A Few Hair Terms You May Need To Know

haircut terms how to speak to your barber
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Knowing a few hair terms can make the difference between getting the perfect trim and ending up with a nightmare cut. Check out our guide to ensure your next trip to the barbers is a success.

Read more Men’s Hair Features

Most guys knowledge of hair terms extends about as far as “can you trim a bit off the sides, please?”. If that sounds all too familiar, then perhaps it’s time your brushed up on a few more specific hair terms. By doing so, you can ask your barber for exactly the cut you want, which highly increases the chances of you being happy with what they give you.

From the names of different haircuts to knowing which numbers correspond to which lengths; the more hair terms that you know, the more that your barber can do for you in terms of creating a style that works for your hair type and face shape. We’ve got a rundown of everything you’ll need to know to ensure your next haircut is your best yet.

Haircut Terminology

The key to walking away from your barbers feeling confident with your new haircut, is to learn a few hair terms. Once you’ve got to grips with a few hair terms, you wont have to smile and nod politely when your barber asks if you’d like your haircut tapered or a blocked neckline. Instead you can ask for, and get, exactly what you want (taking a picture of the style you want always helps, too).

Barber Terms

  • Blocked Neckline: A straight line cut across the natural neckline. This cut can give the appearance of a wider neck but can also look messy once it starts to grow out.
  • Rounded Neckline: The same as a blocked neckline, but with the corners rounded off.
  • Tapered Neckline: The hair gets gradually shorter towards the neckline and can give the illusion of a slimmer neck.
  • Choppy: If you ask for a choppy cut, your barber will pick the hair up at different lengths and cut it at a 45 degrees angle (that’s called point cutting, if you want to get really technical). This will add volume and create texture.
  • Razored: This is where the barber trims the ends of your hair with a straight razor instead of scissors. This is particularly helpful if you’ve got curly hair as it helps the hair to lie flatter.
  • Thinned Out: Thinning shears look like bog standard scissors, but they’ve got teeth in them which cut some strands whilst leaving others uncut. If you’ve got a particularly thick mane then your barber will use a pair of these bad boys to thin out the ends and make your hair more manageable.
  • Arches: This is the space between your hairline and your ears. If you ask your barber to cut a high arch, then the space will be bigger, which in turn makes small ears look bigger. Most men prefer to ask for a natural arch, where the barber simply neatens up the natural hairline.
  • Sideburns: Okay, you know what your sideburns are, but you probably didn’t know you can be specific about how they’re trimmed. Ask for them to be cut to the top of the ear, mid-ear or bottom of the ear depending on how long you like them. You can also ask for them to be thinned out.
man at barbers haircut
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Types of Haircuts

It’s always best to start off by telling your barber what type of haircut you want, then you can get more specific as you discuss what will work for your face shape and hair length.

Men’s Undercut

This trend has been around for a few years now; the reason that it’s been able to stick around so long being that it allows you to maintain some individuality with your hairstyle. It can be cut and styled in numerous ways, making it incredibly flexible. Simply put, this haircut is much shorter on the back and sides than it is on the top. It’s perfect for the Summer months when you don’t want too much hair on your head, but you also don’t want to look like you’ve just stepped out of prison.

This haircut really shows off facial features, and the length and fade of the cut really depends on your  head shape and hair type; these are things that any good barber will consider before beginning the chop. One of the things that can make or break this haircut is the sharpness of the outline, so make sure that you’ve got a clean line around your ears and at the back of your neck.

Experiment with different products on the longer, top layers to create different textures. You can use gel for a classic, slicked back look or you can try using a paste for something more tousled and undone. An undercut will maintain it’s shape as your hair grows out, but it’s recommended that you visit your barber every four to six weeks to get your look freshened up.

mens undercut haircut
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Taper Haircut

A taper is a gradual trim where the hair on top stays long whilst the sides are tapered. In simpler terms, the hair gets gradually shorter down the sides and back until it blends in with the skin around the ears and nape of the neck. The gradual fade creates a sharp look that works well for all face shapes and hair types. This cut is similar to the undercut, but the gradual fade makes it a little bit smarter.

Most men’s haircuts involve a taper, although the length of the hair varies depending on the style you are going for. For a timeless look, opt for a number two cut round your ears and the nape of your neck whilst leaving the hair on top at 1-2″ long. This is a style that suits men of all ages; it’s low maintenance but can be styled in to a slick or messy look, due the length on top. Taper and fade are interchangeable hair terms, so it’s good to know both.

mens taper haircut
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Haircut Numbers

If you’ve walked in to a barber’s and asked for “a number two all over, please” without really knowing what “a number two” refers to, you’re not alone. Similarly, if you usually just have to ask your barber for “nothing too short”, then knowing what the numbers refer to will allow you to ask for exactly what you want instead. The numbers one to eight actually refer to the size of the guard on the clipper, which in turn determines how long your hair will be.

