Take Your Hairstyle to the Next Level
Great hair does not have to be difficult. It can come in a variety of lengths, colors, and styles. Here’s what you need to get started.
Understand the lingo
Barber / Barbershop: Barber shops are the classic shops specific to men’s hair. It is a traditional place where barbers are taught to almost exclusively cut men’s hair through the use of clippers. Typically barber shops are better for shorter hair, fades and tapers. Barbers are known to be masters with clippers. You should be able to get in and out under 30 minutes and at a cheaper price. Don’t expect to be pampered or your hair to be styled.
Hairstylist / Salon: Salons on the other hand could be for men or women and offer more styling tips and techniques. Often, stylist will have “formal” training/education through secondary school. Salons are generally better suited for those with longer hair. Think of these places as the total package and will not only include a wash, cut and style but will also include consultation. With the additional treatment, haircuts here are longer in time and will cost more. I personally prefer a hairstylist largely due to the fact I have longer hair and enjoy the one on one consultation.
That said, in many large metropolitan areas, a number of barbershops will now include services formerly exclusive to salons; such as, consultation, washes, and whisky!
Taper: Taper is a haircut technique that gradually shortens the length of your hair as you move down the sides and back of your head. It is a way to transition the lengthier top gradually so there isn’t an abrupt disconnect in length (although this was a sought after cut in 2014-2015 through the disconnected undercut).
Fade: A fade is a form of a taper. The difference is that a fade will take your sides and back all the way down to a zero (in other words, your skin). Think of a fade as an edgier version of a taper.
Classic Taper: Gradual change in length High Fade: A form of taper taking the sides down to the skin
Find a (new) barber or hairstylist
I will be using the two terms interchangeably throughout the rest of the article.
Find a reputable local barbershop or salon. Try asking a colleague or coworker where they get their haircut. You can also search on yelp to see which location has the highest reviews. I suggest skimming through the actual reviews to see if there is a specific barber or stylist whose name is commonly recommended.
Finding your “guy” (or “gal”). A barber is easy to find; a good one is hard to come by. You should be able to tell after two to three cuts if this is the right person for you. The first cut is usually a test run for both parties so I advise against a brand new haircut that neither of you are familiar with. Other factors to consider when selecting a barber:
- Personality: you don’t want someone who is unwilling to listen to you because they think they know what’s best. At the end of the day it is your hair and you can do what you want with it!
- Location: should be accessible and convenient enough for your day to day routine. I recommend travel time no more than 30 minutes.
- Availability: How good is a barber/hairstylist if they are never available?
- Price: Make sure the price per cut fits within your budget once you consider the frequency (discussed below).
Develop a routine. Once you’ve found your person, stick with them and develop a rapport. Everyone’s hair is unique and grows differently. Your barber/hairstylist is not going to know this immediately so give them some time. Once they begin to understand the nuances of your hair, your haircuts will become much easier and better.
Frequency. Depending on the desired length of hair, generally strive to get a haircut every 3 weeks. This is usually the sweet spot of “just before your hair starts to get too long” and “too soon for a cut”. This number is just general guidance as your own haircut may necessitate a 2 week cut frequency (not unheard of)! As mentioned above, keep this frequency in mind when you are looking for a barber/hair stylist with respect to what they charge.
Choose the right cut
First, consider your daily routine and the type of people you interact with, then choose a style to frame your face. Your haircut should complement you, not define. Most importantly, it should not be hindering or get in the way of your daily activities.
Select a hairstyle that frames your face. I’ve included a quick guide on hairstyles by face shape at the bottom of this article.
Other popular sources for finding new hairstyles are (in no particular order)
- Instagram (check out @Westonsbarbers and @menshair)
Build your Arsenal
With the cut set, it is time to equip yourself with the necessary tools to take care of your hair. Nowadays it seems like a new men’s grooming product is introduced to market every week. Here are some of the essentials to help you characterize what you see in stores.
Shampoo & conditioner. We all know washing your hair removes a lot of the dirt from your scalp and hair; however, it also washes out many of the essential oils that keep your hair naturally smooth and healthy. I recommend washing your hair once every other day. Conditioner can help offset this by moisturizing and conditioning your hair.
- Wax: Waxes offer moderate to high hold, little shine, and can be reshaped most easily out of the three products. Because it is a wax based product, it is fairly resistant to water. This could work great if you live an active lifestyle or in a rainy city. Keep in mind, it will take a few washes to really get the product out of your hair.
- Pomade: Pomades can be either water or petroleum (oil) based and is the most “versatile” product of the three. Pomades typically have moderate to high hold and shine, can be reshaped to some degree, and easily washes out with just water (water based pomades).
- Gel: Good ‘ol gel. While the stigma around gel does exist, gels can offer the highest hold and shine. Remember to use this product in moderation; gels will harden like a rock so once it’s in, it’s in.
My current dopp kit includes
- Brush: A brush is ideal to handle large amounts of hair at once, such as lifting up an entire area while blow drying your hair. Brushes are better for dry styling.
- Comb: The detailer for your hair. A comb is best when you are finely detailing your hair such as getting that perfect side part. Combs on the other hand, are better for wet styling
- Blow dryer: Blow-drying, as opposed to using only a towel, allows you to dry your hair in the direction of your desired style. This makes styling your hair much more manageable. Tip 1: Use the nozzle adapter to concentrate the flow of air, which allows for more precision when drying your hair.
The Upkeep (Styling)
This is the step where many men get frustrated and fall short. While each hairstyle is unique and necessitates a separate set of styling steps, here are a few tips to help you get started.
Start with a damp head. Towel dry your hair and get about half the moisture out. This way you eliminate any bed/hat hair and will also have greater control of your hair as you begin to blow dry it. Starting with a damp head is like starting a painting with a clean canvas.
Use a comb or brush (depending on the style) to straighten your hair in the direction of your desired style. This will create the framework for your hair. For example, if you are doing a pompadour with a side part, create the part first and then comb back your hair. It is much easier to maneuver damp hair than dry.
Once you’ve created the framework, it is time to blow dry your hair to add shape; resulting in the foundation. I recommend using a brush (due to its ability to grab large chunks of hair at once) while blow drying your hair. Similar to the previous step, brush and blow your hair in the direction of your desired style to add shape to the framework. Tip: If you are looking to create volume, gently lift up the hair and use the blow dryer to blow against the roots. A blow dryer coupled with a brush will be the secret to achieving volume.
At this point, your hair should now look similar to your desired style. The final step left is to lock it in! To avoid clumping, rub the product of choice in your hands first in order to distribute it evenly throughout your hair.
One question I often hear is “doesn’t it take forever to maintain your hair?” Like most things, there will be a learning curve. Thankfully this one is not steep. The steps above should help guide you so that you can begin to understand what does and does not work for you and your hair!
How often should you switch up your hairstyle?
Is there a magic number? No. But, as humans we typically seek change the moment something starts to feel stagnant. This absolutely applies to hairstyles and can be evidenced through the coming and passing of what’s “in” or simply a change in our own taste. Look, there’s nothing wrong with having a trendy hairstyle or changing your mind on what kind of hairstyle you want. The most efficient way to help you quickly adjust to the changing trends or your own taste is to first find a baseline hairstyle that accentuates your face. Then, allow your hair to evolve and develop over time to incorporate certain elements of any trend or change in personal taste. Starting with a baseline hairstyle first allows you to experiment with trends and preferences for a period of time but also to quickly revert back to your baseline hairstyle if said trend is no longer in.