, the easier it is for them to give you the best cut possible.
3. Don’t Be Tardy
Arriving late might be fashionable when it comes to a party, but it’s just plain foolish not to be on time for a hair appointment. Ensuring you arrive on time means you’ll get the best possible service, as your barber or stylist won’t need to rush or reshuffle their schedule.
It’s also important to book a long enough appointment, says Alex Glover: “If your last cut was more than six weeks ago, book what’s called a restyle haircut so that your barber or stylist has plenty of time to give you the service you deserve.”
4. Talk It Out
Amid the noise of furiously buzzing clippers and hairdryers on full blast, it’s all too easy for specific requirements to be misheard. The moment you take a seat in your barber’s chair, it’s imperative you communicate exactly what you’re looking for – and brace yourself for (hopefully) honest feedback too.
“Ideally, your barber will ask you a range of open-ended questions to get to the bottom of what you want,” says Alex Glover. This is known as the consultation: a conversation between you and your barber where they tease out information to build a profile of a style that will suit your face and head shape, hair type and age.
But, equally, you should be open to professional opinion. “Be ready for change,” says Carmelo Guastella. “If a barber always does exactly what you tell them to do without giving helpful suggestions on how your cut could be improved further, then they’re not doing their job properly.”
“It’s up to you to specify the length of hair to be removed (or to remain) in centimetres,” says Alex Glover. “You can use your fingers to demonstrate your ideal length.” Gestures, Glover adds, can be particularly useful for illustrating the structure and movement of the hairstyle you’re going for too.
Pall Mall Barbers
Talking shop is important too. “Ask your barber what will suit your face shape and your occupation,” advises Sam Hickey. “You’ll never see a barrister with a top knot!” And don’t be tempted to try using hair lingo (‘disconnections’, graduation etc.) unless you really know what you’re talking about.
Finally, don’t fret. “Many people feel pressured when discussing options, start to panic and ultimately decide on playing it safe and having the same style,” says Jamie Stevens. So don’t sweat the small stuff if you’re looking for a change.
5. Show And Tell
“Showing a photo of a haircut should give your barber an idea of what you are looking for, but it’s up to the barber to assess whether the style depicted is right for you,” says Carmelo Guastella.
Save images of the style you like to your phone so you can easily illustrate your requests when you’re in the barber’s chair (browse our hairstyles gallery for hundreds of images you can save to your phone or print out and take with you). Just bear in mind that while a buzz cut might suit Tom Hardy, it might not do your face shape any favours.
Below you will find the most popular hairstyles from our gallery over the past month, to provide you with some inspiration for your next cut:
6. The Finishing Touches
As your cut is wrapping up, be sure your barber is taking the time for those all-important finishing touches – whether that’s using a cut-throat razor for those awkward areas around your ears or assessing your hair from several angles to ensure everything is in proportion.
Finally, take this opportunity to pick up some styling advice. “You can have the best haircut in the world, but if you haven’t been taught how to style your hair, or shown the right product to do so, then the cut loses its value,” says Carmelo Guastella.
If you’re not sure just how to nail that quiff or which pomade you need to tame your unruly fringe, then speak up. “One piece of advice that I can’t stress enough is that if you want a specific style but you’re not sure how to achieve it, just ask!” explains Jamie Stevens.
“Most stylists will happily show you which products to use and how to achieve the look for yourself at home.”
7. Rinse And Repeat
“Be prepared to schedule regular trips to the barbershop if you want to keep your new style looking sharp,” says Sam Hickey. Going longer than four to six weeks between haircuts can result in a loss of shape and texture.
8. Switch It Up
Don’t mistake plain silliness for loyalty – sometimes it pays to look elsewhere if you feel your barber isn’t really giving you what you’re after.
“A lot of men will never change their barber and keep the same haircut and style for years – or even forever,” says Carmelo Guastella. “And there’s nothing worse than sticking with a shape or style that doesn’t suit you.”
Ted’s Grooming Room
It’s time to put tonsurephobia to bed. Keep these expert tips in mind next time you plan on getting your ‘do done, and you’ll leave an entirely new man.
Do you have advice on getting the best haircut possible? Stylists or barbershops to recommend?
Comment below to share your two cents.