Your Barbershop Bible
LET A BARBER TALK YOU THROUGH YOUR NEXT VISIT TO THE SHOP.
SAY YOU’RE new to town. Or your regular guy has retired. Or you’re traveling and in desperate need of a cut. Or you’re suffering from the kind of malaise that only a straight razor to the back of your neck and the hum of clippers can fix. Whatever the reason, you’re in the market for a new barber. A scary prospect, I know. Finding a place, let alone a guy, that understands exactly what you want and can deliver it is an endeavour fraught with miscommunication and differing expectations.
As a barber, I’m right there with you. It can be just as nerve-wracking for us when a new client sits in our chair. We’ve never cut this guy before; we don’t know what he likes, or what he envisions, or the weird things that his hair does when it’s clipped a millimetre of an inch too short. To be a better customer—so we can do a better job, so you can leave with the best haircut—you only need to communicate a few simple things. Walk in ready to talk about your hair, and talk about it
effectively. For barbers, an overly fussy client is better than an uncertain one, for a simple reason: decisiveness. So please talk to your barber when he asks, “What are we doing for you today?” I understand how it can feel weird describing yourself and your hair and how, aesthetically, you’d like that all to turn out. Most of us get a little uneasy thinking, let alone speaking, about the nature of our looks and our hopes and dreams for them. Recognize that barbers are like fingerprints. Or snowflakes. Or penguin mating calls. The point is:
We’re unique. You can walk into a spot and, because it seems cool online, think you’re going to come out looking like Clooney. But even in that shop, there might be one barber who’s a relative novice, just getting started in the business, while another is a long-serving
stylist who cut his teeth in the salon world and may own it with a pair of shears but isn’t necessarily as trustworthy with the clippers. Or you get a guy who came up in the old-school shops and chops your lettuce like you’ve just been drafted, or he’s a wizard with the clippers but might start sweating when your hair is longer than four inches. And there is always a barber who can do it all but never developed the people skills and so comes off as disaffected or uninterested. Really, show up with a photo. If you’ve got a long face and pull up a pic of Gatsby-era Leo DiCaprio, we’re going to be spending 15 minutes politely dancing around the fact that your head and face and hair can’t do the things you want them to. A fruitful source of reference photos is a Google search of pro soccer players. You saw the World Cup. There are a ton of those guys with all kinds of haircuts. You can find one who’s got a head shape and hair type similar to yours. But the smartest move is to take a selfie when you feel like your own hair is looking its best. We can get you back to that moment. Communicate your cowlicks. If you’ve got a giant whorl hiding under a bunch of heavy hair and we cut it too short, no one is going to be happy. Warn us, and understand there’s only so much we can do. Like the grain in wood, your hair tends to grow and fall in a natural direction. As much as you may want to swoop things to the left, if your hair insists on going right, embrace it. Come see us more often. Depending on the length of your haircut, you can usually make it three weeks (for shorter styles) to six weeks (longer styles) before you need to visit a barber again. The general rule (and a sales tactic on the barber’s part) says that as soon as you’re not feeling as good as when you left the shop after your last cut, you’re due.