Skip to Content

How To Ask For A Haircut At A Barbershop Or Salon

I miss the good ol’ days when my feet couldn’t reach the floor from a salon chair, and my mom always knew exactly how to ask for a haircut on my behalf. Ahh, to be six years old again.

Most guys go through this struggle every 2-3 months when they visit the barbershop or salon. Communicating what your haircut looked like before it grew out, or what kind of changes you want to your usual style, is no cakewalk.

Table of Contents

How To Ask For A Haircut At A Barbershop Or Salon

Bring Pictures

There are hundreds of ways to describe that short-on-the-bottom, long-on-top hairstyle. Fade. Undercut. Caesar Cut. French Crop. Taper. Crew Cut. Burst Fade. They all look slightly different, but even an expert stylist can mix up the terms.

That’s why you need to bring a picture with you when you go to the barber. There’s less room for miscommunication.

If you have a “usual” style, take a selfie whenever you get your hair cut, and bring that photo back every time. You can also choose a photo from online, but remember to be realistic about the style you choose. If you have curly hair, you should browse photos of guys with curly haircuts. If you have short hair, browse short haircuts.

A photo will say everything that you forget to say to the barber.

If you forget to bring a photo, use as few words as possible to describe the haircut you want. Giving your barber a long laundry list of requests will only confuse him and disappoint you. Talk about the shape that you want, and let him know what clipper sizes to use.

Talk About Your “Hair Part”

Any good barber will ask you how you part your hair before he starts cutting, but just in case … make sure you bring it up at the beginning.

A haircut is also a great time to reassess how you part your hair. If you’ve been an adamant side-parter for years, maybe it’s time to hop on the swept-back hair trend. Talk to your barber about styling options, and have him show you what he thinks would look good for your hair.

Learn Your Clipper Guard Numbers

I have to look this up every time I go to the salon.

0 GUARD = 1/16 of an inch

#1 GUARD = 1/8 of an inch

#2 GUARD = 1/4 of an inch

#3 GUARD = 3/8 of an inch

#4 GUARD = 1/2 of an inch

#5 GUARD = 5/8 of an inch

#6 GUARD = 3/4 of an inch

#7 GUARD = 7/8 of an inch

#8 GUARD = 1 inch

You can also indicate with your hands, or just remember the measurement in inches. But I like to keep the guard lengths handy so that I can double check to make sure my barber is using the right one, especially if there’s a miscommunication. 

Don’t Forget Your Neckline And Hairline

You probably don’t look at the back of your neck very often, but your barber sure does, and he’s going to do something to clean up your hair back there. If you want a say in the shape of your neckline, be sure to speak up!

The three most common options are square, rounded, and tapered. It might seem nitpicky to communicate what neckline shape you want, but remember, it has a big effect on how people will see you from the back. Personally, I like how my square neckline makes my neck look less pudgy than it is.

Maybe you like a partayyy neckline in the back, but a business hairline in the front. If you need help refining your hairline to work with your daily style, mention that too.

Be Realistic

Remember, your barber can give you a good haircut, but he can’t work miracles.

If you have straight hair, a magical haircut won’t make it curly (try a perm instead). If you don’t like how your head is shaped, a short haircut won’t fix that.

Your hairstylist can only follow the directions you give them. They can’t guarantee you’ll love the results. So take responsibility!

Don’t be afraid to tell your barber what you do and don’t like. I know some people who like to visit the salon and ask for a “surprise haircut,” but few guys have the balls to just hand over the reins like that – I think the last time someone chose my haircut for me was when my mom took me to the stylist as a kid.

Be clear and realistic about your expectations when you go to the barber, and your hairstyle will be a cut above the rest

Frank Edwards is a men's grooming & style expert who is "internet famous" for being able to simplify complicated grooming routines into easy, yet effective rituals any man can do. As a professional analyst, he has spent years researching the biggest brands, products, experts, best practices, and breaking news in the space. He takes this analysis, tests it out on himself, and then documents everything in his writing. As a result, his experience-based articles are considered by some to be the gold standard in men's grooming and men's style.