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Shop Talk

Getting What You Want from Your Barber

1.5 with the grain, bald fade

The barber shop is a place where you're supposed to get your hair cut, but also a place to come to relax, to get away from the kids, the wife, sit with the boys. But mostly, you're supposed to get your hair cut, and there's no reason that you shouldn't get a good haircut when you go to your regular shop, or at least the haircut that you want. I've been a barber for almost three years, and not to toot my own horn, but I'm pretty good at it. In fact, I'd say the only people that get out of my chair dissatisfied are the ones that don't tell me what they want. And that's the secret of this article; you have got to talk to your barber when he asks you what kind of haircut you want. 

I've spent most of my career catering to college students, a lot of them freshmen who have been going to the same person their entire lives and who have never thought to ask what kind of haircut they get. So, coaxing the general gist out of them and then refining it has become something of a specialty of mine. The trick is starting long and going from there. But occasionally, I'll get someone who not only doesn't know what they want, they also won't tell me if they like the cut or not. I moved shops recently and during my first week I encountered a young man who gave me a limited description to work with–which is fine, I'm used to that. I finished the haircut and asked him how it looked, was there anything he wanted to change, and he said that no, it looked fine and he didn't need anything else. The shop owner told me the next day that the young man called the shop after hours to ask to come in and have it fixed because he didn't like his haircut. Now, there's nothing wrong with that, but wouldn't it have been easier if he had saved the trip and just told me when I asked him if he wanted to change some things? I think so. 

I can kind of understand why you wouldn't say anything; confrontation is uncomfortable, and nobody likes to tell someone they don't like what they've been given. But this is your hair, and if you don't like it, then that's my responsibility. However, I can't fix anything if I don't know there is a problem. Later that same week, a shop regular came in for a cut. He told me what he usually gets and when we got to the end I asked him if it looked OK, to which he replied yes. Almost immediately, the shop owner came over and told me that I should go shorter on the sides because he usually gets a very close temple fade, not quite skin but closer than I was at the time. So, I took it shorter and asked the guy if that was better, and he said with a look of relief on his face that yes, it was. So why couldn't he tell me himself? It would have been much easier if he had just said, "can we go a little shorter here on the sides?" But at the end of the day, he got what he wanted. 

So, that's the message here. We in the barber industry want you to be happy, but ultimately we depend on you, the customer, for direction. You're the captain of the S.S. Barber Chair until the end of your cut, but a ship with a captain that won't give direction gets lost very fast. The next time you're getting your haircut, just remember, we're not mind readers, and if you don't like your haircut, say something. I guarantee your barber wants to help. And if they don't in fact want to help, then come see me. I'll get you sorted out.  

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