The Grooming Manual
Getting a good haircut. It should be a no-brainer part of your routine, but with overpriced salons, confusing haircare jargon, and a slew of barbers that don’t really know their stuff, it can actually be pretty hard to get right.
Here’s how to cut through the BS to find a barber and style that actually work for you.
1. Find the Right Stylist at the Right Price
How much should a great haircut be? Maybe the better question is: how much are you willing to pay to make sure you don’t get a bad haircut?
While the average cost of a men’s haircut in the United States is between $20-$30, there are plenty of salons and barbershops where men routinely pay over $100.
So is it really worth spending 4-5 times as much money on your haircut? Sometimes. Here’s what you should take into consideration when you’re thinking about forking over some more dough.
What You’re Really Paying For: Experience and Atmosphere
In many cases, the high cost of a premium barbershop or salon is related to their stylists’ experience and skill level. The people who are charging over $100 for a men’s haircut are not new to this business. They’ve acquired a ton of experience, and they know a lot about hair and how to cut and style your hair using methods that a less experienced barber simply might not know.
You’re also paying for a great atmosphere. When you walk into a premium salon, you can expect little touches that give everything a luxurious feel, like:
- A plush robe to wear in the salon
- Branded bottle of water or glass of whiskey to sip on while you wait
- Luxurious and comfortable seating
- High level attention to detail
- Impeccable service from experienced staff
Your typical local barbershop, on the other hand, won’t be worried about these special touches. Instead, they usually like to keep things simple. So you’ll have to do some soul searching and figure out if a relaxing, luxurious experience is really something that you’re looking for.
Still, that doesn’t mean you have to pay top dollar to get a decent cut. The most important thing is to trust your stylist and communicate well with them. That way, you can be sure they understand exactly what look you are going for.
To this end, it’s helpful to understand their skill set (Instagram is a great tool for looking them up and seeing what styles they’re really great at) and to make sure you know what you want. If you bring pictures and understand the proper name of the style you’re looking for, your barber will be much more equipped to meet your expectations and give you the cut you’re looking for.
2. Learn How to Communicate With Your Barber
We already mentioned this, but it deserves its own point because it’s so important.
You have to find a barber that you communicate super well with and who understands exactly what you need and how you want to look. Maybe you already have that - and that’s great. But maybe you moved. Maybe you’re traveling and didn’t get a chance to visit your official barber back home.
There are lots of reasons you may find yourself needing to find a brand new barber chair to sit in. And it may feel intimidating - especially if you’ve been faithfully visiting the same barbershop for years, maybe even decades. Luckily, there are ways to quickly build rapport and make sure that you and your barber are on exactly the same page.
Tell Him Exactly What You Want
Here’s a little secret - when you visit a new barber, they’re a little wary of you too. They want to do a great job and for you to leave 100% satisfied with your haircut - but they also know that can be hard to accomplish on the first visit.
To help them out - and help ensure you are happy with your haircut - be as clear as possible when you tell them how you want your hair to look. If you know what clipper setting your barber usually goes with, let them know. Otherwise, be clear about how much length you want removed, how you normally style your hair, and any other details that will help them do a better job.
Show Him Your Best Haircut
Don’t be afraid of some show and tell! Your phone may just be your best friend when it comes to getting a solid haircut from a new barber, and you’re much more likely to get great results if you scroll through your photos and find one where your hair looks its best.
If the photo was taken shortly after a haircut, even better. This will give your new barber a visual idea of what you’ve already tried to explain.
If you don’t have a personal photo that does your preferred style justice, you can also search online for stock photos of your haircut. But since your hair is unique, a personal photo is best.
The communication shouldn’t stop when your cut starts. If you’re starting to notice that something looks off or you feel like the barber is going too short, say something. Don’t be afraid to stop him mid-cut to make sure he understands what you want and exactly what you’re feeling.
No two barbers will cut your hair exactly the same way, so it could just be a matter of their technique being different. But it could also be that they misunderstood you and need some extra guidance.
Worried about hurting their feelings? Don’t be! A skilled barber will appreciate your comments and do their best to adjust as necessary. Just be sure you’re polite about it - screaming at him about what might not even be a real problem is not a smart way to make friends or get exceptional service.
If you just moved and you’re looking for a new barber, the magic might not happen on that first haircut. It can take a while to find a guy you like and who you know will consistently cut your hair just the way you like it. So unless this is a one-off cut while you’re away from home, patience is critical.
3. Think About If You Can Cut Your Own Hair
How often do you visit the barber? Let’s say you go every 3 weeks. You get trimmed up, you always look your best, and you never let your hair get out of control. That’s important, since most guys’ hair grows a half inch per month.
But it can also get pretty expensive. Over the course of a year, the cost of all those haircuts really adds up - and you might not need professional services for just a trim. In this case, it might make sense for you to take matters into your own hands from time to time.
Fair warning though - this isn’t easy! Your first few cuts probably won’t look so great -- there will probably be uneven places and less than perfect edges.
