How to help your barber give you the perfect haircut

There’s that moment in every man’s life where we meet on equal soil. It’s that moment in the barbers when, at the end of your cut, after the brushing off of loose hair, that the hairdresser holds the mirror behind you to show you his handiwork on the back of your head. And we nod. Perhaps the more confident among you mumble a ‘yes, that’s great’.

Is it great? Maybe. Maybe not. But you’re British so you wouldn’t say anything even if it wasn’t. Truth be told, bar for checking the obvious – that there isn’t a huge chunk of visible scalp – we don’t really know what we’re looking for.

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There will be those of you reading this who really care about your hair and know exactly what you want from a cut, and I respect that – as I’ve previously written, why pay little attention to something that is as in people’s face as your face. But for every one of you who falls into this bracket there are 100 who plonk themselves into the chair and request a ‘short, back and sides’. Or mutter some mumbo-jumbo about wanting to walk out of the salon looking like Zac Efron, despite the fact that you’re balding.

With little guidance, your barber is left to act on his intuition and conjure up a cut that he thinks will suit the shape of your face. Only for us to have to return to a different barber four days later as a mullet wasn’t quite what you had in mind.

So, how can we guide our barber towards giving us the perfect haircut? I put this question to Tony Bonaventura, the senior hair stylist and founder of Arthur Razor…

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What are the important questions you want to be asked when cutting someone’s hair?

It would be very handy if you understood some technical terminology when speaking to your barber. When you first sit down, let your barber know whether you are in a corporate environment or a more creative world. Then move onto the technical terms: “I’d like a graduated hair cut.” “I want a nice tapered effect on the nape/neck.” “A nice clean finish or natural soft finish depending on the length of the hair.” If it’s too hard to remember haircut names and styles, take some snapshots of haircuts you like and bring them in with you.

What guidance can a customer give to ensure he leaves with the best possible cut?

The more guidance the better, including previously bad and successful experiences at other barbers. We learn from other people’s mistakes too! Tell your barber how you like your sideburns (top, mid-ear or end of the ear), texture (tell them if you want to add, reduce volume or make your curls more manageable), and most importantly the length. It’s not always easy to explain to a hairdresser what you want, so I suggest a detailed consultation beforehand. This can involve looking at some images together and showing options that would suit your style. Then both parties can have a clearer picture of what the end result will be.

Why is it important to take time over your hair and choose your barber wisely?

Because one of the reasons men don’t necessarily get a good haircut is due to the lack of communication between customer and stylist. A really good stylist will spend time understanding you and your lifestyle so that he can perform a cut that not only makes you look great, but makes a great first impression, wherever your day takes you.

Hair that is cut well will always hold its shape longer and grow out better. Your hair grows around half an inch a month – out then down. Facial hair will also be taken into account – a beard must be maintained every 2/3 weeks, looking nicely balanced and never out of control. So it’s worth finding a barber who understands your style and, of course, knows how to cut hair well.

Tony Bonaventura is the senior hair stylist and founder of Arthur Razor, Acton

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