How to Get A Better Haircut

An Insider's Guide

Man getting a haircut
Dimitri Otis/Photographer's Choice/Getty Images

If you've ever received a bad haircut, you know how frustrating and embarrassing it can be. A bad haircut for men is sometimes the fault of the barber or stylist doing the work, but the blame often lies with the client. A bad haircut can really mess up your life for a few weeks. Having unrealistic expectations, poor communication, or an unfriendly disposition can lead to a bad experience. The following are professional "insider tips" on how to get a better haircut.

1. Make an Appointment

Barbershops and salons which offer appointments normally have a higher standard of customer service. Walk-in driven salons are focused on volume and, as such, are more likely to rush through your service in an effort to do as many haircuts as possible. An appointment ensures your barber or stylist will not feel the need to rush through your haircut and allows ample time to complete the service with attention to detail. It is important to be on time for your appointment and to call ahead well in advance if you're not going to make it.

2. Be Nice

There are three people you never want to make mad—your hairstylist, your tattoo artist, and your brain surgeon (especially the latter). You should always make an effort to treat your barber or stylist with respect and a friendly attitude, even if the haircutter is not reciprocating. The person cutting your hair can really ruin your day—or several weeks, for that matter—so it's important that he or she has a positive feeling about you.

3. Listen to Your Stylist

Barbers and stylist are trained and paid to make you look good and will know what styles best frame your face and enhance your features. When your stylist makes a suggestion, give it a try. As guys, we often stay in the comfort zone by getting the same haircut year after year.

Don't be afraid to change it up a bit. If you don't like the cut, it will always grow back (well, almost always).

4. Be Realistic

If you're not Brad Pitt, chances are your stylist can't make you look like him. Using a male celebrity as a guide for the type of haircut you're after is fine, but it's important to be realistic about what to expect from a stylist. If your hair is fine and thinning, Colin Farrell's latest cut probably won't work on you. Take a magazine photo with you to show your stylist the cut you're after. If it's not realistic, a good barber or stylist will tell you so and then make suggestions on similar alternatives which will work for you.

5. Bring a Photo

Guys and hairstylists often seem like they are speaking different languages, but a photo is always clear. If you've got a particular style you are after, it is always best to take a picture with you to make sure your barber or stylist knows exactly what you want. For some reason, many guys feel uncomfortable taking a photo. Don't be. Your barber or stylist will appreciate the effort and will see exactly what you have in mind.

6. Don't be First or Last

Admittedly, I'm not often at my best first thing in the morning. It takes me some time to get warmed up and focused on the task at hand.

Of the 12 barbers and stylists in my shop, about half are just like me. So, I try to schedule haircuts with a higher degree of difficulty later in the day. On the flip side, a stylist can often be tired after eight hours of standing behind the chair and will have more difficulty focusing at the end of the day.

My advice? Make an appointment in the middle of the day. This is also a good idea because many salons are slower and your stylist will likely have more time to spend with you. Finally, never attempt to "squeeze in" at the end of the day. Showing up five minutes before a salon closes will almost always guarantee a rush job. Remember, barbers and stylists enjoy leaving work on time, too.

7. Tip Well

Most people who cut hair for a living will never admit it, but we almost always spend more time with clients who are good tippers than we do with those who are not.

Clients who are generous with gratuity will often receive preferential treatment when booking appointments and receive a greater attention to detail during the service.

8. Find a Barber or Stylist Who Cuts Your Style Well

Here's a comment you'll almost never hear on the golf course: "Bob your flattop is fabulous! Who does your hair?" Getting men to talk about hair is next to impossible, but keep in mind that the best way to find a barber or stylist who suits your style is to ask. Find a guy who has a haircut similar to the cut you're after and just ask him, "Cool cut. Who did it?" He'll consider it a compliment and you'll find a new stylist.

9. Show Up Clean and Hat Free

This tip is especially true if you go to a barber for a clipper cut. Most barbers prefer to do clipper work in dry hair that is clean and free of product. Hats also leave a line in the hair that makes it difficult to blend properly. Even if you go to a stylist who will likely wash your hair first, you'll want to show up with clean hair that is free of products and hat lines so your stylist can evaluate you hair and see how it falls naturally.

Of course, maintaining a great looking head of hair involves more than good communication with your barber or stylist, but follow these basic guidelines and you're off to a great start!