Hair terminology – the dilemma we’ve all shared at one point. Although nobody expects you to know all the haircut terms in the book, it’s good to know the basics of how to ask for a haircut at a barbershop.
Before you start panicking about all sorts of numbers or haircut names you’ve never heard before, rest assured, we’ve got your back. Welcome to your extensive guide for hairdressing terminology.
We’ll walk you through all the barbershop lingo you’ll need for learning how to ask for a haircut. In addition to haircut terms, we’ll also introduce you to the most popular haircuts of the moment. To wrap everything up, we’ll highlight the difference between a cut and a style to complete your new hair knowledge.
Hairdressing Terminology: Brief Glossary of Hair Terms
We’re sure that you’ve been to a barbershop and heard a bunch of terms thrown around that you have no idea about. So if you master some names, hairdressing terminology won’t seem like a completely foreign language. Even more, you’ll know how to ask for a good haircut without stressing about whether or not you’ve provided the right description.
Hair clippers are an indispensable tool you’ll find in any barbershop. Most barbers and stylists use electric clippers, but there is also a manual version available to use. The machine comes with a series of guards, based on the desired hair length.
II. Edger / Trimmer
Next up we have the trimmer, an equally fundamental tool for barbers. Also known as edgers, trimmers are basically smaller hair clippers. An edger is used for fine details in a shorter haircut. Just one example: it is used for adding the final touches on edges, which is where the machine gets its secondary name.
III. The Fade
A super short haircut with a gradual transition tight to the scalp is called a fade. The technique gets its name from the fine gradient that results from the cutting process. Depending on how you want your fade to turn out, you can get any of the following – high, medium, low, burst, temp, or skin / bald fades.
IV. The Fringe
If you live in America, there’s a good chance you might not know what a fringe is. Plain and simple, the term is used almost everywhere else around the world to describe bangs. As a result, a fringe hairstyle is the same thing as a hairstyle with bangs. You can get a shorter or longer fringe haircut, as preferred.
V. The Guideline
Sometimes called a cutting line or simply a guide, a guideline is used to achieve balance within a haircut. It is the first piece of hair that is cut as the groundwork for the rest of the hair. After creating the guideline, the barber will cut the other sections of hair in accordance with it.
VI. Haircut Numbers
When learning how to ask for a haircut, you’ll find that barbers use numbers from 1 to 8 to describe shorter silhouettes. These haircut numbers refer to the size of the guard used on the clippers. We’ll get into the nitty-gritty of haircut numbers later on, but for now, it’s good to know that they determine how much length you want to cut off.
VII. The Neckline
In the hair industry, the neckline refers to the hair at the back of a person’s neck, i.e, the nape. Most of the time, men prefer to sport their necklines tapered / faded, rounded, or blocked. While a blocked or rounded hairline requires frequent touch-ups, a faded or tapered one blends out and will grow back smoothly.
VIII. Point Cutting
Point cutting is the name given to one of the standard techniques for shaping hair. This involves using the points of the scissors and snipping strands at an angle. The purpose is to create texture throughout the hair for a harmonious blend. Point cutting is used on both dry and wet hair, whereas the resulting texture can vary from light to heavy.
IX. A/The Razor
In a barbershop context, the term “razor” can represent either a haircut or a type of texture. Razored texture refers to heavily layered hair that uses various lengths all around. A razor cut implies cutting the hair with a razor blade or a similar tool with an integrated razor. In both cases, the hair will be uneven but with an asundance of texture.
X. The Scissors Cut
On the other hand, a scissors cut uses exclusively – you guessed it – scissors for shaping the hair. The scissors used for the haircut are also regarded as shears. As opposed to a haircut with clippers, a scissors cut provides a more natural and looser silhouette. Therefore, a scissors cut will be looser than a tighter clippers alternative.
XI. A Taper
While a taper haircut is quite similar to a fade, it doesn’t involve buzzing the hair to scalp level. Most of the time, the hair will be left longer on the sides and back than a fade. Used as a verb when describing the technique and as a noun for the haircut, taper is one of the most common terms used for shorter hairstyles.
If a man’s hair is remarkably thick, barbers will frequently use thinning as a solution for reducing the heaviness. Thinning can be executed through a variety of tools and techniques, from layering to razoring. There is also a type of scissors used specifically for the process – thinning shears.
XIII. A Whitewall
Inspired by tires with the same name, whitewall refers to completely exposing the skin on certain areas of the scalp. A whitewall haircut usually requires tapering or fading to get the desired effect. Some examples of haircuts that fall under the whitewall category are the high and tight or the bald fade.
Number Haircut Names: Clipper Guard Sizes & Hair Lengths
Now that we’ve set the basics, we’ll proceed with the core know-how for learning how to ask for a haircut at a barbershop. You might have heard of “a number X haircut” until now, where X can be any number from one to eight. Each number represents the size of a certain clippers guard. We’ll explain the corresponding length for each one below.
1. Number One Haircut
The length of hair increases in parallel with the size of the hair clipper guards. Consequently, a number one haircut is the shortest you can get without shaving the hair almost in its entirety (a number 0 cut). The universal guard used for buzz cuts, a number one leaves you with roughly 1/8 inch (3.17 mm) of hair.
