DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: Long-time reader from my single days to my currently happily married life. I have a question that I think a lot of other guys would appreciate your advice on. I am trying to revamp my hairstyle and beard into a longer style but am not sure how to figure out what is best for me and communicate it to a barber.
You’ve touched on this a couple times in the past with some good advice for finding a celebrity with similar features whose style you like, and that has been a good starting point for me (I want to go for something between Sheriff Hassan in Midnight Mass and Lazlo from What we do in the Shadows). I can get solid results by showing a picture to the barber, but I have two lingering problems.
First, I don’t really have the vocabulary to describe what I want. I picture is good, but I’m sure the barber would appreciate a more precise description to help apply that picture to my face and hair. For example, the hair on the left side of my head poofs out further than the right as it grows, so a good haircut in the shop won’t look nearly as good two weeks later.
This lead to the second problem. I’m not sure if I’m actually choosing a good style for what I want. I would really like an expert to help me find the style that works best for me. But I given the limited instructions I can offer a barber, I think they are understandably hesitant to be very adventurous in the advice they offer or cut they give me. Also, if I’ve booked 30-60 minutes for a cut, we can’t spend much of that time figuring out what to do.
Women’s salons seem to offer style consultations, but I’ve never seen the option listed at a men’s barbershop. I’ve done some googling on men’s fashion advice, but the consultants seem focused on wardrobes and also targeting an executive style and price that I’m not interested in.
What’s the best way to get some expert hairstyle advice tailored for me?
– Good Hair to Great Hair
DEAR GOOD HAIR TO GREAT HAIR: This is a great question, GHGH, and not one I get regularly, so I appreciate your writing in!
So I have some good news for you and some areas where you could adjust things a smidge and get the sort of results that you’re looking for.
The good news is that you’re doing a lot of things right. Having an example of what you’re looking for is invaluable, especially if you don’t know what to ask for or how to ask for it. Being able to show a picture to your barber and stylist and say “I’d like this, please” is incredibly helpful; it will help make sure that you and they have the same idea of what you want than if you ask for “a little long on top, tapered to the back and sides and a hard part on the left”.
So since you have a good starting point, let’s talk more about how to adjust things to help ensure that you’re getting that awesome hair cut. My first suggestion is that you should consider going to a salon for this stage of the process, not a barbershop. Don’t worry about going to a salon as a guy; they’re not “women’s” spaces exclusively. This is another area where the gender divide is basically an illusion; more men go to barbershops because of the perception of salons being for women rather than the reality. Just about every stylist you would meet there is going to be experienced with cutting men’s hair, and when you make an appointment, the receptionist should be able to guide you to a stylist who’s going to be ready to help get what you need.
While things have certainly changed over time, a lot of barbershops tend to be better for simpler, more easily maintained styles that don’t involve complicated cuts or processes. More often than not, you’re going to find that a lot of barbershop cuts involve clippers and some scissors – these can be tools of incredible art in the hands of a master, but it can take a master to really make some styles work with clippers and trimmers. Plus, a lot of barbershops work on speed and volume and thus tend to be in-and-out sorts of places.
(This won’t always be true of every barbershop and you may well find that some shops – especially ones that primarily cater to younger African-American clients and clients with more textured hair – will be precisely what you’re looking for.)
A salon, on the other hand, is going to be a more leisurely experience. Amongst other things, since you aren’t going to feel as pressed for time, you’ll have more of an opportunity to talk to your stylist about precisely what you want. This is actually going to be invaluable for you, in part because having a reference is the starting point. A style that you like may simply not work on you because of the thickness, coarseness or texture of your hair, or it may not frame your face as well as you’d prefer. You may also not have enough hair grown out to get that exact look. In all of these cases, your stylist can help you decide if you still want to go for that specific cut, or help adapt it so that the look will be right for you. That tendency for your hair to puff out like a dandelion? Tell them about it; they can adjust the cut to include this or tell you how you might use this product or that one to keep it under control until it grows a bit more and lays down on its own.
This more leisurely experience can also help make sure that your haircut looks its best. One thing that we often don’t think about is how the actual topology of our heads can affect our hair styles. The shape of your skull – do you have a high central ridge? Do you have sibling-dents or grooves? Do you have a hair-swirl growth pattern at the back of your cranium? – can affect how your hair looks, even if it’s cut exactly like Rahul Kohli’s glorious mane; a good stylist is going to take time to adjust the cut to factor in these unique differences and make sure you get the results you want instead of running the risk of looking like someone used the warp tool in Photoshop on your new coif.
Your stylist can also help you figure out how to describe what you want or how to tell future barbers or stylists what you’ve done when you want to go get your new cut freshened up. Don’t worry, just about every stylist you meet will be willing to help you learn the terms you’re reaching for that’ll help ensure you get the results you want.
However, it’s worth noting that you may not want to go back to your barber. One thing that a lot of guys often don’t realize is that finding a good barber or stylist is like a relationship; you want someone you’re compatible with, who understands you and gets what you’re saying. If you click with your stylist or barber, you’ll want to go see them, specifically, instead of trusting to whomever may be available at the time.
Do some Googling, check reviews on Yelp or Facebook or even check the salon’s Instagram page and you’ll likely find places where you’ll feel comfortable, where you won’t feel out of place with the clientele and you’ll know who’s giving great cuts. Then make an appointment and bring some references. You’ll look great, afterwards.
Please send your questions to Dr. NerdLove at his website (www.doctornerdlove.com/contact); or to his email, firstname.lastname@example.org