After walking into your nearest salon and given a seat, your stylist asks you what sort of cut you’d like. You go to reach for the picture you’ve brought along to show your stylist, when disaster strikes and you realize you’ve forgotten it.

Don’t be alarmed – all hope is not lost; rather than bumbling out a dreadfully inadequate explanation of what you’d like done to your confused stylist, hit them with a few words they’re likely to understand instead. Use the following guide to get descriptive with your barber:

Talking about style

Thinned out
When thinning out, a barber is removing excess bulk from the hair without necessarily making it any shorter. Thinning out requires special scissors that may tug the scalp slightly, so be prepared for the ‘pulling’ sensation.

When you want your hair to have a long, smooth transition from one length to another you’ll need to get ‘tapering’. A good taper will reveal no sudden shifts in length, and will have a smooth gradient throughout.

This style has the advantage of creating a wild appearance whilst still remaining trim and contained. It gives plenty of texture and can be styled into a number of different looks with relative ease.

Unlike traditional cutting, where edging can look lifeless and flat, textured hair is cut with a staggered edge leaving it with more depth and dimensionality. The varying lengths of a layered cut also allow for good movement and ‘bounce’.

Cutting hair with a razor leaves the follicles sharp and angular. Razored edges work best on short, straight hair, and give a strong, sharp edge.

Talking about length

Short hair is typically that which extends no lower than the top of the neck with the strands typically less than several inches at their longest.

Medium length hair usually begins at the top of the neck but extends no lower than the start of the shoulders. The longest strands are several inches long, although still relatively contained.

Long hair begins at the shoulders and can continue downwards ad infinitum; strands are typically longer than several inches and can extend several feet at the back if you’re going for an extremely long look!

When talking about a specific cut

Although you can specify your required cut in vague terms, it may be more helpful to give your barber the name of the cut you’re after directly; although every variation has its own name, here are a few of the more common cuts a good stylist should understand with relative ease.

Buzz Cut
Short all over, the buzz cut is so-named because of the sound the electric razor makes as it clips around the head; sometimes referred to as a skinhead, burr-cut or a ‘number one’, and often sported by military men or those who need a no-nonsense look.

Caesar Cut
Image: Tudou MaoThis eponymous cut is short with a slightly longer fringe/bangs. Popularized by George Clooney in the early 90s, it still remains fashionable to this day; just make sure, if you choose this look, you don’t go overboard with your gels and pomades – too much will make your hair appear limp and ‘wet’.

The mullet is short on the top, front and sides but long at the back. Extremely popular in the 1980s, the mullet saw a brief rise back to popularity in the early 2000s although it has since (rightly) faded back into obscurity again. Unless you’re named Billy Ray Cyrus, it’s best to avoid this look entirely!

Taper Cut
A short length cut where the back and sides are cut progressively shorter with a subtle blending taper. Some barbers will also taper the top of the hair too, although others will stick to a basic ‘thinning out’ process to remove any excess bulk.

About The Author

Johnathan Bell is the founder, owner and main author of Guy Style Guide, a website dedicated to everyday male fashion, style and grooming. The primary mission? To guide clueless men through the tricky mindfield that is the growing world of male couture. Find him on , Twitter and Tumblr.

4 Responses

  1. Steve

    I’m surprised you mentioned the mullet at all.

    I also wish you would have added a section about clipper length for sideburns – not all guys know clippers they need.

    • Johnathan

      While I’d like to think that the style would never haunt us ever again, the new ‘designer’ mullet is still remarkably popular in some areas; it’s always better to define the cut (and then say, “whatever you do, DON’T get this cut”) rather than risk not mentioning it at all – a kind of “one to avoid” if you will!

      Clippers, and clipper lengths, are a whole topic unto themselves. Don’t worry though, I’m sure it’ll get it’s own special posting soon enough!

      Thanks for your comment, Steve.