Getting a proper haircut – not a trim or a buzzcut – but a brand-new, full-stop, adult men’s hairstyle requires more preparation than you may be used to. But no worries! SG is here to help, and we’ve called in expert reinforcements. If you’re in the market for a new ‘do, read on.
And I’m speaking from experience. My usual first-time haircut with a new stylist sitting used to feel less than comfortable. 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 set out to discover what I could do to ensure the first time with a new hairdresser goes 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?
The answers I found surprised me because I as doing the Don’t’s 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 break?
Below, 6 tips for to get the best haircut of your life:
1. Don’t go to a bad hair stylist
Sounds obvious, right?
What I mean to say is, 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,” says Benjamin Mohapi, the celebrity stylist behind Benjamin Salon. “Make sure you get a good hairdresser. It’s simple: if you want something good, go to someone good.”
But, Mohapi notes, “someone good” doesn’t mean the most expensive spot 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 barbershop or hair salon 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 says, 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.”
2. Gauge your compatibility
Think of a haircut consultation as the banter before a first date. You don’t want to waste your time and money on someone you don’t have chemistry with, so even though it seems like kind of a pain, it’s a good idea to stop into the barbershop or salon to meet with the professional before actually booking a haircut.
Call ahead so you know they’ll have time to meet with you and take the time to get to know you, your hair, and what you’re looking for.
2. Know what you want…and don’t want. But! Don’t try to use hair lingo
You are there to seek the wisdom of 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 stylist’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.
3. Come willing to learn
Sometimes that means finding out that what you’re envisioning? It’s just not possible. A picture will let your barber or hairstylist know, “Oh, he expects to look like Ryan Gosling when he has the hair of Jonah Hill.” Not that they’ll necessarily try to steer you away from your desired haircut, but they’ll be able to manage your expectations about how it will or won’t look the same as in said-picture you show them.
According to Vaughn Accord, owner of Salon Mizu in NYC and founder of the V76 by Vaughn grooming product line, “Terminology often gets foggy between a client and stylist when you’re discussing a haircut. A photograph gets you right to the point. If you’re very specific, a photo gets the stylist there immediately.” Only then will you learn which styles your specific hair texture can and can’t handle.
This is important, guys. It’s why you’re paying for a professional haircut. Let your stylist teach you about how your hair naturally falls and how your texture can be styled so you’re prepared to make an educated decision.
4. Be realistic about your effort level
Be upfront with your stylist – and yourself – about how much time you’re willing to spend on your hair each day. If you want to complete your full grooming routine in five minutes flat before heading out the door, then a pompadour probably isn’t your best bet. We have full faith that you’re able to achieve the look you’re after…as long as you’re willing put forth just enough effort.
And what about tools?
Are you proficient with a blow dryer? Do you prefer to run a comb through your hair, or use your hands to style your mane? Before landing on a desired hairstyle, chat with your stylist about what’s actually required to make that style happen. A slicked-back look may seem simple enough, but if you have to fight against your natural wave that could add to your overall grooming time each day.
5. Get off your phone
“Being on your phone is the worst thing you could possibly do” during a haircut, says Mohapi.
“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 (aka, your head) as even as you can so your hairdresser can do his best work.
6. Ask questions
Stylists can often move fast and furious when it comes to the haircut itself. Don’t hesitate to have them pause and answer your questions while they’re styling. They’re the pros, right?
Accord adds, “It’s important to learn how to use product so that you can replicate the look when you leave the salon. When building a relationship with a stylist, the client should be able to check in with how the cut is going.”
It may seem nosy or pushy, but asking questions as your stylist works is really the only way to get tricks on how to achieve the look so you’re not stressing two days later while doing your hair at 6am.
The do’s and don’ts of getting the best haircut of your life
- Do seek out someone that is rocking a great haircut and ask them who does it.
- Do go in for a consultation – take the time to go in and talk about the new change. If the stylist doesn’t get it, maybe he isn’t for you.
- Don’t follow trends too directly.
- Do see a stylist who understands your lifestyle.
- Don’t get a cut that can’t be versatile – it should take you day to night, uptown to downtown.
- Don’t object to advice – if you’re stylist cautions against a style, it’s probably for the best.
Suffering from style upgrade overload?
If you’re ready to dial up more than just your grooming game, consider having Team SG shop for you!
Let us rescue you from shopping fatigue and sartorial apathy. You can expect the kind of personal attention and care that will make you feel like the best version of the awesome guy you already are! Ready to seriously improve your closet and your confidence? Give us a shout.
> Want more guys’ grooming tips and advice? Great, here you go!