Getting your hair cut is a service and therefore you should be in charge. The master of your own mop, if you will. But knowing exactly how to get the most out of your time in the chair (and we don’t just mean the most cut for your cash) requires a little inside knowledge.

The best grooming outposts these days offer more than just a bog-standard snip, so it’s in your interest to enjoy the experience, get on well with your barber and walk out with some tips for recreating the freshly trimmed look at home.

In order to do this, we spoke to experts at three of London’s most stylish snippers – Man Made, Murdock and Ruffians – to compile a guide to everything you should be doing.

Before Your Cut

“Book your appointment in off-peak hours” – Man Made
Of course, this can’t be guaranteed, but checking in for a chop on days or during slots when your barber is usually less busy can mean you get more time and attention. No barber should ever rush you out the door, but don’t expect to discuss your options for a radical restyle on a Friday night an hour before close with eight other guys waiting in line.

“If you have an appointment booked, arrive a bit early” – Murdock London
It’s not only respectful to your barber to arrive 5-10 minutes before your appointment in order to have time for a proper consultation; it’s also a good opportunity to get some inspiration from other guys who have just finished their cuts.

(Related: Men’s Hairstyle Galleries)

Don’t expect to be afforded time to hang your coat up, run to the loo and put in your coffee order when showing up after your agreed slot.

“There’s no need to wash your hair before your cut” – Murdock
If opting for a dry cut, obviously you should arrive with your hair free of any product. However, that doesn’t have to mean freshly washed. It’s often best for a barber to see hair in its natural, unwashed state. That way, whoever’s wielding the scissors can get a clearer picture of what the hair normally looks like and can cut accordingly.

Before your cut

“Ask for a drink…” – Ruffians
Some barber shops aren’t licensed to serve alcohol, but they are allowed to give you a beer if asked. Any shop worth its barbicide will ask if you’d like a drink – if unsure whether a cold one is on the menu, just ask: “What are my options?” And for god sake, don’t insist the barber have one with you, unless you want to walk out with a wonky do.

“…but don’t take the mick!” – Ruffians
It’s not the best idea to get too drunk or caffeine buzzed when you’re in the chair. Not only will you probably become a bit restless, but you’re also far more likely to buy things you don’t need at the end of your cut.

“Learn the language” – Ruffians
If very particular about your hairstyle, make sure you know exactly what you’re talking about to save any embarrassment. “A tidy up” doesn’t mean much to a barber, especially one who hasn’t dealt with you before.

(Related: How To Talk To Your Barber)

Take some time to familiarise yourself with the key terms. Want a fade? Is that a skin fade, high fade or a scissor fade? You see where we’re going with this.

During your haircut

During Your Cut

“If you know the style you want, bring in a picture” – Ruffians
Want to look like a young Joseph Stalin without asking to be made to look like a young Joseph Stalin? Take the visual route and dig out some pictures. Ruffians choppers were unanimous in saying that images are a helpful way of giving them an idea of the style you want.

Seeing as barbers tend to learn technical vocabulary that you might not be aware of, this is the low-risk way of articulating yourself without the chance of wires getting crossed.

(Related: This Year’s Biggest Men’s Hair Trends)

“Don’t know what you want? Be open to change and trust your barber” – Murdock
Most good barbers will take your face shape and hair type into account, and won’t be shy about vocalising when what you’re asking for isn’t right for you. No one will judge you for not knowing the science (yes, science) behind getting a snip, so best to trust the expertise of those in the know.

Be open to change and chances are they’ll come up with a look that suits your hair type, face shape, job and style.

“Don’t make phone calls while having your hair cut” – Man Made
Yes, it’s your time and you should be able to do what you want with it. However, it’s not going to be good news for your haircut if your barber has to trim around your hand. Plus, it’s just plain rude.

If you think you might receive an important call during your appointment, let you barber know before they get started – they’ll understand. After all, we don’t think phone insurance covers hair splinters clogging up the headphone jack.

During your haircut, don't use your mobile phone

“Use the mirror in front of you to talk to your barber” – Man Made
It might sound silly, but using the mirror in front of you to make eye contact is the best way to communicate. There’s no need to crane your neck around, it will only interrupt the cut and annoy the barber.

In the chair, it’s also perfectly normal to maintain conversation while looking away. Sure, in the outside world that’s a little awkward, but here it’s weird to go into sleep mode every time you’re asked to look down.

“Watch what the barber does” – Man Made
Use this as your personal styling lesson. Take note of how much product the barber uses, how they work it in to the hair and how they create the finished look. This will be your guide when it comes to recreating the effect at home.

Unless your barber is using some secret technique honed over hundreds of barbering generations (chances are it’s just old fashioned know-how), they won’t mind explaining what they are doing and why. So speak up and ask.

“Treat yourself to a facial or a beard trim occasionally” – Ruffians
Don’t make the rookie mistake of attempting to grow a beard without any maintenance. Even if you’re aiming for an impressive thatch of facial hair, it’s important to maintain the shape and hair quality, and that means getting it trimmed every so often.

Any man who has ever been shouted at for leaving hairs in the sink at home will know it’s a messy job, so give your barber license to slice. Not only will you leave feeling razor sharp, you’ll also probably pick up some tips that you can take home – like how to sterilise clippers properly or what skin products you should be using to maximise growth (and minimise smell).

(Related: How To Get Your Beard Looking Its Best)

During your haircut

After Your Cut

“Feel free to ask questions” – Man Made
That tongue of yours isn’t going to be lopped off with your hair if you open your mouth. If you’re unsure of how to style a look at home or want to maintain your new do between cuts, your barber should be more than happy to go over the steps with you. After all, once you leave you’re essentially a walking advert for them, so it’s in their interest for you to look your best.

“Be honest about your habits” – Murdock
Sure, you can say you’re going to be using a hairdryer at home (there’s no shame) or that you’ll be washing your locks regularly (just like you say you’re going to the gym). But if you’re not, you’ll only be making the barber’s job harder. Be honest and you’ll leave with some advice that’s tailored specifically to your habits and routine. And maybe some shampoo, on the house.

(Related: A Guide To Men’s Winter Hair Care)

“Tip your barber” – Ruffians
The easiest way to get top results from your trim, time and time again, is to build a relationship with a single shop, or better yet, a single barber. Tipping is the best way to fast-track this relationship. It doesn’t have to be a huge amount, but leaving a few extra quid or rounding up the fee will cement you in their mind as a good guy, and they’ll treat you well the next time.

Make sure you tip after your cut