The Path to Male Hairstyle Nirvana
August 3, 2011 12:25 PM   Subscribe

Hair styling pros and enthusiasts, let's once and for all illuminate the path to male hairstyle nirvana.

I've never paid much attention to my hair so I:
* Don't know what type of hair I have (curly?).
* Keep changing hair stylist each month.
* Don't know what kind of products to use.

Generally I'm looking for tips on how to consistently get great haircuts as a guy (think "your hair for dummies").

Specifically I would like to know:
* How do you communicate with hairdressers to get the best results? What information is necessary for them to know?

* How do you find a great hairdresser who masters male hairstyling? Is there a difference between female and male hair stylists?

* How do I proceed If I want to get a new hairstyle but not sure what to actually get? Do I look at magazines, ask the hair stylist, etc?

Ultimately I would like to enjoy going to the barbershop and stop avoiding it like the plague.
posted by Foci for Analysis to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (14 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
A good place to start is a good barber/stylist. Ask some well-groomed guys you know where they get their hair cut.

Then take pictures of what styles you like. A good barber/stylist will be able to tell if it will work with your hair type and recreate what will work.
posted by ACN09 at 12:42 PM on August 3, 2011

Best answer: I convey my needs with the following phrase, said with reverence and downcast eyes:

"Number two on the top, number one on the sides."

Nobody has ever screwed this up. It requires minimal maintenance. I have worn my hair like this since 1991. Previous to that year, the phrase was "Make it short on top, but keep it long in back." That year, the hair manipulation professional told me, bluntly, "No." Thank god for him.

Perhaps I am not the target audience of this AskMe.
posted by Sternmeyer at 12:45 PM on August 3, 2011 [7 favorites]

Well, when I had a long hair and realized it was time to give it up, I walked into a marginally trendy salon and asked for someone that was interested in having some free reign (some stylists refuse to do this I found...). I let her do whatever she wanted. I was happy with the results and happy with the way it looked. If anything, just have some idea of the type of maintenance you're willing to put up with (e.g. hair product vs no product, wash and go, etc...)

Of course, now I'm more in line with Sternmeyer due to disappearing hairline (except it's a number 2 all around...)
posted by Jacob G at 12:54 PM on August 3, 2011

We're conflating terms here: stylists and barbers are two different creatures. Stylists work out of salons, are aware (or should be) of trends and fashions, and generally work with women. Barber shops are for generally for men who want a classic men's haircut (see Sternmeyer) and sometimes a shave. Stylists can provide a unique and in-with-the-times (or purely original) look for your hair and advise you on how to maintain it. Barbers can figure out the classic men's look that is right for you. Stylists are also considerably more expensive, depending on what you get (that is, you can get a barber shop haircut at a stylist's and only pay twice as much as you would at a barber shop.) Both can do a haircut off a picture, and both can tell you if it will look awful on you before doing it. However, for the stylist, beauty is more in the eye of the beholder than the barber.

There are, of course, exceptions to all this, but this is generally how it goes.
posted by griphus at 12:55 PM on August 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

Some stylists are very good at giving you a cut that works with your hair so you can make it look nice with a minimum of fuss. I can't tell you how to find one of these stylists other than to get some recommendations, and try a few different ones.

By all means don't be shy about looking through the sample books in the waiting area and picking a few styles you like. If the stylist is one of those mentioned above, he or she will likely veto something that you like, because it's not correct for your hair/face/head-shape, but will help you find something that works.

Don't be afraid to do something that is very different than what you have done. We guys are particularly stubborn about keeping the same style year after year. Both sexes are guilty, but think of all the times you see a man in his 30s or 40s with a hairstyle that looks like something he wore in high school. (Yes, some people still have mullets.)

Do not be afraid of pomade or some other product used lightly. Properly cut hair with properly used product will look natural and not greasy/plasticky/helmet-head-y. A bit of product can make all the difference between looking unkept and neatly pulled together.
posted by The Deej at 12:58 PM on August 3, 2011

Best answer: You get what you pay for.

Most people being paid to cut hair can give you a cut that looks OK for a little while. The test is how does it grow out? That depends much more on both their talent, skill, and ability to read what kind of hair you've got.

Jacob G is mostly right - but instead of marginally trendy, go some place undeniably high end. You should be comfortable with the idea of having an extended conversation about how your hair behaves and how much (or little) you're willing to take care of it. If they're good, that'll be enough for them to take it from there.

As a quick test, see how they react to some impossible requests, as in haircuts that would be just awful for your facial structure or hair texture, or just awful in general. If they're not telling you "no" (as Sternmeyer's did), they're not really invested in making you look good.
posted by NoRelationToLea at 1:26 PM on August 3, 2011

Best answer: If your hair is very short (like a number 2 all over) then you don't need product.
If your hair is very long (like shoulder-length) then you don't need product.
If your hair is very curly (like wire brush) then product is a waste of time.
If your hair is not very short then you need to use separate conditioner when you wash it.
If your hair is not very short then you need to blow-dry it.

The truth is: If you're not prepared to talk to people about their hair then you're not ready for a high-maintenance hairstyle. Great 'boy-band' hair is not something you can hack. It takes time and effort, and it has to matter to you. Do you really care that much about your hair?

If you want the easy life just stick to asking for a number 2 all over. Every stylist/barber will know what you mean and you will get the same haircut every time. You're a guy, and all guys suit a number 2. With this in mind you have no need to worry about having a different person every time and you have no need to worry about getting your hair cut.
posted by davidjohnfox at 1:30 PM on August 3, 2011

My boyfriend started getting good haircuts after I pointed out to him that his hair grew in such a way that the front part fell forward onto his forehead all the time, so he should get a cut that looked good when it did that, instead of looking like he needed to comb his hair. Alas, I cannot give you magic words, because I believe he said "Cut it so it looks good when it falls onto my forehead" and the barber did exactly that.
posted by telophase at 1:47 PM on August 3, 2011

Response by poster: I guess I have medium short hair and it's curly. As long as it's short it's manageable and I'll use some kind of product. But once it starts growing it gets curly/frizzy and I need to use ridiculous amounts of product to slick my hair back because that's the only hairstyle that doesn't look unkempt.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 2:54 PM on August 3, 2011

I don't live by this, but if I were more worried about looking well-groomed, I would just need to get a haircut more often than I do. Say every six weeks instead of every 10-12. At barbershop prices, that wouldn't be too bad.
posted by huckit at 5:12 PM on August 3, 2011

Please note: if you've never gotten a number 2 (or a 2/1) clipper cut, it is very short! Like 1/4"!

Lots of curly hair guys like them, because the length takes the hair to a pre-curl zone where you don't have to worry about taming the beast; however in 4-6 weeks the bulk of your hair will have doubled, so be prepared for lots of fuzzball feelings if you miss an appointment.
posted by Rube R. Nekker at 5:18 PM on August 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

Find pictures of dudes whose hair you like. On facebook, on flickr, in magazines, whatever. Pictures.

Take the to the stylist (a decent one). Ask them if they think any of the hairstyles would work for you- with the type of hair you have, with the shape of your face, and with the amount of time you're willing to spend styling it in the morning.
posted by Kololo at 5:45 PM on August 3, 2011

Response by poster: I can't believe that I still haven't found a decent hair stylist :/
posted by Foci for Analysis at 1:48 PM on February 29, 2012

Wow 6 months! I hope you've at least found someone to cut it in the meantime. :)
posted by The Deej at 1:14 PM on March 1, 2012

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