man getting haircut

What to Ask for at the Barbers So You Never Have a Bad Trim Again

Written by: Piers Le Moignan



Time to read 9 min

We've all dealt with a bad haircut at some point. Whether it's a patchy buzzcut or an uneven fade, the results can be frustrating and somewhat embarrassing. But what if we told you that the key to avoiding these hair disasters lies in simply speaking your barber's language?

Sure, your barber should be a trained professional, but that doesn't mean they can read your mind. Or maybe it's your first trip to a new barber, and you want to make sure they maintain your favourite style.

In either case, communicating effectively with your barber is crucial.

So, what exactly does it mean to speak your barber's language? And what should you ask for at the barbershop to ensure a successful trim?

Our Tips on Communicating With Your Barber

1) Think about your hair type, face shape, & lifestyle before you go

2) Learn some barbering lingo & terminology

3) Describe the haircut with photos

4) Tell them what sort of length you want (be as specific as you can)

5) Use words you understand

6) Discuss your typical hair styling routine

7) Ask for their advice

What to Know Before You Go

Before you even step foot into the barbers, it's important to have a clear idea of the sort of hairstyle you want to go for and what's possible with your hair type.

Think about things like...

man  at barbers
Image by YakobchukOlena from Getty Images Pros from

Reference Photos

A reference picture goes a long way, especially if you haven't quite got the barbershop lingo down to a T – it allows you and your barber to be on the same page and avoids any miscommunication.

Our favourite place to turn to for inspiration? Instagram. Just search for hashtags or go to celebrities' profiles for some haircut inspiration.

Our blog also has some great articles on popular haircuts and styles, so be sure to check those out as well.

Or, if you're pretty happy with your current style but just want it tidied up, find a picture from your last visit to the barber and show it to them so they know exactly what you're looking for.

Your Hair Type

Knowing your hair type is essential when it comes to getting the right haircut. Different types of men's hair will 'react' differently to certain haircuts and styles. For example, coily or kinky hair should be cut differently than straight or wavy hair.

There are also different types of hair thickness – from fine to coarse – which can also influence the way a cut looks.

 Understanding your hair type will help you and your barber find the best style for you.

Your Face Shape

Aside from your hair type, it's also important to consider your face shape when choosing a haircut. Some styles may look great on certain face shapes while not as flattering on others.

For example, a round face shape would benefit from longer hairstyles to create the illusion of length, while a square face shape would suit more angular cuts to balance out the jawline. 

It's also important to consider your hairline and whether you have a high or low forehead, as this can also affect which styles will look best on you.

Your Lifestyle

It might not be something you initially think about, but your lifestyle should also play a role in your haircut decision. Things that can influence what type of haircut will work best for you include your…

  • Job

  • Hobbies

  • Exercise routine

  • Daily activities

If you have a job that requires a more professional and polished look, then a shorter, more structured haircut might be more suitable. On the other hand, if you lead an active lifestyle and spend a lot of time outdoors, a low-maintenance haircut might be ideal.

Consider your daily routine as well. If you don't have much time to spend styling your hair in the morning, then opting for a shorter cut or one that can air-dry easily might be a better choice. However, if you enjoy experimenting with different styles and have the time to do so, then a longer haircut with more versatility may be the way to go.

Your barber should ask you about all of these points and more before starting your haircut. But if not, make sure you bring them up and explain your needs and preferences.

close up of haircut
Image by Roman Budnyi from

Get Familiar with Barbering Terminology

It'll really help you out (and your barber) if you can use the right terminology to communicate what you want. 

We're not suggesting you need to know the ins and outs of barbering. That's your barber's job. But, having a basic understanding of common terms will make the process smoother and more efficient.

Some key words to know include:

  • Thinning – this is a technique where the barber uses thinning shears to remove weight from your hair.

  • Texture – The amount of volume and definition in the hair.

  • Layers – When the hair is cut at different lengths to create texture and movement.

  • Choppy – When the hair is cut into uneven, jagged pieces to create a textured and edgy look.

Men's hair grades or haircut numbers will also come in handy when communicating with your barber. These numbers represent the length of hair that will be left after the cut, with a lower number indicating shorter hair and a higher number indicating longer hair.

Read our guide to men's hair grades to learn more about the different numbers and corresponding lengths.

man smiling in barbers mirror
Image by Odua Images from

Our Advice on What to Ask Your Barber

So, you've thought about what sort of style you want, you've figured out the lingo, and you're ready to head to the barbershop. But how do you actually ask for the cut you want?

1) Describe the Haircut

It's as simple as that. You just ask for it. You should describe the haircut you want exactly how you want it using words you understand. 

