Let’s be real, a bad haircut isn’t going to kill you. No matter how terrible a ‘do is, it isn’t going to bring about your early demise via acute terminal embarrassment. Look at Justin Timberlake, he survived. It’s hair, it grows. And if that’s not enough reassurance, take a look at this season’s selection of hats.
Of course, that’s not to say you shouldn’t do your darnedest to get to step out of the chair with an unbeatable barnet every time; a task made considerably easier by following these eight guiding principals from the guys wielding the scissors. Here, in short, is how to avoid a bad haircut.
1. Do Your Homework
You wouldn’t buy a bespoke suit without doing a hefty bit of research first and, unlike your haircut, you’re not going to be wearing that 24/7. For that reason, it pays to shop around before committing to a barber or hair stylist.
It’s important to remember that expense does not always equal excellence – just because a haircut costs you the price of a three-course meal, it doesn’t mean you’re going to leave with a Michelin mop. Equally, dropping by the nearest barber shop or taking advantage of cheaper cuts by trainees is risky business.
This is especially true for those with thick or wavy hair, according to celebrity hairstylist Jamie Stevens. “Afro hair, for example, hair can present different challenges for every individual, so it’s important to book in with a stylist who fully understands your hair type and is confident working with it.”
Rather than merely going on rates and judging establishments on their taste in interior design, spend time browsing online reviews and ask friends for recommendations. (Ideally ones with good hair.)
2. Come Correct
Fail to prepare, prepare to fail — a saying that’s as true when stocking your new season wardrobe as it is when settling in for a snip.
On the day, the type of cut you have booked in for will determine how you should arrive. “If it’s a dry cut, it’s preferable to arrive for a haircut with clean hair,” says Murdock head barber Sam Hickey. “If your hair is full of product, the way it naturally sits can become distorted.”
If, on the other hand, you’re opting for a shampoo as well as a cut, then your hair needn’t be so naked. “You can arrive with your hair lightly styled – but don’t use too heavy a product,” adds the British firm’s master barber, Alex Glover. “This will allow the barber to comb through properly without snagging hair.”
In order to give a barber the best blank canvas to work with, they will also need to know how you usually style your hair and how it naturally falls. “With that in mind, if you have curly hair, it’s advisable not to shampoo your hair for the two days before the appointment,” adds Glover. “This will leave your curls more naturally toned so the barber can see how they sit.”
3. Don’t Be Tardy
Arriving late might be fashionable when it comes to a party, but it’s plain foolish not to be on time for a hair appointment.
Ensuring you arrive ten minutes before you slot means you’ll get the best possible service, as the barber or stylist won’t need to rush or reshuffle their schedule.
It’s also important to book a long enough appointment, says Glover: “If your last cut was more than six weeks ago, book what’s called a restyle haircut so that the barber or stylist has plenty of time to give you the service you deserve.”
Many inner-city barbers operate on a walk-in only basis. So always factor waiting time into the process, particularly during peak times such as after work or on Fridays. The last thing you want to do is ask your barber to rush an intricate fade so you can make a train.
4. Talk It Out
Amid the noise of furiously buzzing hair clippers and hairdryers on full blast, it’s easy for specific requirements to be misheard. The moment you take a seat in the barber’s chair, it’s imperative you communicate exactly what you’re looking for – and brace yourself for honest feedback, too.
“Ideally, a barber will ask you a series of open-ended questions to get to the bottom of what you want,” says Glover. This consultation will build a profile of a style that will suit your face and head shape, hair type and age.
But, equally, you should be open to professional opinion. “Be ready for change,” says hairdressing man-god Carmelo Guastella. “If a barber always does what you tell them to do without giving helpful suggestions on how your cut could be improved further, then they’re not doing their job properly.”
Finally, don’t be tempted to try using hair lingo such as disconnections and graduation unless you truly know what you’re talking about. The result could be a burst fade man bun combover. And we’re not even sure that’s possible.
5. Show And Tell
The best weapon for fending off a bad haircut is a good haircut, which is where pictures of top-notch trims come in.
“Showing a photo of a haircut you like should give the barber an idea of what you are looking for, but it’s up to the barber to assess whether the style is right for you,” says Guastella.
Spend some time browsing online hairstyle galleries and save images of the style you like to your phone so you can easily illustrate your requests when you’re in the chair.
Just bear in mind that while a buzz cut might suit David Beckham, it might not do your face shape any favours, so be open to only getting elements of what you banked on.
6. The Finishing Touches
The final ten minutes of a trim is reserved for the all-important finishing touches – whether that’s using a straight razor for awkward areas around the ears or assessing the cut from several angles to ensure everything is in proportion.
This is also your opportunity to pick up some styling advice. “You can have the coolest haircut in the world, but if you haven’t been taught how to style it, or shown the right hair product to do so, then it loses all value,” says Guastella.
Watching what the barber does and how is great, but if at the end of it all you’re still unsure how to nail that quiff or which pomade you need to tame an unruly fringe, speak up.
“One piece of advice that I can’t stress enough is that if you want a specific style, but you’re not sure how to achieve it, just ask,” says Stevens. “Most stylists will happily show you which products to use and how to achieve the look for yourself at home.”
7. Rinse And Repeat
Very few men achieve style icon status as a result of having cool hair that one time for a few weeks. The world’s best-groomed men are so by habit, and that includes checking in for regular chops.
Most hair grows at a rate of around 0.44mm per day, which doesn’t sound like a lot, but it quickly adds up to around half an inch every four weeks. And that can be the difference between Zayn Malik and Brian May.
“Be prepared to schedule regular trips to the barber shop if you want to keep your new style looking sharp,” says Hickey, who adds that going longer than four to six weeks between haircuts can result in a loss of shape and manageability.
The same rules apply even if you’re attempting to grow your hair. So block-blook appointments or set reminders in your phone’s calendar so you never let your hair game slip.
8. Switch It Up
Men are stubborn, loyal beasts; we find a barber we like, a tailor, sometimes even a barman, and we stay with them until we give up caring or die. Whichever comes first.
But don’t mistake loyalty with laziness, or commitment with, err, I just can’t be bothered finding somewhere else. Sometimes it pays to look elsewhere if you aren’t always getting you what you’re after.
“A lot of men will never change their barber and keep the same haircut and style for years – or even forever,” says Guastella. “And there’s nothing worse than sticking with a shape or style that doesn’t suit you.”
If you’ve attempted to switch up your style with your current barber a few times and keep getting the same old, take the plunge and try someone new. A fresh pair of eyes could be all that’s standing between you and a fresh AF trim.