How do I find hair styles? How do I guide my hair stylist?
March 5, 2010 2:55 PM   Subscribe

I have never understood how to get a haircut. As in, walking into a barber shop and telling them what I want. In fact, I don't know what I want, but I need a haircut. Help me!

Yeah, I'm pretty frustrated at my lack of knowledge here.

First of all, I don't know what I want. Searching Google Images is the best haircut searching tool I know of. Does anyone know of a better way to browse hair styles?

Secondly, how am I supposed to convey what I want to the barber? I don't have a printer so printing out a picture won't work.

Thanks MeFi.
posted by Taft to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (16 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Male yes? Buy celebrity/sports magazines featuring editorials with male stars.

Show the photos you like to the hairdresser.
posted by fire&wings at 2:59 PM on March 5, 2010

Best answer: Assuming you're a fellow (ladies don't generally go to barbers, at least in the US), you can ask them to trim like it is but generally shorter ("off the ears" is a general guide to relative shagginess), tell them you'd like something casual or professional and talk it out with them, or you can go in early and scope out the hairstyle books. They deal with everyone from people who have detailed descriptions to vague hand gestures, so they'll be used to your lack of stylistic direction.
posted by filthy light thief at 3:00 PM on March 5, 2010

I had this problem too. My answer to this was to fight my natural thrifty ways and go to a salon instead of a barbershop. Part of the job of a stylist, and why they cost so much more, is working with the customer to figure out what they want, and using their own experience to suggest an appropriate cut that the customer would like. It makes all the difference.
posted by PercussivePaul at 3:05 PM on March 5, 2010

Best answer: Taft, this made me laugh—it's exactly the same awkward panic I face every time I go to the barber. I have to stifle the urge to say, "Just make it shorter, don't talk to me too much, I don't know what I want!" As you might guess, I haven't figured out a total solution to the problem, but here are a few things to keep in mind that might help:

- Have you ever gotten a haircut that you really just liked and felt good about? Do you have any (non-digital) photos of yourself from that time? You could bring one in.

- The way that seems to have worked for me is to estimate the length of hair I want taken off, generally (say, an inch and a half) while adding any special instructions (longer on the top than on the sides seems to work out well for me). As filthy light thief says, most barbers are used to completely useless, inarticulate directions. So long as you can mention some vague idea of how much you want taken off, that's usually enough.
posted by cirripede at 3:12 PM on March 5, 2010 [2 favorites]

Seconding PercussivePaul. I'd never gotten a good haircut until I went into a salon. The woman who cut my hair said, "How do you want it?" And I said, "I have no idea." We talked about it for a few minutes, trying to find out what I might like, then she gave me the best haircut I'd ever had.
posted by lekvar at 3:21 PM on March 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

Yeah, like others have said, I just tell them to make it shorter and to "clean it up a bit". If I want it fairly short I tell them to cut it so it's off the ears. If they ask any follow-up questions I tell them to decide for me.
posted by Diplodocus at 3:30 PM on March 5, 2010

Cut it to one inch on the top.
buzz the sides and back with #4 buzzer.
blend the sides.
Round the back.

Works for 90% of males out there with hair on their head.
posted by yoyoceramic at 3:32 PM on March 5, 2010 [4 favorites]

nthing starting with a salon instead of a barber shop.

I get my hair cut at a straight up (no pun intended) old fashioned scissors and clippers male barbershop these days. But only because I've gotten a good hair cut and I know what works for my head/face shop, so I can say "do this." (Well, now it's "do that thing we always do" because I'm a regular who keeps it short.)

But before I gained this (in my opinion) incredibly valuable power, I had no clue -- and was embarrassed at the fact. I soon realized after taking a friend's recommendation and going with him to a salon -- this is what they get paid to do. You don't even have any sort of general idea of what kind of hair cut you like -- just that you want to look good (I assume). If you don't want to look too much a certain way (not too conservative, not too wild, whatever), use the terms you feel comfortable with, and a good salon should be able to do that. Tell them what you want -- and seriously, if they can't work with what you tell them, consider going elsewhere. (Yes, this is awkward, but you can just sort of stop in and see if you get a good vibe from the place, if it's that important to you.)

