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How Do I Tell My Barber What I Want?

Ever sat down in the barber’s or hairstylist’s chair and not know the answer to the age-old question, “what are you having done today? Or did you recently change barbers or decide to change it up and go for a different style and struggle to discuss with your barber/stylist.

Chances are you are not alone, and, despite being asked the same question every 3-6 weeks, it is surprising how many people find it hard to explain to the barber/stylist what we want.

Fear not. This article will help you make sure that your next barbershop visit goes off perfectly, leaving you, your barber and your hair looking and feeling amazing!

Firstly, a few questions you will be asked by your barber/stylist, so it’s worth thinking about these before you go:


If you know exactly what type of style you want and come armed with a file of celebrity photos to give your barber, that’s great. But don’t worry if you’re not really sure what you want, because the barber will be able to offer suggestions even if you don’t know your buzzcut from your skin fade.

  1. If you are looking to change or maintain your hairstyle- A simple question but an important one, your barber/stylist is not a mind reader and should never just start cutting your hair without asking this question. It is also important how short you may want to go or keep the length.
  2. How long ago were you last had a cut & how often do you visit the barber –Barbers/stylists know how long it takes for the hair to grow, so if you tell them how long it has been since your hair was the last cut, they can imagine what your hair looked like way back when.
  3. Tell them about your lifestyle – are you sporty? Corporate?  It helps Barbers/stylists to know more about you to give you the right cut for your lifestyle
  4. How long do you want to take to style your hair & What products do you use?  Do you want a style that is effortless and takes little time, or do you not mind taking time to style your hair
  5. What do you not like about your hair? A straight-up honest question, tell the barber/stylist what you don’t want your hair to look like.


A Picture is Worth a Thousand Word


Know your barbering terminology


Barbers hear the all-too-common order of “just a trim.” The problem with this is that trim can mean many different things to both clients and barbers/stylists alike. Some may say the word trim when they really mean a super close shave.

Try to talk in inches or centimetres rather than vague terms. For example, if you want a half-inch trim, say so. If you can’t describe the length in inches, you could also ask for it in hair clipper guard lengths. So, if you usually have a #3 haircut on the top and sides, you can simply ask for this using those precise terms. This is also the time to discuss other issues like tapering. Do you want your hair to be the same length all over your head, or do you want a tapered effect?


Taper vs Fade: What’s the difference? 


  • A taper is when the hair changes in length over space but never completely.
  • A fade is when the hair fades out, i.e., the hair eventually is reduced to nothing as it moves down towards the neck.

Generally, these terms are used interchangeably in most barbershops. But technically, a fade is cut using clippers and blends into the skin. A taper isn’t necessarily buzzed as short and usually involves more hair left on the sides.  With most barbers operating on this “high fade” to “low fade” pendulum, it’s quite easy to select the one that best suits your look. A Low Fade ends very close to your hairline, whereas a High Fade comes to a stop above the ears…claro?!

Here is some other terminology you’ll want to know for when you are talking to your barber/stylist


  • Drop /foil fade – Hair is faded evenly around the sides and back (as close as a shave) using an electric razor and gradually gets longer into the top.
  • Blow out fade – Hair is normally a 2+ clipper cut back and sides and is faded only around the sideburns and back neckline down to a zero.
  • Haircut Numbers 0-5. Also known as guard sizes, the grade you ask for will determine the length of your fade, undercut, or buzz cut.
  • Textured hairstyles look natural and don’t involve styling with pomade, gel, wax, or putty.

Find your cut


1. Two Back and sides. Using a guard 2 or higher to clipper cut back and sides.


2. Buzzcut: Clippers are used with the same guard for a uniform length on the sides and top. Length can be as short as skin or as long as a 5 guard.


3. A taper is when the hair changes in length, gradually getting shorter at the bottom. By graduate @sambbarbering.


6. Mid Drop Fade. Slick top with medium fade. By graduate @vadothebarber.


8. A foil fade: hair is faded evenly around the sides and back (as close as a shave) using an electric razor and gradually gets longer into the top. By graduate @lefthandedbarber.


9. A blowout fade. Hair is normally a 2 guard or higher, is used to clipper cut back and sides and is faded only around the sideburns and back neckline down to a zero.⁠


11. Pompadour with neckline/sideburn tapers and clean edges


12. Scissor cut: Hair is cut entirely with scissors and for longer styles.


13. Side part:  A side part cut is when a relatively short cut is clearly parted. There’s some variety regarding length on the side part that you can discuss with your barber.


Are you looking to become a barber? Do you know someone who may make a good barber?
CLICK HERE to see what it takes.

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