We’ve all had a bad haircut. Maybe from the barber who left you looking mushroomy. Perhaps you’ve been bamboozled by blow-drying and hair products into something high-maintenance. There’s always the “too short,” the haircut that everyone comments on, the one that leaves you looking like a fifth-grader on picture day. (Just me?)
But it’s not always the barber’s fault. In fact, you might have the best barber in town but are still dissatisfied with the results. It is all about the approach you take before you even get in the chair—and here are ten ways to (sorry) get your head in the game.
10 Rules for Better Haircuts
1. Start With Your Face Shape
If two guys have the exact same hair texture, density, and length, they still won’t wear an identical hairstyle in the same way. That’s because there are other factors at play—namely the symmetry of one’s face and head. While you can’t rearrange your facial features (at least not for cheap) you can take note of your facial structure and choose a flattering hairstyle for your specific facial shape. The general principle is to cut against the grain of what’s most distinctive about your face to make the overall effect more harmonious. Add some angles to round races, perhaps, or round out a square or long face.
And look, there are plenty of people who defy these rules—and sometimes the style is to accentuate what’s most distinctive about your face! But having a grasp on the rules will inform your defiance. The people who successfully defy any style rule tend to know what it is they’re going against.
2. Copy a Celebrity…But Be Realistic
Your specific texture, length, density, and hairline are the primary variables that determine the types of hairstyles you are able to achieve (though they say nothing about what actually flatters you). So, if you plan on whipping out your iPhone before the cut, know that you have to tailor your expectations to whichever variable differences you have compared to the guy in the picture.
3. Ask the Barber for a Modification
Instead of showing a photo to your barber or stylist and saying “Give me this,” ask the pro for their opinion on how the cut should be modified for your specific variables. Again, this is your density, texture, and length, but also your face shape and hairline. When you watch hairstyling videos on YouTube or listen to lots of barbershop speak, you hear them talking about “modified fades” or “modified undercuts” or “modified this and that”… in short, it’s them taking a big picture idea and applying it a specific set of variables each time, in a way that works. So, have a conversation. Your barber should be able to explain their plan, and you should be allowed to interject with the things you do or don’t like about the proposed method. Make sure you both arrive at the same expectations before they begin.
In extreme cases, if this is a brand-new barber and you’re not liking what you’re hearing, it’s OK to find a respectful way to get out of the chair before the cut begins—toss them a tip for the trouble.
4. Think About How to Style It Beforehand
If you’re used to styling your hair with a lightweight low-shine cream, but the style you’re after demands all-day hold and looks best with eye-catching sheen, then you should probably try a new styling product before you give up on the haircut. It’s a great idea to have a variety of hair styling products in your arsenal, anyway, since different occasions might call for different levels of formality or even different expressions of your multitudinous personality. Check out our roundup of the best hairstyling products for men; we think every guy could have a cream, pomade, and paste in his assortment, at the very least. From there, one’s hair texture plays a bigger role in what his hair styling stock demands.
5. Factor In Your Facial Hair
In talking about styles that flatter one’s facial shape and that work with one’s variables, you cannot ignore facial hair. That’s because beards and mustaches are a big part of how your entire face looks. You will always feel better about wearing facial hair that flatters your face, and that works with your haircut rather than against it. For this reason, maybe the haircut you got is actually great for you, but it’s in contest with the facial hair. This can be for any number of reasons; perhaps it’s all too similar and your beard-to-hair ratio needs adjusting, or maybe the entire shape needs reassessment. Beyond that, maybe something like a mustache is just all too distracting since it pulls focus—a clean shave or perma-stubble look might better suit an eye-catching cut.