Are you going for a complete style switch or just a trim? Trendy or classic? Short or long? Be as clear and specific as you can.

Those reference photos you screenshotted before? Show them to your barber. It can be difficult to put into words the exact style you want, but a picture will give them a clear visual to work off of. Point out any parts of the haircut that you particularly like or don't like, too, which will help guide your barber in creating the perfect cut.

Popular men’s haircuts include:

  • Pompadour – This classic style involves longer hair on top that is styled up and back, with shorter sides.

  • Fade – When the hair transitions from one length to another, often shorter on the sides and longer on top.

  • Taper – Similar to a fade, but with a more gradual transition in length.

  • Buzz cut – Where the hair is cut all over at the same length using clippers.

  • Undercut – Shorter sides and longer top, with a clear distinction between the two lengths.

  • Comb over – Hair styled to one side with a part, often with shorter sides.

  • Quiff – Similar to a pompadour, but with more volume and texture on top.

  • Crew cut – Short all over with slightly longer hair on top.

  • Mullet – Shorter on top and sides but longer in the back.
child getting haircut
Image by RDNE Stock project from Pexels from

2) Discuss the Length

If you want your hair to be shorter or shaved, tell your barber that. If you want it longer on top with a subtle fade on the sides, explain that.

If you're confident using the terminology and grade numbers, go ahead and use it. The more specific you can be about the length, the better. But if you're not sure or don't want to risk miscommunication, it's perfectly fine to use layman's terms.

Your barber can always start off with a longer length and gradually cut more off until it's at the desired length.

3) Styling Preferences

If you're keeping a bit of length on top, talk to your barber about how you want it styled. Do you prefer a messy, textured hair look or a sleek and polished style?

It's also important to mention if you have any specific preferences for your hairline, such as a sharp or rounded shape. Your barber can shape and style your hairline accordingly.

close up of clipper cutting hair
Image by Oleksandr113 from

4) Ask Them Instead

Your barber's head is full of knowledge and experience when it comes to haircuts, so why not ask for their professional opinion? They may have suggestions or ideas that you haven't even thought of.

Maybe they know a certain technique that’ll work better with your hair type or face shape . Or perhaps they have a new trend in mind that would suit you perfectly.

Trust their expertise and let them guide you towards the best haircut.

Summary: What to Ask the Barber for a Perfect Haircut

In short, be as descriptive about the haircut you want as you can. If you can use terms like "tapered cut" or "grade 2 fade", your barber will have a better understanding of what you want – but it's not the be-all and end-all if you're not familiar with these terms. Instead, make sure to communicate the length, texture, and overall look you're going for.

Our top tip, above all other tips, is to bring in a photo of what you envision your ideal haircut to be. It won't only take the pressure off of trying to explain your desired outcome, but it'll also give the barber a visual reference to work from.

Want more men's hair tips and inspiration? Keep scrolling through our blog, and be sure to check out our other grooming guides.


How Do You Get Exactly What You Want at the Barber?

Describe your desired look in detail, and bring in a photo for reference. If you want a specific length or texture, make sure to communicate that clearly. Don't concern yourself too much with nailing the terminology – just be as descriptive as possible.

How Do I Ask My Barber for a Trim?

If you're just after a tidy-up, make sure to specify that you only want a trim. Do you want the top shortened or just the sides cropping? Explain that you'd like to neaten up your current style rather than making any major changes.

Is it OK to Show a Barber a Picture?

Yes, it is completely acceptable to bring in a photo for reference when communicating your desired look to your barber. In fact, this can greatly help in avoiding any misunderstandings and ensuring that your desired outcome is achieved.

What Do You Say When Getting a Haircut?

Let your barber know whether you're going for a complete style change or just a simple trim. If you're after a new style, communicate the specific details of what you want – length, texture, layers, and style. If you're just looking to tidy up your current style, let them know what areas you want trimmed or shortened. 

Any extra tidbits of information, such as your preferred styling products or any problem areas, can also be mentioned. 

Piers Le Moignan

Piers Le Moignan is the founder and CEO of Salt Grooming, an award-winning British luxury men’s haircare and styling brand. 

Founded in 2018, Piers has quickly grown the company into a global brand that has distributed to 43 countries and counting.

Headquartered in London, Piers leads an agile workforce of 10 employees and consultants, including the company’s formulation team which features some of the UK’s leading cosmetic scientists. Piers is responsible for overseeing logistics, supply chain, and performance marketing, and is the driving force behind Salt’s product innovation and brand/creative direction. 

Previous to foundership, Piers spent a decade at some of London’s leading creative agencies, developing global brands and communications for the likes of Adidas, Jaguar Land Rover, British Airways, and more.

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