How to Tell Your Barber What You Want: A Complete Guide

Ever walked out of a barber shop feeling less than satisfied with your new haircut?

It's an experience many of us can relate to. The key to avoiding this lies in mastering the art of communicating effectively with your barber.

In this article, we'll delve into how to accurately convey what you want to your barber, from the length and style to understanding the lingo.

Understanding Barber Lingo

Navigating the lingo is a crucial part of getting the perfect cut. Barber terminology can seem cryptic at first glance, but a little knowledge goes a long way. It's not rocket science!

I've been decoding customers' babbling for years. Trust me, I know it can be hard to put what you want into words.

Let's start with the basics. Consider your face shape and hair type. It's about more than just choosing a style you like from a magazine. Haircuts aren't one-size-fits-all and your unique features play a decisive role in what styles will suit you best.

Next, we have the main event: choice of length. Do you want the same length all over or different lengths on the top and sides? If you're going for different lengths then do you prefer a taper or a fade? This determines how gradual your hair transitions from long to short.

The location of this transition also shapes your overall look. Would you like it high, medium, or low? Remember, a low taper starts near the earlobe and the high one begins above the temples!

Words like "texture" and "weight reduction" might get tossed around. Hint: Texture refers to the look and feel of your hair while weight reduction is all about removing bulk to give your hair a balanced look. You don't need to become a terminology whiz, but a basic understanding can help.

It's also key to have an idea of the safe length to cut. You can always trim more off, but adding length back is a bit trickier (if you know the secret, do enlighten me)! Know what length you're comfortable with before you hit the chair.

Do Your Research

Experience tells me that knowledge is power when it comes to haircuts. Before you step foot in a barber's shop, get to know the basic terminology. There's no need to master it all, but a simple understanding goes a long way.

As a barber, my suggestions always start with considering face shape and hair type. Even the direction your hair grows plays a part. So before you decide on your next haircut, look into these aspects.

When you’re deciding on the length, think about if you want to stick with one length all over, or different lengths on top and sides. Choices such as a taper or a fade, as well as high, medium, or low transitions, all come into play.

Beware, people often confuse fades and tapers. And terms like "texture" and "weight reduction" can be misunderstood. In the world of barbering, these have very specific meanings, so it's a smart move to familiarize yourself with them.

Don’t forget, your barber is here to help guide you. We don’t expect clients to know everything. But it does help if you have an idea of the safe length to cut before you visit us. That way, we can make adjustments easily to get your desired look.

To me, planning ahead shows how much you care about your haircut. When hesitating between styles, carry 2 or 3 photos instead of just one. This gives me a clear vision of what you want and lets me explain how a particular style could work for you. You can easily find inspiration from different men's hairstyles online.

This isn’t just about vanity. My experience tells me that a good relationship with your barber boosts more than just your style. Shocking as it may sound, barbers can sometimes detect possible health issues. If we notice something concerning, we’ll alert you. Committing to your look could mean catching health risks before they become serious problems.

So, next time you walk into a barbershop, speak up and share your ideas with confidence. You won’t end up disappointed and instead, you'll walk out satisfied, knowing you've made the right haircut choice.

Communicating Your Desired Style

Let me share a bit about my experience as a barber. I can't emphasize enough how important it is to communicate effectively about your desired haircut. Communication is the pillar to ensuring satisfaction at the end of your cutting session.

It may seem a bit complex, but it's easier than you think to express what you want. If you're unsure, you should start with the basics. Let's start with your face shape, your hair type, and your hair growth pattern. These are three vital pieces of information that can significantly impact your final look.

Take your time and decide on the length of your hair on the side. Do you prefer a taper or a fade? Do you want it high, medium or low? What about the length on the top? Knowing these specifics can make a world of difference when explaining your desired hairstyle to me.

One thing I've noticed is that people often get confused between a taper and a fade, or mix up the use of texture and weight reduction. It's common but remember, no one expects you to be an expert in barber terminology! Keep it simple and basic.

But here's the best tip I can give you: Always establish a safe length to cut and then we can make adjustments as needed. It would be greatly helpful if you have an idea of the rough length you're going for, but I can guide you through that process too.

Believe it or not, showing you've put thought into the details of your haircut goes a long way. Not only does it demonstrate how important the haircut is to you, but it also enables me - your barber - to deliver the best possible result. The more effectively you can communicate your preferences and expectations, the happier you'll be with your haircut!

Using Visuals as a Guide

In my years as a barber, I've come to understand the power of a picture. Pictures can work wonders in helping us grasp the style you're after, acting as a potent visual guide. Yet here's a little secret: the most effective photo you can provide to your barber is a snapshot of yourself after a haircut you were particularly fond of.

Using someone else's hair image may fail to consider the specific traits of your hair. Variables like thickness, texture and your hairline are all elements that significantly impact how a haircut will turn out.

Fetching Photos from Haircuts You Love

So instead of wracking your brain on how to articulate your desired haircut to a barber, swing your efforts in another direction. Launch a hunt for photographs of haircuts that have met your favor in the past. By offering a few images of styles you appreciate, your barber gets a clearer image of your preferences. Take it from me, any barber will appreciate this effort.

The Informative Power of a Picture

Who said a picture's worth a thousand words? When you sit in the barber chair with your chosen image, be precise about your preferences. Be specific about the type of gradient you're after - a fade or a taper. Discuss the neckline cut and step it up by stating how much autonomy you're willing to assign to your barber.

These boundaries help to manage expectations and thwart any unwelcome surprises. Trust me, clear communication partnered with a good visual guide goes a long way in ensuring you're content with your haircut.

Asking for Recommendations and Advice

As a barber for many years, I can say that open and clear communication is essential. It's not about walking in and expecting magic to happen. Listen and learn from your barber's advice.

When in doubt, ask questions

Be curious about the process. It’s a give-and-take scenario. The feedback goes both ways. Collaborate with your barber to reach the best haircut decision. They'll appreciate your keen interest, and in turn, help you better.

Rely heavily on personal recommendations while choosing a new hairstyle or even a barber. Trust the other customers who have been there, experienced the services, and have an idea about what works and what doesn’t. Their experiences can lead you to a worthy barber and potentially, your next best hairstyle!

Not all hairstyles will suit every face shape or hair type. It's a simple fact but something that can easily be forgotten when you see a new trending hairstyle you want to try out. Show your barber the style you want, but also heed their advice on whether it's suitable based on your hair type and face shape.

Prepare yourself, have a basic idea about popular barbershop terminologies such as ‘fade’, ‘taper’, ‘texture’, etc. These terms will help you in seamless communication with your barber. However, don't panic if you're not familiar with these terms. As a barber, I'm always ready to explain it in simpler language. It's more about your preferences than the terminologies.

Remember, your haircut speaks volumes about your personality. The effort you put into deciding on your haircut is evident and shows your barber how important the desired result is to you. Be specific and set a length boundary with your barber as your safety net.

Trust me, when there is clear communication between a client and barber, the end result is a dapper haircut that suits your style.


It's all about striking a balance between knowing what you want and trusting your barber's expertise. 


Your face shape, hair type, and growth patterns are key factors in choosing a style. Don't get tripped up by terms like taper, fade, texture, or weight reduction. Be clear about your preferred length and don't shy away from asking for advice. 

After all:

Your barber is a professional and they're there to help. The bottom line is, effective communication is the secret to getting that perfect haircut. 


You've got the knowledge, now it's time to put it into action. Walk into your next barber appointment with confidence and walk out with a style that's uniquely you.

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