Yes, we’ve all been through this before. We get seated in a barber’s chair, wrapped up in a sack, and suddenly the cat’s got our tongue – we don’t know what to say when the barber asks what we came here for. After blurting out a few familiar terms like “short here, long there”, we sit in silent anxiety about how the haircut will turn out. Every time the barber slips his buzzer over our heads, our imagination runs a little wilder.


Not quite that wild, but close enough. Source:

Look guys, it doesn’t have to be so nerve-wracking. Most barbers like a conversation, and more importantly, they like to hear what you have in mind. Of course, you don’t want to sound like a complete buffoon, so perhaps learning some basics will make everyone’s day better. But if you’re prepared, going to the barber will be a fun, relaxing experience – as it should be.

Here are a few ways to make sure it’s always a breeze:

Firstly, don’t be shy. You’re getting a service, it’s your head, so take control. If you know what to say, there’s no need to feel embarrassed. As with every industry, there is some jargon in hairdressing. Here are a few terms explained:

Thinning: Cutting the hair under the top layer to reduce fullness, making it easier to manage

Trimming: Not getting a full haircut; just making the edges on the sides and backs neater.

Layering: Creating a variety of lengths, and thus giving a textured effect

Tapering: Mainly for sides and back; creating a gradient of length from short to long

Fringe: The hair on the front, closest to your forehead

Long/short: These terms can be relative and not very useful. Be specific; a half-inch? 3cm? Very close to the skin?


Secondly, communicate your desired look. The best way to do this is to bring photos. Screenshot a hairstyle you like, and tell your barber you want this or that. Since your barber has more experience with hairstyling, discuss with your barber whether the look you chose will suit your face and head shape.

You may just find a haircut you’ve always wanted but never thought of before. If your hair is not long enough for the style you want, tell your barber to give you an interim cut that will keep you neat in the meantime. Bring the photo and remind him or her the next time about your endgame. At the end of the haircut, if you think something’s off, point it out politely.

Thirdly, learn from your barber. Especially if your style requires some work, politely ask your barber to style it step by step and walk you through it. Ask him what products to use, and whether styling your hair while it’s wet is better. If you want to try something new but have a mental block about styles, ask your barber for suggestions, and use what you know about your face shape and hair type to guide the exploration. You may be surprised what a little teamwork can do.


Lastly, build a relationship with your barber. Provided he or she is someone you feel comfortable leaving your head to, of course. If you think he or she is the one, feel free to treat him or her like a friend. Be on time, be ready, and once the haircut’s going on you can chat a little. Ask how the day has been, or comment on the weather. Anything that can help make the experience something to look forward to next time.