The Perfect Haircut. The kind of haircut that leaves people thinking “Daaaaaayum, that’s some fine hair!” That’s the kind of cut possible at the right barbershop. Despite this, many people settle for the same old, hairstyle because they fail to realize their hair’s potential and lose sight of forget all of the different styling possibilities. In this article, we’re gonna pass on some of our best tips and tricks so you can make your cut the best one out there.
1. Understand the Clipper Numbers
When your barber asks “What number do you like?” most people answer without a clear understanding of the haircut numbering system. Haircut numbers refer to the size of the clipper guard. The amount of hair that remains depends on the clipper guard size. The clipper guards distance the clipper’s blades from scalp, so that only hair longer than the guards reach the blades. In this way the guards control the hair length. Simply put, the clipper guard size determines the hair length.
Each clipper guard set contains 8 clipper guards and the guard has its number etched on its base. Therefore, if you ask for a “Number 2 Haircut” the barber will attach a #2 guard to the clipper, and cut your hair to that length.
Most clipper guard numbers represent increments of 1/8th of an inch, so a #2 guard will leave 1/4 inch. A “Number 1 Haircut” is cuts to a 1/8th of an inch – short enough that the scalp skin is quite prominent. Similarly a “Number 3 Haircut” cuts to 3/8 inch, and so on and so forth. No guard results in hair 16th of an inch long. In this way, a barber can cut hair knowing how much hair will remain, and the person getting the haircut can choose what he wants exactly by referring to this standardized numbering system.
If you are unsure what you want, don’t be afraid to ask your barber to cut off a bit, see if you like it, and continue adjusting until you get what you’re looking for. At the end of the day, knowing how much hair you want to keep before you walk into a barbershop is a good baseline to start personalizing your hairstyle and will give you more control in personalizing your style.
2. Words Are Great, Pictures Are Better
As the famous saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words. Certainly when it comes to finding a new hairstyle, the vast number of pictures on the internet makes the job much easier. Whether you are looking for a specific design or unsure and looking for inspiration, the large variety of haircuts on sites like Pinterest, Instagram, Tumblr, or even Google Images make it simple to find exactly what you want. And, when it comes to communicating with your barber, it is easy to express what you’re looking for when you have a picture in hand. Your barber won’t have to imagine how you will look, he can see it in the picture!
3. Fade vs. Taper?
The two most commonly confused hairstyles are no doubt those of the “Fade” and the “Taper”. Some barbers use the terms interchangeably, and cannot articulate a clear difference – But that’s fine! Both a fade and taper feature hair shortening in length as the hair moves to the neck. But, while the fade and taper are similar, it is important to distinguish between the two when speaking to your barber, as they differ stylistically. By understanding the stylistic advantages of each option your choice becomes much simpler. The taper is more tame and conservative than the fade. With a taper hairstyle the hair gradually shortens down the sides, along the ear until the cheek. The defining feature of a taper is that the hairline remains visible. Although hair comes close to the skin, with the taper, enough hair remains for there to be a clear boundary between the grown hair and hairless regions.
The fade, on the other hand, is much shorter than the taper. Hair cut close to the skin leaves almost no hair, leaving the hairline unrecognizable. Many other haircuts incorporate the fade, and so the fade is generally more common than the taper. The fade works well with no facial hair and will blend in nicely with the hairless skin. The taper, on the other hand blends with facial hair nicely.
4. Length On Top
The top of your hair is the most prominent part of your haircut, and is certainly important in customizing your look. Whether you want should length hair or a crew cut, make sure to consider your natural hair growth pattern. You can try to grow hair down to your shoulders, but if your hair curls to an afro or gets puffy, it won’t make a difference. Understand your hair growth pattern, and properly fit your hair style with it.
Generally, barbers can see how your hair grows just by looking. There are different hair growth profiles, and if you’re unsure which category you fall into don’t worry! Simply let your barber know, and s/he can suggest several hair options, and you can pick one that you want.
Every week we feature a different hairstyle. Check out some of our recent hairstyle features for some inspiration!
5. To Part or Not To Part
One of the more interesting decisions when choosing your look is whether or not to get a side part. Also known as a gentleman’s cut, a part separates the top of your hair from the sides by cutting a line in between them. Generally, short side hair works best with part, but the final style will depend on the hairstyle. Often barbers can tell if a side part is a good idea, but make sure to mention what you want beforehand and your look can be styled based on that.
6. Use Exact Language; Be Specific
If you don’t have a picture, but know what you want, make sure to be specific. To get exactly what you’re looking for try replacing phrases like “Leave a little bit of hair” or “Give me a short trim” with specific sentences such as “Take an inch off the top” or “Keep half an inch on the sides”. It is easy to imagine what you would like in your head, but communicating it to your barber is a different story. It is always a good idea to practice what you’re going to say beforehand.
7. The Back of the Hair
The back of the hair is one of the more underappreciated parts of the haircut. Since we don’t see it in the mirror it is easy to forget about, but back hair done right will upgrade your cut from good to great. When choosing your style you should know some of the most common styling options for the back of the head. With the “fade” style, the hair at the back of the head becomes gradually shorter and shorter until it reaches the skin. Similar to the fade, the taper gradually shortens the hair, but leaves an outline. Generally rounded edges look cleaner than square edges, it’s your preference.
Getting The Most Out of Your Haircut
In truth, a barbershop is more like a a restaurant than a mechanic. Your hair isn’t getting fixed, it’s getting stylized. But, unlike a restaurant, there are so many hairstyles and barbering possibilities that a menu would be useless. To get the perfect haircut you have to know the hairstyle possibilities and the choices you have when you sit in the barber chair.
So remember, when you walk into the barbershop, you can get more than just the haircut you have always gotten, but any haircut that you want, and fit your hair to whatever style suits you. With this in mind, begin to explore, start thinking – What are some of the haircuts you have considered, but never tried? Maybe it’s time to give it a go? Embrace your hair’s potential and speak your barber’s language so you leave with the perfect haircut.