If you have any friends with good male grooming habits, ask them. You don't have to keep going to a pricey salon. But once might be enough. And if you don't know any men like that, a female friend can should be able to tell you, if she goes to a salon, if they do men's hair.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 3:40 PM on March 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

3rding Lekvar and Percussive Paul. You don't even have to go to a fancy schmancy salon, find some trendy joint near a college campus. My first salon haircut was $20 bucks plus tip. Walk in, pick a snazzy looking stylist and tell her to go to town. I did that 7 years ago and it literally changed my life. I go to a barbershop now, but now I know what to ask for.

PS- if you get a crummy haircut, guess what, it's just hair, it'll grow back!

Good luck!
posted by ThaBombShelterSmith at 3:43 PM on March 5, 2010

"I have no idea; what do you think would look good?" is a great starting point. All of the men I know with great haircuts got theirs in this fashion, initially.
posted by davejay at 3:59 PM on March 5, 2010

Definitely ask women with good haircuts who they go to. Men's cuts at a salon will be cheaper than women's cuts and you'll probably get someone with good skills who will work with you!
Once you learn what you like you will want to learn how to describe it. My husband has to describe his cut in detail every time or his stylist seems to forget and make it too short!
posted by LilBit at 4:05 PM on March 5, 2010

My theory about old school men's barbers is that, left to their own devices, they know how to do one cut. I've always been surprised with how consistent they guys are - if they leave too much in the back once, they'll do it every time. Anyway, with that in mind, I went around from barber to barber until I found one that I liked. Found one that worked for me, looked just like a salon cut, so I kept going back to him. In my case, I tell them to only use the clippers on the edges, as I much prefer a scissors cut.

Also, if you don't want to go to a salon for whatever reason, you could try a hairstylist school. I got a great haircut at Vidal Sassoon school in Santa Monica.
posted by Jeebu at 4:31 PM on March 5, 2010

Find people whose haircuts are similar to what you want, and ask them what they ask for when they get a haircut.
posted by dws at 5:59 PM on March 5, 2010

Lots of good advice above.

One note: your hair's diameter (coarse, fine) and amount of curl (together, the two are known as 'texture') will to a certain extent determine what works and what won't on your head. Examples: coarse hair when cut too short will stick straight up -- great if you want to spike but sucky if you want it to lay down. Many men with a tight curl often buzz quite short for ease of control. Some textures are more flexible/forgiving than others. So even with a photo, the barber/stylist might not be able to replicate the exact look on you, although any professional worth their salt will explain why and work with you to figure out a compromise.

Re: goggling for photos -- can you copy/email the images to a cell phone/pda and show them that way?
posted by Rube R. Nekker at 7:23 PM on March 5, 2010

I just say, "Make it pretty." It's been working for 50 years and more.
posted by charlesminus at 9:57 PM on March 5, 2010

Lots of good advice. Let me add to it.

1. "Do what you think will look bet" will get you the same haircut that the barber has. This isn't 100% true, but I've been disappointed by it a couple of times & no longer do it. I at least try to give them some direction so they don't feel they have creative license to do whatever they want.

2. Change barbers - how often do you get your hair cut? Yeah that's 12 chances to find a barber you like a year. (Okay, probably not, your hair probably hasn't grown out enough to really change your style after a month, but you get the idea.)

3. After every cut, whether you like it or not, ask them how to ask for it the next time you're there, or pretend you're moving & ask them how to ask someone else for that cut. See just how consistent barbers & stylists can describe their own cut, and how different the terms are each one will use to describe what they did. There's some stuff that's consistent, but that's the easy stuff - over the ears, natural in the back - the difficult stuff on top, I don't really get consistent descriptions of what to ask for.

4. Yelp is your friend. Be careful with the reviews, some reviews look like astroturfing & the negative review area *really* negative. Ask your friends. I posted "I need a haircut" to facebook and got 2 or 3 great recommendations.

5. I do this, I don't know if it helps or not, but I explain to the barber how I prepare my hair in the morning - which is pretty much towel dry & flatten if anything is sticking out. Anything more high maintenance than that (e.g. gel, etc.) and I just won't do it. They need to know these kinds of things and/or can give you pointers about how you should do it every day, or for special occasions.

6. I have a colic in the back of my head that, if cut to the wrong length, sticks straight up Alfalfa style. It should be pretty obvious to anyone cutting my hair that it's there. The ones I go back to are the ones where the colic is still tame 2 days and 2 weeks after I get the cut.
posted by MesoFilter at 9:27 AM on March 6, 2010

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