How To Tell Your Barber Exactly What You Want: Our 5 Step Guide

Learn how to talk in your barber's language and you'll never leave the chair disappointed again.


Ever sat down in the barber's chair and not known the answer to the age-old question "what will it be, Sir?"? Or did you recently change barbers or decide on a radically different style and struggle to convey your requirements clearly?


Chances are you are not alone, and, despite being asked the same question every 3-6 weeks, it is surprising how difficult most of us find it to clearly explain to our barber what we want.


5 Steps to Barber Shop Glory

Fear not. Dear Barber is here to help you put together a step-by-step plan of action to make sure that your next barber shop visit goes off perfectly, leaving you, your barber and your hair looking and feeling like a million dollars.

How to talk to your barber 

Step 1: Do your research

Remember those 6 p's? Perfect planning prevents p*ss poor performance! Guess what? What works in life also works in your local barber shop. So, with a few minutes spent doing your homework you'll be in a great place to be able to decide what sort of hairstyle will work for you.

What to check?

Head Shape: If you work with the concept that your face is the painting and your hair is the frame then making sure the frame fits is equally as important as the painting itself…right?

Play to your strengths and pick hairstyles that accentuate your best features. Got a strong jawline? An undercut will accentuate this distinctive feature. Got a more oblong face shape, then try a side part to provide some extra dimension.

Check out this wonderfully detailed guide from the team over at TheTrendSpotter to set you on the right path.


Hair type: Not sure if your curls will look great in a side-part? Or your thinning hair will be enough to pull off a pompador?

Not all hair types were created equal, the key is getting the balance right between what you want and what your hair can do!

Check out Ashley Weston's 5-minute video in which Ashley wonderfully matches different hair types and the most suitable styles.

Barber consultation men's hair style

Ask your barber: As Shane Pritchard, experienced barber at Goodfellas Barbershop, Trecenydd, Wales, suggests, ask the guy/girl in the know, your barber, "…my advice would be to ask your barber what hairstyle would suit best and what would work best with your head shape and hair type".


Your lifestyle: And one last neat tip from lady barber Lauren Tamila at 695 Barber Shop, Warrington, England, is to "always be realistic with yourself, if you’re a construction worker, play footy with your mates at the weekend and take your kids swimming every week, then a long pompadour with a 3 taper on the sides is going to be hard to manage" on a day-to-day basis.


Step 2: Know your barbering terminology

OK so you've been busy at your desk researching your face shape and hair type. You’ve got a pretty good idea of what will and won't work, now you need to ensure you at least speak a little of your barber's language.


Whilst most barbers won’t expect you to turn up with a Master Barber NVQ3 level bank of barbering terms, knowing your taper from your fade, can go a long way to avoiding any lost-in-translation issues. In fact, it’s the least you can do to give your barber a chance of getting things right. Here's a quick step guide to the essentials:


Guard numbering

Questions like "3 ok on the sides?" or "ok with 1/2 inch off?" got you confused? Not to worry. It's just a little maths.

Generally, each haircut number represents 1/8 of an inch of length. As the numbers increase so does the amount of length of the haircut.

0  = 1/16 inch or 1.5mm this is essentially clippers without the guard so will result in a shaved look

1  = 1/8 inch of 3mm

2 = 1/4 inch or 6mm

3 = 3/8 inch or 9mm

4 = 1/2 inch or 13mm this is a medium-length cut

5 = 5/8 inch or 16mm

6 = 3/4 inch or 19mm

7 = 7/8 inch or 22mm

8 = 1 inch or 25mm this is usually the highest number, longest length of cut available with clippers

To visualise these lengths, check out this really informative visual guide from the team at 

Men's Hair Style Short Fade


A fade is a gradient haircut, that gives the impression of the hair "fading" into the skin.

Not to be confused with the taper, the fade is usually a shorter length, very detailed and with a very smooth transition between hair lengths.

It appears all the way around your head and ends at or above your natural hairline.

In fact, the type of fade you request is also important information for your barber.

Patty Yang, lead barber at Vabarbershop in Taiwan is delighted when her clients give her this extra detail "it’s great when a client can let you know where they would like to have the change of the fade - low, mid, or high".