But it can be done. Here are some potential benefits to learning to cut your own hair:
- It’s Cool - There’s something undeniably bad ass about cutting your own hair at home. It makes you independent, skilled, and unique. Guys will be jealous. Women will be impressed.
- It’s Cheap - You will easily save more than $500 in the course of a year by cutting your hair at home instead of visiting the barbershop.
- It’s Convenient - Cut your hair when and where you want. If you’re traveling and need a quick trim, no problem. You don’t have to worry about some new barber botching your look.
So how do you get it right? Here are some tips:
Invest In Some High-Quality Tools
Your hair will never look right if you don’t have the right tools. That’s why you should, at minimum, invest in:
- Hair clippers: If you’ve never used a pair of hair clippers before, you might be tempted to choose the cheapest thing you can find. But keep in the mind that cheaping out here isn’t going to help your results. That’s why we recommend that you take the time to find a pair that works for you: compare clippers online, read reviews, and check out video demonstrations of different models before you make a final choice. And if you start with a cheaper model, you can always purchase a nicer one after you’ve developed your skills a bit and have a better idea of which clipper features you like.
- Scissors: Don’t just grab the old scissors from your junk drawer and expect them to work fine. It’s worth spending a bit on a professional pair of hair-cutting sheers. Again, compare reviews and be willing to spend more than dirt cheap - this is your hair we’re talking about, and if you cut your hair regularly a small investment will still cost less than going to the barber.
- Mirrors: Particularly if you’re a newbie, you need to see what you’re doing well. Your bathroom mirror is probably fine for the front view - but what about your neckline and the sides of your head? If you leave them a mess, it will be a sure sign that you botched your haircut -- definitely not the professional look you were going for. That’s why we recommend that you invest in a three-way mirror, a magnified mirror that you can move, or some other easily adjustable setup. You need a clear view if you’re going to become a hair-cutting pro.
Besides just having the right tools, you need to maintain them well too. Keep your clippers oiled and in good condition. Sharpen your scissors when necessary, and be sure to keep everything clean and stored in a convenient location.
4. Learn How to Avoid or Deal with a Bad Cut
It happens. You need a quick haircut before a date, a business meeting, a party - whatever. So you do what you know you shouldn’t and get a $10 haircut at the closest shop you can find. After all, all you need is a clean up - so how bad can it be?
Unfortunately, sometimes it’s pretty bad. Like, epic bad. So bad you don’t even want to be seen in public after and just sit in your car seething. You want to avoid this scenario at all costs, so if you have to go to a less-than-stellar locale, here’s what we recommend:
Be Honest If You Hate It
We know: It can be uncomfortable to tell the man or woman who cut your hair that you hate it. It might even get awkward. But it won’t be nearly as bad as going around with a bad haircut for the next few weeks. So suck it up and talk to them about what you’re really feeling. It’s probably not the first time they’ve had an unsatisfied customer and they won’t take it as hard as you think.
Plus, remember that the stylist wants you to leave happy (they didn’t take the job to make people look terrible, after all). So they would rather fix the problem than have a customer go away feeling terrible.
Start Over Somewhere New
If it’s really terrible and you don’t think there’s any way to salvage it where you’re at, another option is to just leave and go to a better barber. Tell them you need to start over.
It might mean a shorter cut than you’re used to or a different style than the one you prefer. But those options are better than looking and feeling awful.
If you’re stuck with a bad cut, get creative with how you style things. Who knows, maybe you can turn this whole experience into something positive or perhaps you’ll discover that you like the new look after all.
To make your new style work, use a top quality hair product for men like one of our natural pomades. In the case of an iffy haircut, our Flexible Hold Wax Pomade is best. It will keep your new do in place while still allowing you to reshape it as necessary. That way you’re not locked into one style - you can play with it later and make adjustments as needed.
Remember That It’s Not Forever
At the end of the day, a bad haircut is just temporary. With some patience, your hair will grow back and you’ll be able to get it cut the way you want it again. And that’s a great thing to keep in mind if you ever find yourself in a bad hair day situation.
5. Don’t Skimp on Your Day-to-Day Products
If you want to keep your hair looking its best, the reality is that the best barber and best cut in the world won’t make a huge difference if you’re using bad products. Shampoos with harsh detergents (most of the products you’ll find at the drug store) will dehydrate your hair and scalp, leaving it dry, frizzy, and prone to breakage.
In the same vein, styling products with crazy chemicals or high alcohol content will zap away moisture and seriously compromise your hair’s structural integrity (not to mention they’ll yield not-so-great styling results).
That’s why we recommend that you switch to a sulfate-free, moisturizing shampoo (try our Daily Strengthening Shampoo or Relieving Dandruff Shampoo) and natural, alcohol free styling products (like our pomades or Texturizing Sea Salt Spray).
And don’t forget the conditioner! It’s an essential step to rehydrate hair, soothe the scalp, and encourage healthy, shiny hair growth.