Late '90s called, wants hair back
October 27, 2011 7:11 AM   Subscribe

I haven't had a haircut this century. I think it's time. Help me decide on the way forward.

I'm a male person, mid-thirties, heavy-set build if that matters. Last haircut was probably around 1998 or so. I've worn my hair in a ponytail since. I got on just fine for a while, but this latest bout of unemployment, coupled with the fact that I'm sick of messing with my hair all the time has me ready to make a change.

I'm still pretty lazy though, and would like as low-maintenance as possible. A part of why I haven't been shorn in so long is that I don't like the hassle of having pay to maintain a haircut.

I think I'd like to just go straight to a trimmer-shaven head. I have a beard trimmer that I like, although it may be too narrow to be maximally effective. I don't think I want skin-bald-with-a-razor short, but very short, like a trimmer with the shortest attachment.

What do you think, in your experience, would be the best way to go? Since it's been so long without attention, should I go get a professional haircut, then maintain it myself? Would you go to a hairdresser or a barber? Maybe I shouldn't go straight to trimmer-head but get a nice intermediate business-y haircut then go shorter? What is the thing you wish you were told before you shaved your head?

As you might imagine, I haven't thought much about this subject in over a decade so maybe there's new trends and options I'm not aware of. Any input is welcome.
posted by distressingly thick sheets to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (23 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
My husband went straight from long, long hair like yours to a trimmer shave like you're describing. He looked so great I told him, "Why didn't you do this years ago?" And he answered: "Because you told me not to cut my hair." Oops.

Go for it. But yeah, go to a barbershop the first time. That's a lot of hair to be dealing with and if you do it yourself you'll be covered with it.
posted by BlahLaLa at 7:15 AM on October 27, 2011 [2 favorites]

I went through this a number of years ago. I went to a relatively high-end salon and told the stylist to do whatever they thought would look good given low maintenance criteria. I was very happy with the results. I've since gone to an all-over shave (with a number 2) due to hair loss and wish I would've done it years ago. Regardless of what you do, though, I'd go to a professional at least the first time.
posted by Jacob G at 7:17 AM on October 27, 2011

I cut my own hair with a $30 Phillips beard trimmer. It's perfectly capable and so SO easy to do. If you want your hair that short, it is the most cost effective method of doing it. I think I have spent $90 on (3) clippers in the last 10 years and one of those purchases was because I moved countries/voltages.

If you want hair slightly longer and styled, then a hairdresser may be more sensible.
posted by Brockles at 7:19 AM on October 27, 2011

Oh, and when I went from long hair I went the 'normal haircut' route first and in hindsight I'd have been better off just shaving it off. But it was too scary. I have considered myself a wimp for that ever since.
posted by Brockles at 7:20 AM on October 27, 2011

Get a recommendation for a good, patient and experienced men's barber -- not, like, a Supercuts or something -- and make an appointment for when it is not too busy. Tell him you want the thing on your head to be a good, classic men's haircut that's low-maintenance. Men's hair styles aren't as mercurial as women's. A man can wear a hairstyle from 50 years ago and look just as well-put-together as a hairstyle that made a debut in the last issue of GQ. We're lucky like that. The barber should know what to do.

Let him pick something and see if you like it. Don't like it? Go shorter. Realize you don't want a haircut at all? Have him trim it down and ask him which trimmer he uses. Buy that and have your S.O. or a friend trim your hair from now on. Otherwise, come back to him every once in a while to get your hair kept up.

Don't worry about trends, or hair you have to work with product every morning to get looking right; it doesn't sound like that's something you'll want to bother with. If you do want something like that, get a recommendation for a salon and prepare to pay a lot more. A good salon is expensive.
posted by griphus at 7:21 AM on October 27, 2011 [2 favorites]

Go to a barbershop, fer shure. I went from a (barely) ponytail to something short-ish ten years ago, but it was cut by a "stylist" and took a lot of messing with it to make it look decent in the morning.