  • Number Zero: No guard is attached to the clipper, so the head is shaved and only a very light stubble is left behind.
  • Number One: Hair is 1/8″ long. This is pretty much as short as it gets without shaving your hair off completely.
  • Number Two: Hair is 1/4″ long. This is twice the length of a number one cut, but still falls in to the “short hair” category.
  • Number Three: Hair is 3/8″ long. Whilst this is still a short haircut, it is best for those with slow-growing hair.
  • Number Four: Hair is 1/2″ long. This length sits right on the boundary between short and long hair, and is the longest style that a razor can handle with ease.
  • Numbers Five and Six: Hair is generally 5/8″-6/8″ long, although there is no standard size for these clipper guards. These guards are designed for tapering the hair.
  • Numbers Seven and Eight: Hair is 7/8″-1″ long. This is the longest cut that can be achieved with a standard pair of clippers and leaves hair long enough that it can be styled, using gel.
Mens Haircut Numbers
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It’s important to note that these lengths can vary between barbers, but the differences will only be slight. You should also remember that these numbers don’t refer to hairstyles, but instead to the exact length of hair that you’re left with after your trim. If you skipped maths class and fractions mean very little to you, then know that a number two and below will leave your scalp exposed and anything above a number two results in scalp coverage.

Types of Fades

As previously mentioned, the hair terms fade and taper are interchangeable. Both just mean a gradual change in the length of hair. However there isn’t just one style of fade, so it’s helpful to know exactly which one you want.

High Fade Haircut

This cut doesn’t leave the hair to gradually fade out all the way down to the neckline. Instead, the hair disappears anywhere less than two inches below the top of the hair. This means a lot of the scalp is left on show so it often doesn’t look great for the first few days, until the scalp has tanned to the same shade as the face.

Mens High Fade Haircut hair terms
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Low Fade Haircut

If you ask for a low fade, the hair will disappear halfway down the sides and back of the head. This is usually about an inch above the natural hairline, but is ultimately down to personal preference.

Mens Low Fade Haircut hair terms
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Temple Fade Haircut

This cut mirrors a low fade, except the difference in length is abrupt as opposed to gradual. The first inch above the natural hairline transitions from half an inch to a skin fade. The hair above this rapidly increases in length to anywhere between one and two inches, depending on personal preference.

mens temple fade haircut hair terms
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Skin Fade

This is largely just another term for taper or fade. Specifically, the hair gradually gets shorter towards the ears and neckline until it blends to skin. Consider how gradual you want the fade to be; if you want it to be subtle then ask your barber to start with a number five and gradually move down to a zero. If you want something that stands out a bit more, then ask them to start with a number two or three.

mens skin fade haircut

How to Ask for a Haircut

Once you’ve brushed up on all of your hair terms and know exactly what you want your barber to do, you should be good to go. If you’re still a little unsure exactly how to ask for what you want, then we’ve got a few more tips for you.

What to Tell your Barber

Begin by telling your barber what kind of style you want. Perhaps you want an undercut, or a cut similar to a celebrity; you can always bring a picture to help you explain. Also tell him exactly how much you want taken off, and where. To one barber, “just a trim on the sides” might mean “take off 1/2 an inch” whilst another barber might take off two.

You can also tell your barber how you want to style your hair on a daily basis, so that they can take this in to consideration when going in for the chop. Then you can get in to the specifics of necklines and texture. Lastly, listen to the barber. Once you’ve told him what you want, he’ll probably make suggestions as to a style that would be better suited to your hair type or face shape. As badly as you want your haircut to be an exact replica of David Gandy’s, it just might not suit you; your barber knows best.

how to talk to your barber
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Hair Cutting Techniques

Knowing the names of various hair cutting techniques isn’t necessary; you don’t want to look like you’re trying to outsmart the barber. It can be helpful when figuring out what kind of haircut you want, though.

  • Point Cutting: This technique is used to give texture to the hair by removing bulk from the ends of the hair. This creates layers and movement, and helps to guide the hair in to the right shape.
  • Edging: The barber uses the corner of the blade to create curved edges above the ear and around the neckline.
  • Club Cutting: This is a standard technique, where the barber cuts straight across to create a smooth look. This means length is removed, but bulk isn’t.
  • Scissor Over Comb: This technique allows the barber to cut close to the head without having to use a clipper. This creates a soft, rather than shaved, finish.
  • Clipper Over Comb: If you’ve got a large amount of thick hair that you want getting rid of, your barber will probably use this technique for an even cut.
man haircut razoring
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Your Quick Guide to Hair Terminology

  • Before you go into the hairdressers. Know what you are asking for, whether you have researched throughly or gathered images
  • Get in the know with your terminology, there is a language involved when getting a haircut.
  • Be realistic with your goals, if your hair is straight don’t go in expected to leave with a head full of curls
  • Talk to your barber and don’t be intimidated, this is the best way to leave with a style that you like
  • Keep up the maintenance, it’s all well in good having a great cut but if you aren’t keeping your trim fresh then what is the point?

On That Note…

You should now be a walking dictionary of hair terms. Next time you go in to your barbers, you’ll be able to use these newly acquired hair terms to get the exact cut that you’ve been dreaming of. It’s important to remember that one cut does not fit all, so your barber will have to make adjustments based on your hair type and face shape. But, if you’ve struck up a good relationship (which is more than likely if you know the lingo), then he should be more than happy to help.

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