I’ve always enjoyed the meme of a woman spending $200 at a salon and looking exactly the same versus a man spending $15 at a discount cuttery and looking completely different. There definitely is a bit of truth in that. However, men in general should consider maybe stepping away from the discount chains and entering into the relationship between a man and his long-term barber.
Now in a world where everyone is constantly offended, if you’re reading this and you cut hair at Supercuts or Hair Cuttery and are planning on sending me hate mail, let me be perfectly clear in saying that I’m not saying you should be obsolete. I got my haircuts at these establishments for most of my life. However, now that I’m well into my 20s, I know exactly what I like for my hair. I’ve experimented with some great looks and some terrible ideas, and am at an age and hair maturity that it makes sense to take my haircut experience to the next level.
A Gentleman goes to a barber
…and there are two main reasons why: the consistency and the experience. Establishing a solid relationship with a barber means that you are getting a consistent haircut that you love. You don’t need to spend the first 5 minutes going over what you like and don’t like, telling horror stories of old haircuts that other places got wrong, or showing them 20 pictures of your hair from different angles you took in the bathroom before driving there.
Every 4 weeks when I show up my boy Shane (@lyonsbarber if you’re in Bucks County and want a great cut), says something like “same thing?” or “leaving the top, cleaning up the sides?” That’s it. I nod my head and relax in the chair as I know for a fact that in 20 minutes, barring an earthquake to mess with Shane’s steady hands, I’m going to leave with the exact cut I want.
Consistency is key. We’ve all had that awkward moment at the end of a haircut where we nod and say it looks good but on the inside we’re crying a little bit and are going to go home and play with our hair for an hour to try to find the best way to make it look somewhat presentable. That does not happen once you’ve found your long-term barber.
The Experience is Everything
Honestly the experience in itself is just as good, if not better than the actual haircut. Again, I’ll give you the anecdotal experience of my barbershop. As I said, every four weeks, Wednesdays at 6 to be exact, I show up at Modern Male barbershop in Perkasie. I walk in and whoever is at the front asks me if I’d like a beer. I generally go with Crisper, a solid Free Will Brewery beer. I hang my coat on the rack and take a seat for a minute or two until Shane calls me over for my cut.
Now here is where the barber experience is very different than the normal haircut experience. I thoroughly enjoy talking to my barber. Chatting with a random stylist is often awkward, albeit very minimally. You go through the classic small talk to essentially earn the least amount about each other that you can while still making it look like you genuinely care.
This is not the case in the barber shop. I know Shane, and he knows me, and we actually take an interest in learning about what has happened in each other’s lives in the last four weeks. We talk about my sports, his music, and our mutual love of Game of Thrones. We will recommend other shows or video games to one another, I’ll check in on how his girlfriend and cat are and he’ll ask about my work life. Next thing you know, there’s a hot towel on my face and I’m ready to head out the door looking as fresh as ever.
Is this the same experience you will get every barbershop you go to? Of course not. But this is definitely an experience you COULD find if you do some initial legwork and find a good barbershop near you that does great work and has a solid vibe.
Finding your barber
Fortunately we live in the age of social media, so this step is significantly easier now than it was 30 years ago; or even 5 years ago. All you have to do is google barbershops in your area, and I can almost guarantee they will all have social media pages showing examples of the type of work they do. Those barbershop pages will often tag their barbers so you can look at each of their individual work as well.
It’s not rocket science. Use social media to find someone that cuts hair in styles similar to the style you are after. That way you already know that they can give you what you want, and you won’t have the initial stress of wondering if you’ll be happy with your cut.
If the first barber you try does an amazing job, stick with them! Or, if you really want to make sure your future experiences are going to be the best they can, try a couple different spots. If they all do great work but one place has a way better atmosphere, I recommend going with that one. The formula for a great experience = a great cut + a great atmosphere, so make sure both are in order.
Final Tips and Tricks
I just want to add a few short tips and tricks that, while are very important, didn’t quite warrant their own individual sections in this article. Each of these will help maximize the experience of having a consistent barber.
- Show up on time. I’ve blown this a couple times and have felt terrible each time. I’ve had decent excuses but still, it definitely adds some tension. These guys have busy schedules and you don’t want to stress them out by messing with those schedules.
- Get on a recurring schedule. You don’t want to wait until a week before to schedule your cut. Imagine calling for a Friday haircut because you are going to a wedding Saturday, just to be told that you won’t be able to get in. Get on a recurring schedule.
- Commit to the experience. Be conversational. Take an interest in your barber. If you guys are tight, your fade will be tight.
That’s it. Trust me on this one gentleman. You’ll be happy you made the switch.