Go to a real barbershop. Ask for a medium. You'll need to get it trimmed up every 6-8 weeks, but it's literally, splash some water from the sink, three swats with a comb, and out the door.
posted by notsnot at 7:21 AM on October 27, 2011

Not very helpful to you, but I came in here to suggest you donate your hair if you have more than a 10-inch ponytail. The hair has to be clean and (I think?) un-dyed, and should be put into a braid and cut off as a braid, and tied on both ends with rubberbands/hair ties. Look into it!
posted by at 7:22 AM on October 27, 2011 [4 favorites]

Also: the thing I wish I knew before I shaved my head is that there's this intermediate period between a shaved/very closely cropped haircut and a "normal" haircut that is just really terrible-looking and awkward. If you're goign to keep it very closely cropped, you need to do it more often than you think.
posted by griphus at 7:24 AM on October 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

Go to a barber and ask for #2 on top, #1 on the sides. Use those exact words. I've worn my hair like this for years now, and I wish I had worn it like this all my adult life. The only thing I wish I had known before was how much better life is when hair stops being something that you need to do and starts being something that you just have.
posted by Sternmeyer at 7:28 AM on October 27, 2011

I did this recently. One thing I also did (on the advice of mrs jquinby) was to cultivate some trimmed stubble on the rest of my face to prevent the Wall of Skin effect that my head would present otherwise. I use a #1 on my head and keep the stubble trimmed and neat elsewhere.

I have to redo my face about once a week, and redo my head with a #1 every other week or so.
posted by jquinby at 7:31 AM on October 27, 2011

Go to a barber and ask for #2 on top, #1 on the sides. Use those exact words. I've worn my hair like this for years now, and I wish I had worn it like this all my adult life. The only thing I wish I had known before was how much better life is when hair stops being something that you need to do and starts being something that you just have.

That depends on hair thickness. If I did that, I'd have a straight-up military flattop look, because my hair is so thick. I go #2 (short) on the sides (there are short and long #2 clippers, apparently) and "a little longer than finger length on top."

Ask a good barber. They should know what will work with your hair type.
posted by xingcat at 7:35 AM on October 27, 2011

Go to a barber and ask for #2 on top, #1 on the sides. Use those exact words. I've worn my hair like this for years now, and I wish I had worn it like this all my adult life.

I do this except I ask for a 4 on top and a 3 on the sides. I get it cut once every 3 months. It gets long, then I cut it.

The last time I cut it, my son did it for me. I use the trimmer on him and now that he is 16 and not a clown about things, I let him do it. Saves me the $20. My point is, is that it is easy.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 7:38 AM on October 27, 2011

I shave my own head with clippers. With practice, it takes only 10-15 minutes to do everything - including your face. Then you can let it grow in for a week or two, have a nice bit of facial hair, and remove it again.

Shaving your head this way has many advantages:
1. Fast.
2. Costs nothing.
3. You can have a beard.
4. Then you can remove it.
5. You'll never need shampoo again.
6. You'll never need conditioner again.
7. Your scalp will be clean and dry (haven't had dandruff in years).
8. People may want to rub your head.
9. Travels well.
10. Requires no maintenance between cuts.
11. Often garners compliments.

I use the $25 Wahl clippers sold at Target. They are fine if you keep the blades oiled every third or fourth shave. I'm so lazy, I just tear a garbage bag open, drape it over the sink and cut over that. Throw it away and shower after. No mess, no problems. Also, if you don't shave your head for a while and then do it, it feels AMAZING.

If you don't like the completely shaved look, that's cool. You'll have a not-completely-shaved look most of the time. Try it, you will almost certainly like it.
posted by fake at 7:57 AM on October 27, 2011 [2 favorites]

Go to a professional. It's more than just paying for a haircut. If you go to someone good, then you get pampering as well. You will get to have someone shampoo your hair and massage your scalp. This is a big life change. Make the most of it. Your stylist can answer your questions on what kind of clipper to get to maintain the look in between cuts, but do go back every so often to have it professionally shaped.
posted by myselfasme at 8:06 AM on October 27, 2011

I wanted to nth the donation suggestion. Try Locks of Love!
posted by the_blizz at 8:27 AM on October 27, 2011

Yes yes on the donation. Most of the donations are from women... Women who have colored and perked and straightened and used blow driers and flat irons and products and generally destroyed their hair so it can't be used for wigs.

Piles of donated hair have to scrapped.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 8:34 AM on October 27, 2011

I'll second going to a salon or barbershop. Some people look good with shaved or buzzed hair and some people really really do not; the shape of you head, your face, your skin tone, your body overall all affect how it's going to look and it's best to go to a professional to decide what will work for you. Plus, you haven't had a haircut in over a decade, you might find that you enjoy the ritual of going to a barber more now. It feels good to take care of yourself.
posted by villanelles at dawn at 8:46 AM on October 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

Don't cheap out here. When I went from pony tail to clean-cut, I went to a salon and had the woman basically do whatever she felt was appropriate. Once I had the structure of a decent cut, I was able to maintain it via discount haircut places.
posted by Gilbert at 8:49 AM on October 27, 2011

