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Get The Best Haircut of Your Life

Stop sabotaging your cut

By Jennifer Hunter | Oct 5 2016

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Romantic first dates are all well and good, but even more thrilling than a potential new love interest? Sitting down in the chair of a new hairdresser and feeling that instant chemistry, that special spark that promises an epic new haircut.

I felt this follicular electricity when I met Benjamin Mohapi. Originally from London (with a charming accent to boot), the hairstylist has decades of impressive hair wizarding experience, including two Los Angeles locations of his namesake salon Benjamin, open since 2012.

We met in the elevator at his recent New York pop-up, and by the time we got to his fifth floor salon we were already friends. He helped me with my robe (like a true gentleman!), I sat in his chair and I could tell this man was going to do wonders for my limp, shapeless hair— and keep me entertained the whole time.

In fact, I felt so comfortable chatting with Ben (See? We’re friends!) that it made me realize that my usual first-time hairdresser experience was a little less, well, sparkly. We’ve all been there: nervously sitting in the chair while someone new snips away behind you, wondering what exactly your hair will wind up looking like at the end. So I asked him what I—and you—can do to make the first time with a new hairdresser go smoothly. Was I doing everything I could as the client to get the best possible result? I just wanted to know: how do I not f*&^ it up?

His answers surprised me because I do this stuff ALL the time. Apparently I’ve been sabotaging myself in the hair department. Bad me. Now I know better. So, what bad hair salon habits should you stop doing?

Below, three ways to get the best haircut:

1.Get off your phone

This was the very first and most important thing Mohapi told me (and I had just set down my phone when he tactfully brought it up).

“Being on your phone is the worst thing you could possibly do because it moves your head into a position that it shouldn’t be. [Usually] the hairdresser is keeping an eye on that, but sometimes we’re just getting on, and doing what we’re doing, and don’t realize that you’re leaning to the left with your head down, subsequently making the whole thing uneven.”

Makes perfect sense, right? This person behind you is trying to do their job on your head which is nearly impossible if you keep moving around.  And being on your phone makes you not only look down more than you should, but also makes you focus on an email or a text and forget everything else. Imagine trying to do your job while your work surface moves underneath you.  Pretty sure if the keyboard I’m typing on right now kept sloping to the right, I’d go bananas.

Also not great? Crossing your legs while having your hair cut.  “You want to sit straight and tall as you can, and really make sure that everything posturally is correct.” Basically, keep the canvas (your head) as even as you can so your hairdresser can do his best work.

2.Don’t try to use hair lingo

You are there to get help from a professional, but you don’t need to try and use all the haircut-related words you only kinda know. In fact, that’s probably hurting more than helping because those words might not even mean exactly what you think they do (you might be asking for the wrong thing!).

So how should you communicate instead? A photo. Always.

“I know a lot of people are afraid to do this, but pictures are definitely the best thing. They literally say a thousand words. You need a reference.” says Mohapi.  Don’t be embarrassed to pull out your phone to show your barber or hairdresser a few examples of your ideal cut. You will be making it easier on everyone. “It’s important to be able to show. It’s so much easier to say, “I want it like this,” than to try [to speak] a language that you’re not really used to.”

Meaning? It’s your job to figure out what you want; it’s your hairdresser’s job to figure out how to achieve it. “From a technical point of view, [your cut] may be different from how it ends up from an individual’s perspective.” Says Mohapi.

Your hairdresser might even want to use a technique you don’t realize exists (because it’s his job to know those things) and you wouldn’t want to limit his toolkit by specifically asking for the only method you happen to have heard about. In other words, show him a photo and let your hairdresser do his job.  

3.Don’t go to a bad hairdresser

Bottom line: do your homework before you sit your butt in that chair. “Really, one of the best things you can do to ensure you’re going to get a terrible haircut is to go to a terrible hairdresser.  Make sure you get a good hairdresser. It’s simple: if you want something good, go to someone good.”

But, he notes, “someone good” doesn’t mean the most expensive salon in town. “It’s not always about money, but there is an old saying, “You don’t always get what you pay for but you always pay for what you get.”

There are lots of ways to find a great salon or barbershop that have nothing to do with the fee. And remember, the hairdresser/client relationship goes both ways, so common courtesy like turning up on time and being polite are essential. But, Mohapi told me, no professional would punish a client with a bad haircut out of spite, so don’t panic if you’re running a few minutes behind.   

“In one way or another, make sure you’re paying the right price,” he says. “Whether that’s traveling [to get to the right professional] or whether it’s just being cordial to someone who can fit you in. Do what you can to get the best out of hair and out of life.”  

Best hair, best life? Sounds like a motto we can all get behind.



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