How to Get a Good Haircut

how NOT to cut bangs

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Rules to Choose a Hairdresser

In my life, I have found only one barber shop that delivered a good, crisp hair cut. Since I now live in California, and cannot visit Michael's in Philadelphia, I must resort to using franchise hair cutting establishments like Hair Master's and Super Cuts. I have developed the following rules to increase my chances of receiving a good-looking hair cut.

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Judge by Appearance

The logic behind this rule is simple: If a woman does not care about her own appearance, she does not care about your appearance, either. Some factors of appearance consistently mean a bad hair cut. Other factors have no correlation.

Signs of a hair stylist who just does not care:

dog hair on her clothes- an overweight, frumpy girl covered with an even layer of white dog hair on her black sweater once gave me a lopsided haircut. It was patchy, too.

mismatched clothing and strange fashion sense- if her attire is off-putting, her cutting style is most likely going to offend your fashion as well.

wrinkled, twice-worn clothing- Avoid a hair cutter wearing a shirt that looks like she picked it up off the floor this morning, from where she dropped it last night. Ironed or not ironed is not the issue here. The honey-comb of wrinkles occasionally seen on a hair cutter indicates that she does not go the one small extra step to do something right. Rather than hang up her shirt, or fold it right out of the dryer, she dropped it on the ground, or left it too long in the laundry basket. That is what she did in beautician's college, and that is what she is going to do to your hair when you sit in her chair.

No Correlation to Hair Cuts, good or bad:

Weight: Some of the best hair cutters I have found were heavy. Others have been thin. So, do not fear the shears of a scrawny stylist.

Indicators of a Good Hair Cutter:

Clean lines in attire- A woman who has a neat appearance is a woman who takes care of details habitually. Not only is her own clothing neat and in order, she is going to apply this basic habit to the cutting of your hair as well. These ladies have various styles and manners of dress. Their clothing may be old or new. However, it is always clean and neat.

Family Photos

The best hair cutters I have ever had, the ones I went to again and again until they stopped working or I relocated to another city, all had pictures of their family. Look at the workstation used by the stylist. She has a shelf with some drawers in front of her chair. Look for a picture of some children. This woman has a reason to work, to do well, and to keep working.

Mothers do not have the option to slack off or to do it right the second time. They get it done right the first time. Time is at a premium for them. You can expect she will cut your hair right. (As long as other, 'to avoid' contraindications are not present!)

Think Before You Clip!

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Use the Sign-in List as a Database

Do not be afraid to flip through the pages on the sign-in clip board. Most franchise hair salons have sign-in lists. These are several photocopies of a standard form. The form has a column for "Requested Stylist". Look in this column. Almost always, just one name dominates this column. That is the name you need to know! Write in your own name, the time you arrived, and write in the name of the popular hair cutter.


Have Bad Stylists Self-Select Themselves Out

In the absence of a clear-cut champion in the request column, try these two methods to find a good hair cutter:

1. Instead of a name, in the requested stylist column, write "the good one". The women that know they are not very good, hesitate. The very good cutters will say, "That is me," with confidence and without hesitation.

2. Ask the stylist directly, "I only want a very good haircut. Are you a master in your trade?" Any hesitation at all means she will not give you a good hair cut. Encourage her to have confidence and ask who is a good hair cutter. Laugh, and smile. Be sure not to offend any of the women. They are most likely all friends. Offending one of them reduces your odds for a good cut from any of the others.

Best Trait?

Which of these is the best characteristic of a hair cutter?

  • Looks clean and well-put together.
  • Has fantastic hair, personally.
  • Great attitude, a real people person
  • Uses your personal face and hair characteristics to suggest a great cut.
  • Has family photos at her station.
See results without voting

"How do you have it cut?"

A master of the art of cutting hair, like Michael in Philadelphia, never asks how you cut your hair. You had a cut three or four weeks ago. It looks essentially like you want it. Further, a master of the trade knows more about giving you a fabulous cut than you do, and just gives it to you.