There are a couple of things I learned when I cut off my ponytail:
1) Expect the hair that you leave on your head to shorten up a little. All that weight has stretched it out some, and that stretch will go away when you take the weight off. If you cut down to a #2 then it'll end up between a #2 and a #1.Oh, and not all the hair will shrink the same amount. This is why the first haircut looks like crap in a day. Expect to go back for a cleanup in a week or so.
2) Your head will feel really weird for a while, and you'll find yourself turning your head REAL FAST compared to what you're used to until your muscles re-learn that they don't need to work as hard.
posted by Runes at 8:59 AM on October 27, 2011

I went the No.2 (1/4") clipper route about 15+ years ago and never looked back. I had hair that went down to the middle of my back and I donated it to something like the aforementioned charity. I went to a hair salon for that first cut (not sure why really) but it was nice to fussed about by the ladies there for a bit: "Oh but your hair is so beautiful!" But I've done my own hair since then. I cut it about once every 2-3 months when the bed-head starts to get really annoying. I did (do) have an issue with dry scalp/dandruff that I didnt have when my hair was long but thats probably an individual thing.

Oh, it is apparently hilarious to SO's to throw cotton or wool socks at your sandpapery shaved noggin and have them stick like velcro.
posted by elendil71 at 9:44 AM on October 27, 2011

Personally I don't think long hair looks good on men unless it's properly cut and cared for - a lot of geek guys I know go for the pony-tail, regardless of whether it suits them, or have shaggy split-endy hair. Chances are your default hair isn't doing you a lot of favours. I had waist-length hair for a long time, so I know this well. Not only do fashions change, but so do people, and it sounds like, with unemployment, you need to feel like a different person a little bit.

I would recommend getting something low-maintenance - I'm female, and we're expected to want to primp our hair, but my hair improved enormously when I found cuts that worked with it rather than against it, and meant that I didn't have to do much to it. I have a bob cut that I have to get trimmed every couple of months or so, and despite it being a classic, simple looking cut few places can do it properly - if you go for a 'style', getting it cut well saves a lot of time and hassle down the line. You might find that what looks good one one person doesn't on you, and short hair that short doesn't suit everyone, so get your hair person to make a recommendation.

If you're going that short (you want to ask for a 'buzz cut') then you need to expect to get it cut regularly to maintain it, though as others have said there's home-stuff you can get. As a student, a friend of mine who looked like a little boy with his hair a bit longer looked unbelieveably attractive with it buzz-cut - another man might look like a skinhead. It really depends and it would be worth getting someone who cuts hair all day long to give their view.
posted by mippy at 10:04 AM on October 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

My mom's been taking a #3? trimmer to my dad's head since before I was born, saving him time and money. It looks decent, but you might want to start with the recommendations for a barber on the first cut. As a female-type that had loooong hair forever and went to short, I recommend the ease of short hair!
posted by ldthomps at 10:22 AM on October 27, 2011

I kept my hair buzzed very short for ten years. I invested in a nice pair of Andis clippers and used them with no guard on the blades (shortest cut you can get with clippers).

I personally would find it super fun to cut off a bunch of long hair, but if you don't want the hassle, just go to a barber and have them do it. Then zip it off every ten days or so with your own clippers. Getting it all even can take a bit of practice, but it's almost effortless hair care.

If you want to get an actual haircut, I advise you go to a salon and tell them you want something short in back, tousley on top, and get it cut every 8 weeks or so. Maintaining a cut on your own is a lot harder than you think. I can cut my own hair (not just buzzed but a nice sculpted cut), but don't because it's a huge pain in the ass. Invest in a styling wax and use sparingly.

Tips if you buzz: you will need to buy hats. Near-bare heads get cold easily! The difference between 1/8" and 1/4" of growth is quite noticeable. Be careful about getting sunburned. A sunburned scalp is really owie and looks like leprosy when it peels. It's easy to avoid, though: just rub sunscreen right in.

fake's list of advantages is right on the money. I don't think I'd look good with the cut anymore (a 25 y.o. woman looks hot with a shaved head, a 38 y.o. with a little extra weight in the face looks like a potato), but MAN it would be great.

Oh, a note about donation: your hair, no matter how well maintained, won't actually be made into a wig. It'll be sold for industrial use, and the proceeds used to buy long Asian hair, which is the best for making wigs. Not to discourage you at all, just miscellany.
posted by Specklet at 11:16 AM on October 27, 2011

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