How to talk to your barber to get the perfect haircut you want?

grooming, hairdressing and man in cape with beard at barbershop high-wycombe

Wycombe Barbers - Haircut

Reflecting on your most recent haircut, did you leave the salon feeling disappointed? It’s common to attribute dissatisfaction to the barber’s skills, but in many cases, miscommunication plays a significant role. Barbers aren’t mind readers; without clear instructions, they can only offer haircuts within their comfort zone. For instance, I recall an elderly barber who defaulted to giving crew cuts unless clients specified their desired style in detail.

To steer clear of such experiences, mastering the art of communication with your barber is key. However, for many men, articulating their desired haircut can be daunting, especially with the plethora of industry jargon. But fear not, because ultimately, you’re the one footing the bill! We’ve compiled a thorough guide on how to effectively communicate with your barber, ensuring you leave the chair with the precise haircut you desire. Let’s dive in.

Setting the Stage: Describing Your Desired Haircut

As you settle into the barber’s chair, start by providing a broad overview of the style you’re aiming for. Do you prefer a classic crew cut? Are you envisioning a sleek look reminiscent of George Clooney or Cristiano Ronaldo? Or maybe you’re leaning towards a contemporary, modern style? Consider bringing along a photo showcasing your desired outcome for clarity. Once you’ve established this foundation, you can delve into the finer details. 

Alright, Trim Time! How Short We Cutting This Mane?

Once you’ve communicated the general style you’re aiming for, it’s crucial to specify exactly how much hair you want to be taken off and in which areas. Avoid vague requests like “just a trim” or “a little off the top,” as interpretations can vary widely among barbers. To prevent any misunderstandings and ensure you don’t end up with a haircut shorter than intended, provide precise measurements. Use terms like “an inch off the top” or “a quarter inch off the sides” to convey your preferences accurately. If you’re uncertain about the exact length you want, don’t hesitate to communicate this to your barber. They may make a preliminary cut to gauge your preference before proceeding further. If you prefer clippers, familiarize yourself with the guard numbers you prefer. This way, you can confidently inform your barber, saying something like, “I’d like a grade 2 on the sides and an inch off the top.” Clear communication ensures your haircut aligns with your expectations. 

The Taper Talk: Fading vs. Keeping it Even

When you’re at the barber, you’ll likely encounter the term “taper” being used frequently. If you’ve been nodding along without understanding what a taper entails, here’s a quick breakdown: A taper involves gradually changing the length of your hair from the top of the head down to the nape of the neck. Typically, the hair starts longer at the top and shortens as it progresses toward the neck. Taper lengths can vary, ranging from long to short. While most men’s haircuts incorporate some form of tapering, some individuals prefer a consistent hair length all around their head. It’s important to communicate your preference to the barber to ensure your haircut aligns with your desired style. 

Nape Game: Choosing the Right Neckline for Your Cut

It’s easy to overlook the appearance of your neckline since you rarely see it yourself, it’s essential to consider how it contributes to your overall haircut. Neglecting to keep it clean and trimmed can detract from an otherwise sharp look. When deciding on the type of neckline you prefer, you have three options: Boston, rounded, and tapered. Each option comes with its own set of advantages and disadvantages, so it’s worth considering which one aligns best with your style and maintenance preferences.


Opting for a Boston neckline involves cutting a straight line across the natural neckline, resulting in a squared block appearance when executed correctly. This style can be advantageous for individuals concerned about a slender neck, as it creates the illusion of a wider, thicker neck. However, if you already have a prominent neck, it’s advisable to consider another neckline option. One downside of a blocked nape is its tendency to appear unkempt as hair grows out. As new hair growth protrudes beneath the neckline, it can create a messy look. For those who choose a blocked neckline, regular barber visits, approximately once a week, are recommended to maintain a clean appearance. 


The rounded neckline offers a softened alternative to the squared block finish of a Boston neckline. It simply removes the corners, providing a more gently curved appearance. Similar to the blocked neckline, however, the rounded nape can become untidy as hair grows beneath the neckline. When this occurs, it’s time for a shape-up to maintain a polished look. 


In contrast to the defined line of a Boston or rounded neckline, a tapered neckline follows the natural curve of the neck and gradually shortens the hair toward the bottom of the neckline. This style can create a slimming effect for wider necks. However, the main advantage of a tapered nape is its ability to maintain a neat and blended appearance as the hair grows out. Unlike with a blocked or rounded neckline, frequent touch-ups are unnecessary  with a tapered nape.  

Styling Up: Adding Texture Talk to Your Haircut Conversation

Incorporating texture into men’s hairstyles has become increasingly popular, especially with modern looks. When communicating with your barber about adding texture to your hair, consider using the following terms to convey your preferences:


To add volume to your hair, consider asking your barber for a choppy texture. This technique involves point cutting, where the barber lifts sections of hair to varying lengths and cuts them at a 45-degree angle. Once styled with product, choppy hair creates a textured appearance, offering versatility in styling.


Opting for a razored haircut involves the barber using a straight razor instead of scissors to trim the ends of your hair. You might wonder, “Why choose a straight razor for my haircut?” For starters, it adds a touch of edge to your style. Additionally, razoring helps hair lay flatter on the head and reduces bulk. If you have particularly curly hair, asking your barber to use a razor blade for trimming the edges can help achieve a smoother, more refined look.


A layered haircut involves having longer strands of hair atop shorter ones. This technique is particularly beneficial for individuals with thinning or balding hair, as layers can enhance the appearance of volume and fullness.          

 Thinned Out

For those blessed with a thick, voluminous mane, consider requesting a “thinned out” haircut from your barber. This involves using thinning shears to reduce excess volume without sacrificing length. Thinning shears resemble regular scissors but have teeth that selectively cut some strands while leaving others untouched. If you have normal hair thickness, thinning every other visit should suffice. However, if your hair is exceptionally thick, it’s advisable to thin it out during every visit to maintain manageability and style. 

 Shaping Up: Defining Your Arches for a Polished Look

When it comes to grooming your arches, the space between your hairline and ears, consider the following options:

High arch: You can request your barber to cut the arch around your ears higher into your hairline, creating more space between your hairline and ears. This can be advantageous for men with smaller ears as it can make them appear larger. However, be aware that a high arch may appear messy and awkward as your hair grows out, and if they’re too high, they can give an undesirable dorky look.

Natural arch: Opting to maintain your natural arch is often the preferred choice for most men as it tends to look more balanced and flattering. Simply instruct your barber to clean up your natural arch with some short trimming to maintain its shape and neatness. 

Sideburn : Length, Thickness, and Finding Your Perfect Fade

When communicating your preferences for sideburns to your barber, specify both the length and thickness you desire. Common sideburn lengths include:

Top of the ear


Bottom of the ear

If you’re not aiming for the Hugh Jackman look, request your barber to trim and thin out your sideburns slightly for a more polished appearance. 

Time to Hear Expert Advice: Barber Speaks!

Once you’ve conveyed your haircut preferences, take a moment to listen to your barber’s suggestions. Often, individuals come in with specific ideas that may not suit their hair type or facial structure. Remaining open-minded and flexible to possibilities is key. Your barber’s expertise can offer valuable insights into what styles will work best for you. 

A successful barber-client relationship hinges on effective communication from both sides. Your barber should not only listen to your preferences but also provide feedback and advice based on their expertise. A good barber will check in with you throughout the haircut to ensure you’re satisfied with the direction. 

The barbershop experience is not just about grooming; it’s also about camaraderie. Over time, your barber can become a trusted friend you look forward to seeing. Eventually, all you’ll need to say when you settle into the chair is, “Give me the usual!”