How To Ask For A Haircut – Hair Terminology For Men

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Knowing how to ask for a haircut is crucial to walking out of the barbershop with one of the best men’s hairstyles of 2018. But with so many different types of styles and a variety of haircut terms, learning to talk to your barber to describe the haircut you want can seem like a challenge at times. Fortunately, while hair terminology and hairstyle names can sound intimidating, telling your barber how to cut your hair is easy if you remember a few key points.

Below, you’ll find the ultimate men’s haircut guide. From what haircut you should get to the difference between a fade and taper to where to get a cut, there are a lot of factors that can affect the quality and look of a guy’s hairstyle. Whether you want to ask for a fade or undercut on the sides and a quiff, pompadour, comb over, crew cut or faux hawk on top, here’s everything you need to know about getting your hair cut and styled at the barbershop.

How To Ask For A Men's Haircut

How To Talk To Your Barber

Communication and preparation are the fundamental reasons some guys always end up getting the perfect haircut. How to ask for a haircut requires the ability to communicate what you want and offer specific instructions.

For example, don’t visit a barbershop and ask for a regular haircut – no one knows what your version of “regular” is. While you can always try to describe the look you’re going for, especially if you don’t know the proper barber terminology, a picture is worth a thousand words. Ultimately, the more detailed you can be about the type of haircut you’d like, the better the final look will be.

For starters, research the different types of haircuts for men to give you the necessary knowledge to talk to your barber in a language he will understand. And remember that there are different components to every haircut. Even if you don’t know exactly what cut you’d like to try, tell your barber how you like to style your hair and what hair length you prefer. If he’s a professional, he’ll have a few haircut ideas based on your requirements.

How To Talk To Your Barber

Common Haircut Terminology

Before you can describe the haircut you want, you’ll first have to learn a few barber terms. Barbers have their own language, and if you want to get a good haircut, you’ll have to learn the basics of men’s hairdressing terminology.

Haircut Numbers

Haircut numbers, also known as guard sizes, represent the different lengths of hair cut by hair clippers. Hair clipper sizes range from a number 1 to a number 8 – shortest to longest. Since most guys get a fade or undercut on the sides, knowing your clipper guard sizes will come in handy when requesting a fade and telling your barber how short you want it. Similarly, hair or balding clippers can also be used when asking for a buzz cut or crew cut.

Here’s a quick reference for the different haircut lengths.

  • Number 1: One-eighth of an inch
  • Number 2: One-quarter of an inch
  • Number 3: Three-eighths of an inch
  • Number 4: Half an inch
  • Number 5: Five-eighths of an inch
  • Number 6: Three-quarters of an inch
  • Number 7: Seven-eighths of an inch
  • Number 8: An inch

Which haircut number you pick will depend on how short you want your sides and back cut. And for a low-maintenance buzz cut, we recommend you choose a number 1, 2 or 3.

Taper vs Fade

Most barbers use the terms taper or fade interchangeably, but the truth is, there is a slight difference between a fade and taper. A fade haircut blends down to the skin, while a taper doesn’t end as short.

Taper vs Fade

While both are generally considered blended haircuts, as a more conservative cut, the taper leaves a little hair and doesn’t expose the head. We’ll discuss the many different types of fade haircuts later!

Quiff vs Pompadour

Both the quiff and pompadour are classic hairstyles that have been transformed to fit modern trends. As two of the most popular hair trends of recent years, these voluminous hairstyles are very similar and frequently confused. Both involve brushing up the front of the hair to add volume.

The difference between the quiff and pompadour is that, while a quiff is brushed forwards to create airy and light volume, the pompadour is brushed backwards to make the hair denser and more sleek. Although the difference is subtle, the styling techniques are distinct and unique.


The neckline of your haircut is pivotal to your overall look. This detail is often overlooked, but can make a real difference to the overall style of your hair. Fortunately, guys have a lot of options when it comes to blending the hair in the back into their necklines.

The 3 main choices are blocked or square, rounded, and tapered or faded. For a gradual transition that isn’t too abrupt, we recommend men’s necklines either be rounded or tapered for a cleaner finish.

