How to Get the Most Out of Your Barber

Shape-ups, shags, and the crucial difference between a No. 3 and a No. 4.

Photo: Courtesy Touchstone Pictures

Admittedly, it's a little more complicated when Dad's doing the cutting.

The era of the artfully-mussed, faux-bedhead look is over. Here, a few steps to make the most of the new golden age of manly locks.

Stick to the classics.
Don’t expect the same personalized cut you get from your normal guy; instead, try a time-tested standard. There’s the gentleman, with clean, natural lines that can be parted or brushed back (think Don Draper); the shape-up, or fade, a buzz cut that’s blended up from the bottom and cut short at the front, following the hairline (think rappers); the high and tight, a fade in which the hair is kept short up to the widow’s peak (think soldiers); and the shag, a long, texturized cut (think Julian Casablancas).

Cut to fit.
Once you pick a style, tweak it to match your regular look. Ask for it a little shorter or longer, a little more blended or texturized. Say something like, “Keep it high and tight—but not like I’m shipping off to basic.”

Chin up.
Getting a haircut is one of the few times a guy can stare at himself for a half hour and not appear vain, so keep your head up, and look in the mirror. It pays to keep an eye on what you’re doing, and — as your barber may remind you — it’s a better perspective for him.

By the numbers.
What’s yours? No. 4 clippers leave your hair a half inch long; a three leaves it 3/8ths of an inch; a two trims it to a quarter inch; and a one puts it at 1/16th. Zero? You’re seeing skin.

Paint a picture.
It might sound obvious, but if you don’t think you can articulate what you want, show your barber a picture of a guy whose hair you like. Yes, we know this may make you feel unoriginal, but then, when it comes to hair, originality is overrated.

The right stuff.
Go light on product the day of your cut. Showing up rocking the full “gelmet” is not going to endear you to your barber. (Note: This is good advice for non haricut days, too.)

Be your own man.
One thing that annoys virtually every barber we’ve ever met? When a guy lets his wife or girlfriend dictate his look. Not that we know this from experience or anything.

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