With most barbers operating on this "high fade" to "low fade" pendulum its quite easy to select the one that best suits your look.

A Low Fade ends very close to your hairline whereas a High Fade comes to a stop above the ears...claro?!



A Taper is, as the name suggests, another form of achieving a gradient to the hair length.

Typically, longer in length than the fade and normally applied only to the side and back of head the taper is a less exact science than the fade.

The gradient still starts with longer hair at the top and leads to shorter hair closer to the hairlines. Check out this article from for 21 examples of a men's hair taper. 

It is used in most men's haircuts in some form, either with scissors or clippers or a combination of both and allows for easy management and symmetry of different hairstyles.


Step 3: Decide on a brief description 

Think of this as your Dragon's Den or elevator pitch. How can you best communicate in a few short sentences the haircut that you want?

"My ideal description would be for someone to know the side length desired and to know how they want their fringe to be" says Lauren, and she also adds that it's important that clients come "with the acceptance that, the style they request might not work for them and some slight changes / suggestions from your barber may help to get the perfect look".

Men's Hair Cut Lauren Tamila

So, try to make sure to cover these basic points:

  1. A brief description of the basic overall style you are looking for.
  2. Any specific details you can give about:
    1. The length of hair you want on top, side, back of head.
    2. The type of gradient you want to achieve e.g., Fade or Taper
    3. How you want your hair on top and fringe styled
    4. How you want your neckline cut e.g., squared or tapered
  3. An idea of how much freedom you want to give your barber over the brief (if you are certain it's what you want and you don’t want them to deviate, let them know so there are no surprises)


Step 4: Use photos

What do they say…a picture is worth 1000 words? No need to scissor cut those pics of Becks from your Shoot Annual anymore.

Armed with your mobile you'll be able to pull up a few photos of your favourite styles to show to your barber along with your description.

 Men's Hair Cut Shane Pritchard

But don’t waste your barber's time endlessly scrolling through the 'gram whilst sat in the chair.

Get your research done ahead of time and according to Lauren make sure to have 2 or 3 photos rather than just 1 single photo "as it helps your barber to explain how that style works for the person in the photos and how it will work on you, or what changes might be needed".

You can check out 100 men's hairstyles over at for some finger-scrolling inspo.

However, don’t just stick to  celeb social media feeds or the Daily Mail sidebar of shame. Patty recommends that you "check your barber's hair style collection on their website or Instagram to see if there is a cut they have done before that you love".


Step 5: If in doubt, ask the expert

Arriving at the chair with steps 1-4 all ticked off you will be in the best position possible to make sure you get the cut of your dreams.

But always remember, there is another person in this equation, your barber.

They are there to help ensure you leave feeling happy so if in any of the research you have done to date you have further questions, now's the time to ask.

Lady Barber Patty Oo Men's Hair Cut

Similarly, if you're still unsure as to the best cut for you then the professional stood behind you is the perfect person to ask. "People should feel relaxed around their barber, that they can ask us anything and we will always try to achieve what they are looking for" says Lauren.


And it’s all part of solving the puzzle for Shane "questions are always welcome when it comes to a haircut, this way the barber and the client can work out what style they'll get along with and what will suit them best".


Failing all that Patty suggests throwing caution to the wind and place your faith in your barber "try different styles and don’t be afraid of a change. You might accidentally discover your own unique style!".


Lets recap... 

So, there you have it, 5 steps to hair styling immortality! Here they are again just to keep them fresh in the mind:


  1. Research.
  2. Know your terminology!
  3. Have a brief description.
  4. Use photos.
  5. Ask your barber!


Now step forward young padawan and walk into your next barbershop appointment with supreme confidence.

 Happy Barber and Customer Men's Hair Style


Found this blog post helpful? Or have any follow up questions? We'd love to hear from you. Please leave your comments and questions below.


Heading out to the barbers and need that perfect post-cut styling product? Check out our full range of barber-approved hair styling products here.

And take 15% off your first order with by using discount code STYLE15 at checkout.


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