The very best cuts I have ever received resulted from the stylist just doing what they wanted. They enjoy cutting hair, and have no hesitation. The confidence factor is a necessary component in a quality cut.

One of the things I cringe at when I sit in the barber's chair is, "Do you use a number three?" This girl wants to cut your hair like the $3 cuts I used to get in the Marines. For her, it is fast and simple. For you, there is nothing spectacular about your cut. Something good stylists do is to offer suggestions. Round faces, long faces, different hair colors... all benefit from different styles of cutting hair. A good hair stylist knows this.

Update: I worked for Red Cross in Slavyansk, Ukraine for a few months. I found only one place that cut hair. I went in and asked for a hair cut. The woman sat me down and called out for Yana. Yana walked in, looked at my hair and began cutting. She knew exactly what she was doing. It was the best haircut I received in three years living in Ukraine.

Arrested mid-haircut.
Arrested mid-haircut. | Source

Only Talks about Herself

The two absolute worst cuts I ever received both came from girls who talked all about themselves, and just could not stop. It may be that such women just do not care about anyone else at all. The supreme bad cut of a lifetime came in a crowded shop. With all her fellow stylists working around her, this girl blabbed on and on about how she is not really a hair cutter. She was just doing this to pay her way through college.

Did she not realize she might be offending all the other women with her arrogance? Just a note here: Going to college, or planning to go to college, does not make anyone better than anyone else. How you treat other people vastly supersedes education in the measure of a person.

This hair cut was progressing so badly, I actually stood up in the chair. I was trembling as I said, "Oh! I just remembered I have an appointment that I simply cannot miss. I have to leave right now." Because I did not want to offend her, I actually paid for the cut before driving to another salon to have it fixed.

As a side note: Both the young women who talked all about themselves and butchered my hair were college students/ wannabe college students. It may be that not seeing anything of themselves in their job, they did not feel that a bad cut reflected on them personally. More likely, they just did not care.

Be Sure YOU Look Good

I heard a man complaining about the work done on his car. The work quickly failed, and he returned to the auto shop. The mechanic told him that they did poor work because the car was messy inside and unwashed. The customer asked the mechanic, "What do you mean?" The mechanic expounded the shop's philosophy, "If you had a better car, we would have done better work."

As much as you may desire to deny that other people think this way, they do.

If you show up looking sharp in crisp, clean attire, the hair cutter is going to think, consciously, or subconsciously, "I better give a careful cut here." If you look like a person who cares, you will be treated like a person who cares.

Don't be First

A hair cutting professional once confided in me, "Do not be the first person to have your hair cut on a shift." She said that she needed to get "warmed up" and that if she ever gave a bad haircut, it would be on the first customer's head.

Also, don't be last. People that are thinking of what they are going to do when they get home (soak feet in hot water foot massager, for example) are not concentrating on what they are doing.

In the 80's, when the unions dominated the auto industry, line workers cautioned their friends: "Don't purchase a car assembled on a Monday or a Friday. Monday, most everyone is hung over. Friday, everyone just wants to get to the bar." The same reasoning likely applies to getting a hair cut.

Worst Trait?

Which of these is the worst trait of a hair stylist/ hair cutter?

  • Only interested in herself/ himself in conversation.
  • Asks you how to cut your hair.
  • Short on confidence (e.g. fails the sign-in list test)
  • Looks unclean or unkempt
See results without voting

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Comments 2 comments

(Wo)man from Modesto 4 years ago

OK, so here in Mo-town, who do YOU recommend??


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Man from Modesto 4 years ago from Kiev, Ukraine (formerly Modesto, California) Author

I recommend walking into the shops nearest your home. Every work environment has it's own culture. If the feel is not professional... Keep interviewing shops until you find one that feels promising. Then, employ the techniques I give in the article. Right now, I am between good hair cutters. Hence the inspiration for the article.

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