The beards, the lingo, the tattoos, the banter – for some, a trip to the barbershop can be an intimidating experience. But fear not, The Bluebeards Revenge is here to help.
Whether you’re popping in for a relaxing wet shave, or a funky new haircut, one of the most important elements of your barbershop experience is communication. Put simply, being shy and introverted is only going to result in an awkward experience for you and your barber, and a mop chop that really wasn’t what you wanted.
To avoid this, you need to learn how to talk to your barber; y’know, like they’re human, not some kind of hair-cutting robot that can read your mind. So, to help you master this essential skill, here are The Bluebeards Revenge’s top tips for talking to your barber.
Do some research
Before you even arrive at your local barbershop, make sure you have a general idea of how you hope to look when you walk out in around 45-minutes time. Barbers use a lot of specialised lingo, so try and pick up on a few of the key words you’re likely to need. For example, if you want your hair to gradually change length from top to bottom, start scouring the internet for the word ‘taper’.
Know roughly what style you want
This is kind of an extension of the above. You’ll make your barber’s life so much easier if you can just communicate roughly what style you’re hoping for. Want a classic pompadour? Or perhaps you want to stroll out with your head held high, looking like Mad Men’s Don Draper? Whatever is, vocalise it.
For the super-shy men amongst us, or for those put off by learning a second (barbering) language, the magic of smartphones now allows you to simply present a picture of your desired look to your barber – minimal interaction required. However, this still takes a little bit of consideration.
First, consider that everyone’s hair is different; what may look great on the head of David Beckham won’t necessarily look the same on you. Secondly, make sure you present your barber with a picture that is clear; no moody lighting and modelling pouts – the barber needs to be able to see the details in the cut.
Be specific with how much hair you want taken off
Whilst there is a lot of generalised lingo in barbershops, not every barber regards “a little off the top” as an inch, so make sure you give your barber an accurate measurement. There’s nothing worse than your barber taking too much hair from your head, especially if (like me) your hair’s pretty thin meaning your scalp shows through if cut too short.
If you’re not sure on exactly what length you want, try talking grades with your barber, or ask for a slightly longer cut than you want – you can always take a little more off at the end.
Have a good chat about your neckline (nape)
You know that awkward moment at the end of a haircut when your barber presents you with the back of your head and you really have no clue what you’re supposed to say other than “yep”? Well, take a little more time to make sure the styling of the nape is actually what you wanted.
You have three options with regards to your neckline: blocked, rounded, and tapered.
Blocked will leave the nape with a straight line finish and traditionally makes the neck look wider. A rounded nape is very similar to its blocked cousin, except the edges are (rather obviously) rounded, while a tapered look follows your natural neckline and maintains its shape and appearance for longer.
Consider textures and hair products
If you’re a simple bloke that just wants a few grades, you can skip this step. But, if you’re after something a little special when you sit in the barber chair, read on.
Many modern cuts require specific textures, and it’s important that you understand these textures before you’re sitting in the chair: if you want volume, ask for a choppy or layered cut. Alternatively, if you want to rid your head of bulkiness and thickness, ask for a razored or thinned finish.
With these textures and styles, you’re likely to want to apply products to your hair too. So have a chat with your barber about what products suit your style best. If the barber suggests a product off of their shelf, don’t get flustered. If you really like the product, buy it. If not, ask your barber to finish your style with a little today and see how you like it – you can always come back tomorrow and grab a tub.
Don’t be afraid of small talk
Your barber is likely an expert in small talk. But, if you’re a little hazy on the dos and don’ts then here are a few tips to help you get through your barbershop experience with as few awkward silences as possible.
If you don’t like being in the spotlight, then make sure you ask the questions. This will help to build your confidence, and as the conversation continues you can start to interject a little about yourself.
Be purposeful with your conversation too: If you start to work yourself up about the situation, dwelling on “how bad you are at small talk”, remind yourself that small talk is not pointless and is the gateway to more authentic conversations, resulting in closer relationships – perfect for you and your barber.
Zip your mouth, let your barber help you, and relax
Above everything else, remember that your barber knows a damn site more about the industry then you do. So, after you’ve chatted about your style, neckline, textures, products, and run out of viable small talk options, sit back, relax, and don’t question his/her methods too much. Trust your barber.