2. Number Two Haircut
If you’re planning on getting a fade haircut, it’s likely that your barber will be using a number two guard. After getting a number two haircut, you’ll have about ¼ inch (6.35 mm) of hair left. It won’t leave you with a completely bare scalp, but the hair will be buzzed down all the same.
3. Number Three Haircut
When cutting a fade, the highest clippers guard your barber will use is a number three. While the scalp won’t be exposed, the haircut still classifies as a buzz cut. A number three haircut is the equivalent of 3/8 of an inch (9.52 mm) of locks left.
4. Number Four Haircut
With a number four haircut, you’re going to have around ½ inch (12.7 mm) of hair. By using a number four guard, your hairstyle will be somewhere between a longer buzz cut and a very short crew cut. It’s situated exactly at the middle of all clipper guards.
5. Number Five Haircut
For a more classic take on hairstyles, you can ask for a number five haircut. With a remaining length of 5/8 of an inch (15.87 mm) of hair, a number five clippers guard will leave room for a bit of styling. Many barbers use a number five setting for tapering the back and sides.
6. Number Six Haircut
A haircut with the number six guard size corresponds with ¾ of an inch (19.05 mm) of hair left. When you reach this number, the haircut will fall into the crew cut category. Likewise, barbers use the number six guard for tapering but with even more subtlety than with a number five.
7. Number Seven Haircut
If you were ever wondering how to ask for a haircut in the form of a crew cut, the answer is a number seven guard. Allowing a 7/8 of an inch (22.22 mm) of hair left, it is rarely used on its own for the entire haircut. Instead, barbers pair it with a smaller clippers guard for the sides (any option between guards one to four).
8. Number Eight Haircut
Finally, we have the longest of haircuts achievable using hair clippers – the number eight. Considering that it leaves your hair at one inch (25.4 mm) long, you’ll have plenty of room for styling. Barbers often use it for trimming the top part of your hair – and in combination with a smaller clippers guard for shorter sides.
How to Ask for a Haircut at a Barber Shop
Finding out how to ask for a haircut isn’t a one size fits all option. It all depends on the specific haircut you’re interested in getting.
For instance, a fade haircut and a shaggy hairstyle are on opposite sides of the spectrum. Therefore, if you want to know how to ask for a haircut, first decide on what style you’re aiming for. We’ll highlight some popular client requests below.
I. How to Ask for a Taper Haircut:
For a taper haircut, a barber will use a clipper guard between the numbers two and five. When asking for one, ensure that your barber knows how gradual you prefer the tapering to be. Moreover, decide on what style you want to go for on top or if you’d rather have the hair be the same length as the sides and back.
II. How to Ask for a Fade Haircut:
Things can get a little tricky when it comes to fade haircuts. There are numerous types of fades you can choose from, so it’s best to do your homework in advance.
Still, as a guideline, you should know that the three most popular fade styles are – from most dramatic to subtlest – high, medium (or mid), and low. A skin or bald fade will have a transition that ends directly on your scalp.
III. How to Ask for a Layered Haircut:
With layered haircuts for men, it’s all about how intense you want the texture to be. A haircut can have discretely layered tips or be full-on piecey or razor textured. Judging by the subjective nature of texture, it’s best to tell your barber what you want to achieve with the layers (such as volume or definition).
IV. How to Ask for a Comb Over Haircut:
The first step in knowing how to ask for a haircut with a comb over hairstyle is to request to have your hair parted to the side. From there, you and your barber can discuss the ideal length for the top, the sides, and the back. For a clean and modern comb over hairstyle, we recommend asking for tapered or faded sides.
V. How to Ask for a Pompadour Haircut:
If you’re into smooth and timeless hairstyles, you’ll likely be interested in getting a pompadour haircut. However, do know that even a short pomp requires three to four inches of hair to work with. After that, you’ll need to ask your barber for an undercut, fade, or taper to complement the back and sides of your pompadour.
VI. How to Ask for a Two Block Haircut:
With K-pop morphing into a global phenomenon, the hype around the two-block haircut often worn by K-idols is at an all-time high. Essentially, the hairstyle blends a bowl cut with an undercut all halfway concealed under the longer top.
Be prepared – your hair must be at least five inches for the cut to work. For the top, your locks should be maintained underneath the brow line so you can get a side-swept fringe look. As for the sides, ask for them to be cut between 1.5 and 3.5 inches (at the longest).
VII. How to Ask for a Dapper Haircut:
Just like the fade haircut, a dapper haircut can be done in a wide range of shapes and sizes. For instance, a pompadour qualifies as a dapper haircut just as much as a quiff or an Ivy League one. Nevertheless, the majority of dapper haircuts have a comb over approach. So, scroll back up a bit and follow the request guidelines we mentioned earlier.
THE Most Popular Haircut Names
By no means is the selection below an exhaustive list of popular haircuts for men. Be that as it may, it contains the top trending haircuts as of late. Your barber will recognize the names of all the styles described below.
