I need advice on how to find and communicate with a hairstylist or barber.
October 30, 2004 10:09 PM   Subscribe

I need advice on how to find and communicate with a hairstylist or barber.

I've used the same hairdresser for most of my life. After moving, I got a few terrible haircuts after random walk-ins before I started making a monthly two-hour pilgrimage to the only person who understood what I wanted and knew how to deal with my hair. Now that she has moved, it's time for me to find someone else, and I have two problems.

First, I have no idea how to go about finding a hairstylist. I live in a college town, so all of my friends with good hair make treks similar to mine to get their hair done; I'm looking for someone local, so I can't ask them for advice. At the risk of sounding repressed, I just can't picture myself approaching a stranger and asking him where he gets his hair done.

Secondly, my experience has shown me that I'm incapable of describing how I want my hair to look to another person. Pictures would probably help, but I never had the foresight to take good pictures of my head after getting my hair cut. My hair is apparently pretty rare, because after pouring through reams of men's magazines, I haven't found a single picture of a guy with hair like mine. Ideally, I'd like to find somebody who can size up my hair and give me a flattering haircut: do people like this exist outside of large cities? If so, how do I find one? Any hair tips for an absolute beginner would be appreciated.
posted by Eamon to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Also, I know someone is bound to recommend either cropping my hair with clippers or shaving it completely. I've done the former many times, but I'm not going to do that again until nature leaves me no choice. Or if I get another terrible haircut.
posted by Eamon at 10:23 PM on October 30, 2004

One trick that someone mentioned on ask.mefi before is this: after you get a good haircut, ask the person who cut your hair what you should have asked for to get that exact haircut. They'll tell you the exact terms that set off the lightbulbs in a stylist's head. Then you can use the right terms when you go to someone who isn't two hours away.
posted by bcwinters at 11:15 PM on October 30, 2004

Don't go to Great Clips. That's my first advice. Also don't go to anywhere that's in a Wal Mart. (Well, I go there if I need a buzz cut, but not for anything else...)

I've always just suffered through some bad haircuts until I found a good stylist. Right now, I've had the great luck to have a Bishop's Barbershop (It's all indy rock and shit) open up in an area I frequent; there's one stylist there that does a passable job every time on my noggin. There's another that's quite simply an artist; he blends in a way that doesn't even look like your hair's blended.

Be careful with terms. Some stylists are self-trained and only went to the classes they absolutely needed to for the state certification; different stylists call different things by different names.
posted by SpecialK at 11:23 PM on October 30, 2004

I always try to get a hairdresser in his or her forties or fifties, and I never let anyone under 30 cut my hair. Experience counts, and nobody lasts in that job that long unless they're good at it.
posted by orange swan at 6:19 AM on October 31, 2004

I always consult a local magazine or newspaper's "best of" list--one of those annual features where they ask readers to vote on their favorite businesses.

It's also possible to ask your old stylist for a referral.

But, sometimes, cities just lack good stylists. My college town was like that when I lived there.
posted by profwhat at 7:01 AM on October 31, 2004

This is a good AskMe question! I have often wondered how my "shorter here" "keep this longish" translates to professional hair people. Many hair or beauty schools offer free haircuts, providing you're willing to "go under the knife" of someone less experienced (you are their experience). There is almost always an instructor present at these -- just in case questions arise.

In my personal experience, I have found that gay male hairdressers tend to be the best at translating my feeble instructions into something that looks good. This is from my very small personal sample of about 7 hairdressers in my entire life; when I get a good one, I stick with them until either I or they move.

I realize this doesn't mean all gay people make good hairdressers, or even that all gay hairdressers are good hairdressers. Like I said, it's just the experience I've had.

My GF usually takes a few pictures from magazines along and they work from those. I look forward to any good advice from people who have real working experience in the field.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 8:02 AM on October 31, 2004

In areas of relatively uniform hair length (generally around the sides and back of the head), it can be specified in terms of the attachment on the clipper, which begins at #1 for very short and increases for greater length. As for the top parts of the head, I generally try to specify in terms of fraction (e.g. "half off") instead of the vague "medium-short, please."

I suspect working from a picture would be best, though I've never bothered to try.
posted by Krrrlson at 1:49 PM on October 31, 2004

I always try to get a hairdresser in his or her forties or fifties, and I never let anyone under 30 cut my hair. Experience counts, and nobody lasts in that job that long unless they're good at it.

I got a pretty awful haircut from a guy in his 40s once. Just chipping in.
posted by angry modem at 8:50 PM on October 31, 2004

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