How to Ask For a Haircut: A Glossary of Terms for Men

"I got tired of going to the barber to keep my fade together, so I just cut it all off." - Andre Braugher

Guys, we’ve all been there: visiting a barber or hair stylist with the wide-eyed hope of walking out with the hairdo of our dreams only to end up with a style or a cut that’s a million miles from the one you requested.

It’s a common nightmare - but to give you a reality check - it’s not just your barber’s fault, a lot of men’s hairdressing calamities boil down to the fact that many of us just don’t know how to ask for a haircut. And perhaps if Mr Braugher had this knowledge, he’d still have his fade.

More often than not, what we have stored in our heads doesn’t quite translate when trying to explain it verbally - which is the very reason droves of men walk out of their local barbershop or salon feeling utterly deflated with a sudden urge to go hat shopping.

But it doesn’t have to be this way; you can have the hairdo of your dreams. Men’s haircuts can be a sight to behold; all you have to do is understanding how to ask for a haircut. Fortunately, we’ve put together handy glossary of terms you can use for your next men’s haircut.

That said, here is a carefully curated selection of terms that will show you how to ask for a haircut, the right way.

Talking to your barber or stylist

In the modern age, men’s haircuts are broad and varied, with the potential for a guy to request and create almost as many looks and styles as his female counterparts.

But, again, this all boils down to how you communicate your hair-based wants and needs with your stylist or barber. So, if you’re wondering how to ask for what you want the right way, laying down solid foundations is essential - and that means knowing how to talk to the person who’s going to be cutting or styling your hair.

To help you do just that, here are the four key steps for laying down the groundwork:

Before you even set foot in a salon or barbershop, you should have a solid idea of what you're looking for and source some images you can talk through when you're in the chair.

If you're hoping to get a fade or another form of clipper cut, you should decide on a desired length or grade beforehand. Our clipper length guide below will help.

Think about how you would ideally like to style the top of your hair as this will dictate the approach the barber or stylist takes to get the results you want. Do you want it to be layered, faded, cropped, thinned, neat, messy? Make sure you have this information to hand by the time you hit the hot seat.

How your neckline is cut can drastically alter your overall look or style. Before your visit, think about how you’d like your new men’s haircut finished - the most popular neckline finishes are tapered, rounded, or blocked.

How to ask for a haircut: the definitive glossary

To help you make those all-important decisions before your trip to the salon or barbershop and communicate your dream do with the person with the fate of your hair in their hands (literally), here is a glossary of men’s haircut terms for your reference.

Haircut grades or numbers

This guide exists to make sure you don’t leave with too much or too little hair:

Grade 1: An-eighth of a single inch

Grade 2: A-quarter of a single inch

Grade 3: Three-eighths of a single inch

Grade 4: Half an inch

Grade 5: Five-eighths of a single inch

Grade 6: Three-quarters of a single inch

Grade 7: Seven-eighths of a single inch

Grade 8: One inch

Men’s haircut terminology

This glossary of terms is designed to help you communicate your preferences with a barber or stylist both fluently and accurately:

Buzzed: A buzz is the use of clippers to shave all or parts of your hair.

Taper or fade: Both of these terms refer to the same style or technique and most hairdressers or barbers use them intermittently. Essentially, a fade is cut that uses clippers and blends seamlessly into the skin. A taper isn’t always buzzed a quite as short and often involves more hair left on the sides. However, if you request the right grade, both terms will work.

Textured: Generally, textured hairstyles have a natural look and style-wise, are achieved using slightly less pomade, gel, wax, or putty than most other cuts.

Undercut fade: This is a combination of two iconic men’s haircuts – the undercut and fade - creating a sleek faded look with an understated step.

Cut numbers: Also referred to ask haircut numbers, these are the saver grades mentioned above.

Thinning: A technique that is often employed for men with thick hair, this is usually achieved with a pair of specialist scissors designed to take away weight from your hair, making it lighter and easier to manage.

Neckline: This term, perhaps obviously, refers to the where the back of your hair stops and meets the neck, and getting it right is essential. To help you further, here are the definite types of neckline finishes mentioned earlier:

Blocked: A straight, sharp line cut across the natural neckline.

Tapered: This follows your natural neckline and fades neatly to the top of your neck.

Rounded: This is cut in the same fashioned as a blocked style but with rounded corners.

So there you have it: all of the key ingredients you need to know how to ask for a haircut.

We hope you've found this enlightening and for more in our 'how to ask for a haircut' series, keep your eyes peeled for a glossary of popular haircuts, preparation tips, advice for men with thinning hair, and more.

If you've just got the hairdo of your dreams and you want to keep it looking fresh, check out our exciting new range of men's hairstyling products.

Jason Speziale