Trying Something New

Going to get your haircut can be quite an intimidating experience, especially it it’s your first time in that particular salon or barbershop. Many men struggle to decide how they want their hair cut and for an easier life often give the stylist one of two responses, which are: “whatever you think would suit me”, or “a shorter version of what I’ve got”.

To make things even more difficult, when the stylist does a consultation they tend to throw in a few ‘hairdressing terms’ to really confuse matters! As a professional stylist, I think that the majority of guys are worried about trying something new with their hairstyle, and a lot of this comes down to not knowing what to ask for and a fear of looking a bit stupid if they don’t really comprehend what is being discussed or how the hairstyle will look at the end.

With this in mind, today we look to explain some of the key terminology that is standard within the industry, in order to increase your knowledge and help you understand how specific types of cutting can achieve different results…

Your Hair

Before you consider exactly how you want your hair to be cut or styled, it’s extremely important to take into consideration your hairline, which is the shape of the hair growth around the top of the forehead.

As you mature you may notice a receding hairline, which is thinning of the hair at the temples and around the hairline at the front.

Aside from your hairline, you may also have some individual hair growth patterns like a whorl, cowlick or even a double crown to take into consideration – all of these can have a huge influence on the type of haircut that will suit you.

Although I recognise that many readers will be struggling with hair loss or these specific type of growth patterns, it’s impossible for me to provide you with one-size-fits-all advice. Without seeing the hair and taking into consideration its direction, type and thickness, along with other factors such as your lifestyle or ‘look’, there isn’t one cut or general recommendation that I can offer to deal with your individual needs.

The solution, as always, is to consult a trusted or recommended stylist, whose job is to help tailor your hairstyle to your unique requirements. If your current stylist isn’t providing this service each and every time you go into the salon, it’s time to get a new one.

Hairdressing Terminology: Creating The Haircut

There are several ways of creating a haircut: a stylist can use a pair of scissors, a razor or clippers to make your hairstyle personal to you and your hair type and head shape.

Clipper Techniques: Tapering/Skin Fades

Clippers are great for giving the hair a sharp, blunt finish. Some stylists will choose to use clippers with guards, which generally range from 0.5 up to 8. Choosing the right guard is important as the smaller the number the shorter the hair.

Anything from a guard 2 and below will expose your scalp and leave the hair feeling short and tight to the head. A 2 or above will result in scalp coverage, which means the hair will start to move when you run your fingers through it.

Your stylist may also use more than one guard for a haircut, with men often choosing to have a skin fade or taper – this means the hair gradually fades from one length to another. For example, from a guard 4 through to 1 (via guard 2 and 3) and then out to skin:

Men's Hairstyles: Skin Fades and Tapering Using Clippers

Clipper Over Comb

Another way to create this effect is with a bare blade and a comb.

The stylist will start off at the bottom of your hair with the comb flat against the head and as they work up the sides of the head they will pull the comb out slightly to create the taper/fade:

Men's Hairstyles: Skin Fades and Tapering Using Clippers Over Comb Method

Typically, during your consultation, you will decide on how short you would like the hair to be and the stylist then chooses the best method to create the shape.

Scissor Techniques

A lot of stylists will choose to use scissors for the majority of the haircut.

Even with scissors it’s possible to go very short through the back and sides by using a scissor over comb technique; the length being determined by the thickness of the comb and the angle it’s held from the head.

Blunt Cut

When choosing to get your hair cut with scissors there is the option of having your hair blunt cut or point cut. A blunt cut is where the scissors are held horizontally and all the hair is cut at the same length:

Men's Hairstyles: Blunt Cut Technique

Point Cut

I personally prefer point cutting, especially through the top of a hairstyle.

Point cutting is where the scissors are held at an angle and it produces a saw tooth effect on the hair. This creates texture and allows the shorter hair to support the longer hair – great if you want to wear it spiky or dishevelled:

Men's Hairstyles: Point Cut Technique

Some stylists may even choose to blunt cut your hair and then point cut afterwards – this is OK but it does mean the whole of the outer shape will all be the same length.

Thinning The Hair

Particularly important for those with thick or unmanageable hair types, the hair can be thinned out by cutting into the hairstyle when wet or dry. Some stylists call this method ‘shattering’ or ‘slicing’.

Another way of thinning hair is by using special thinning scissors: these are a type of hairdressing scissor that are used to remove bulk and weight from the hair and soften lines. The blades are notched so that when closed only a few hairs are actually cut. When used correctly thinning scissors can make a huge difference to the end result of a haircut.

They are better used on dry hair as the stylist needs to see exactly where there is weight or thickness in the hair to remove it. However, if they are overused the hair can become lifeless and limp.

Razor Cutting

Razor cutting is a process in which sharp, knife-like razors are used to excise, slice and texturise the hair.

This technique creates a different finish from all the other tools mentioned, and depending on the angle a razor is held, can produce a variety of results – from soft-looking straight styles to smooth layered styles full of texture and definition.

I find a razor is perfect to use on longer hairstyles as it gives the hair a more natural ‘grown out’ look instead of a sharp or crisp finish:

Men's Hairstyles: Razored


Undercuts are quite popular at the moment. This is where the top is left longer and the underneath section is taken shorter (often using clippers), resulting in an ‘over hang’ of hair.

The contrast in length from the top to the bottom can produce a very dramatic result. We find many guys are currently choosing to keep a lot of length through the top section of their hairstyle but going extremely short through the sides to achieve a contemporary disconnected finish, which works particularly well when combined with a full beard.

A small undercut could be described as a ‘step’, which was very popular in the 1980s:

Men's Modern Undercut Hairstyles

Final Word

Armed with the information above, you should hopefully feel more confident when you next decide to change your hairstyle or visit the salon. Remember, knowledge is power – use it to have an honest consultation with your stylist and articulate exactly what you are looking for from your cut.

Do you want a more solid shape to your quiff or pompadour? Ask your stylist if blunt cutting would work for you. Perhaps you desire a more natural look that is full of texture and definition? In which case, you can enquire about razoring.

If you have any questions about the terminology used today, please feel free to drop a comment in the box below…