1. The Quiff
In a nutshell, the quiff haircut is longer on the top and tapered or faded on the sides and back. As far as styling goes, a quiff features swept back hair and bangs that are styled to the side and slightly upwards. Owing to the brushed up front, the quiff is often compared to the pompadour.
2. The Undercut
An undercut is more of a main element to a haircut, rather than a style on its own. Undercut hairstyles for men are generally classified in two ways: as disconnected or faded.
A disconnected undercut separates a longer top from a shorter bottom with a distinct line. On the flip side, a faded undercut has the gradual transition associated with fade haircuts.
3. Taper Fade
The taper fade haircut combines the two main techniques used in obtaining short hairstyles – tapering and fading. Although many barbers use the terms as synonyms, a haircut with a taper fade goes from a thicker bristle to a fine gradient.
4. The Fringe Haircut
As we explained previously, a fringe hairstyle for men refers to any haircut with bangs. The fringe can be as short as that in a Caesar cut (just over the hairline) or as long as full, side-swept emo bangs. Furthermore, the ends of the fringe can be blunt or choppy.
5. The Crew Cut
The crew cut haircut is neatly trimmed on top, with tapered or faded sides and back. It bears a strong resemblance to the quiff in that the hair is kept a lot shorter on the top. More specifically, the top section shouldn’t exceed one and a half inches at any given time.
6. The Buzz Cut
If you don’t have the time or interest necessary for daily styling, you’ll kove the buzz cut. Traditionally a military haircut, the buzz involves using clippers with a maximum guard size of four. For a burr cut – the shaven down haircut that men get when inducted into the military – go for a number zero.
7. A Textured Haircut
In general, a textured haircut represents any look that uses layering as a primary cutting technique. Additionally, textured haircuts can be as long or as short as the client desires. To create texture throughout long hair, we recommend a feathering method. For short hair – razor texture provides the highest definition.
8. The French Crop
If you were to mix elements from bowl cuts, Caesar cuts, and fringe haircuts, you get the French crop. This contemporary haircut is all the rage right now, thanks to the sleek short blunt bangs that come with it.
9. The Top Knot
Another huge trend is the top knot which pairs a taper undercut with a significantly longer top. To help you get a better idea, the hair on top needs to be long enough to tie into a small knot or ponytail. In contrast to the man bun, a top knot requires the back and sides to be cut.
10. The Shape Up
Both the shape up haircut and the temp fade haircut focus on contouring the forehead and hairline. They each involve designing a boxy shape in the aforementioned area, with sharp angles in the top upper corners. A shape up can be solid, whereas a temp fade will create a gradient along the edges.
11. The High and Tight
Another army-inspired look is the high and tight haircut. You’ll have a steep undercut about until you reach the highest points along the crown of your head. Even though military men also keep the top cropped, modern adaptations allow for a bit more length.
12. A Hard Part
The hard part haircut is essentially a haircut with a side part. Nonetheless, it stands out by having the part shaven into the scalp. As with most short haircuts, the hard part can be as flashy or subtle as the client prefers.
13. An Ivy League
Also known as the Harvard Clip or the Princeton cut, the term Ivy League haircut is used to describe a short, classy, side-combed hairstyle. The back and sides of the head are tapered or gently faded, while the top won’t be longer than two to three inches at most.
14. A Faux Hawk
Faux hawk haircuts for men are the “safer” alternatives to punk mohawks. Using an undercut as the base, the top is cut in choppy layers and styled upwards and towards the center.
15. Short Sides, Long Top
A haircut with short sides and a long top is pretty much self-explanatory. The length of hair for all sections can be adapted according to your preferences.
16. A Shaggy Haircut
If you want to rock longer locks, consider shaggy hairstyles for men. They range from medium to long, with heavily textured layers throughout the hair.
Haircut vs Hairstyle
The difference between a haircut and a hairstyle is as clear as day. A haircut involves reducing the length of your hair in one way or another, while a hairstyle is how you choose to arrange your locks.
For example, a taper fade, an undercut, and a high and tight are all haircuts, as they require decreasing hair length. Conversely, a flow hairstyle, slick back hair, or a man bun are all hairstyles.
If you’re not sure whether a name refers to a haircut or hairstyle, think about what tools are required for it. Haircuts imply the use of scissors, razors, or clippers. On the other hand, hairstyles for men are often obtained with pomade, gel, wax, or other similar hair products.
See? Learning how to ask for a haircut isn’t that difficult after all. Nevertheless, the number one rule when going to the barbershop is to always bring photo references.
In this regard, feel free to save any of the images we have provided in our guide. In almost all cases, your barber will help you get the desired results based on pictures rather than verbal descriptions.
Do you have any other tips on how to ask for a good haircut? Add your thoughts to our guidelines in a comment below to help out other readers in need for advice.
Lilith Wetherall is a freelance writer, editor, and blogger. She graduated in 2014 with a B.A. in Theatre Arts and a minor in Journalism. She later found her passion for hairstyles and is now professing in a men’s salon. Some of her favorite things to do include reading, writing, watching movies, and being outdoors. When she’s not writing for our readers, she is either at the salon or at home trying out a new hair color.
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