Neckline Taper Haircut

Best Hair Products For Men

Textured hairstyles refer to the natural look that your hair has without a shiny hair product. If you get a short haircut and have straight thick hair, then you may not need to apply styling products at all for a textured finish. Otherwise, there are some good pomade, wax and clay hair products that provide a matte texture for a natural look.

On the other hand, some men prefer styled hair with medium to high shine. A glossy, structured finish is how your haircut will look after you or your barber applies styling product to add volume or slick the hair back. The difference between natural textured hair and styled hair is most pronounced with medium length to long hairstyles, including the comb over, faux hawk, quiff, pompadour, spiky hair, and fringe.

Furthermore, if you have thick wavy or curly hair, you’ll definitely need to use a strong pomade or hair wax when styling your hair into the look you want.

Layered vs Thinned

For those with thick hair, thinning scissors can be used to shed the weight and give your hair a lighter feel. This technique can make it easier to style your hair. Opposite of thinned hair, guys can ask their barber for layers. Layered hair requires cutting certain areas shorter so longer hair can rest on top, creating a gradient or layered texture.

Fortunately, most stylists are smart enough to independently know when to thin hair and when to create layers, so you won’t really need to make this judgement call on your own.

How To Ask For A Fade Haircut

While we wish it was as easy as telling your barber you want a taper fade, with so many different types of tapers and fades, asking for a fade haircut requires being a little more specific.

How To Ask For A Fade Haircut

When choosing a fade, there are two factors that will impact your decision – where you want the fade to start and how short you want it to go. As far as a starting point, there are high, mid and low fade haircuts. After that, you’ll have to decide between getting a skin/bald, drop, razor, or burst fade.

Low Fade

Low fades are relatively conservative and start just above the ear. They are good for office or professional haircuts where you don’t want too much skin showing.

High Fade

High fades are edgy and offer a lot of contrast. The high fade starts near the top of your head, around your temples, and blends downward.

Mid Fade

Mid fades offer a balance between high and low fade haircuts. Starting in the middle of the side of your head, medium fade cuts are versatile and work with all kinds of styles.

Skin and Bald Fade

Bald or skin fades are the complete opposite of the taper fade. Whereas tapered haircuts blend into hair, the bald fade goes down to the skin and exposes your scalp for a high-contrast finish. As one of the most popular kinds of fade haircuts, the bald fade works well with many of the latest men’s hair trends.

Comparing the high vs. low vs. mid fade is all about personal taste. In the end, the best fade haircuts for men depend on what hairstyle you want and personal preference. If you’re asking your barber for a fade, always feel free to get his input.

How To Ask For An Undercut

The undercut is a popular haircut that complements many cool hairstyles, sometimes better than a fade. Unlike the fade, which gradually tapers down the sides of the head, the undercut is a very short cut on the sides and is all one length. How short and stark the undercut is depends on what you ask your barber for.

How To Ask For An Undercut

For example, guys have a choice between an undercut and disconnected undercut. The difference is that the disconnected undercut is a more dramatic transition from hair to almost no hair. In essence, the longer hair on top is undercut by the sides to create more contrast with less fading.

The most common undercut styles include the slick back, comb over, pomp, and messy textured hair. Overall, men’s undercut hairstyles are very dashing and stylish.

Common Types of Haircuts For Men

If you’re searching for the coolest men’s haircuts to get in 2018, then this list of the latest and hottest trends will help you choose the best look for you. Below, we’ll describe the different kinds of modern hairstyles as well as provide examples so that you can make an informed decision.

Common Types of Haircuts For Men

Nevertheless, before you settle on a specific look, always keep in mind your hair type and texture in addition to the amount of time you want to spend styling your hair every morning. While some haircuts like the buzz cut and crew cut allow you to walk out of the house without the use of hair products, styling a quiff, comb over, or crop top is another story.

Your barber or stylist can help you decide if you ask some questions about what styles are best suited to your hair type.


The quiff is a classic, retro hairstyle for men who want to make a statement. The hair on the sides is relatively short with a fade or undercut, while the long (minimum 3 to 4 inches) hair on the top is brushed forwards into an airy, voluminous style. The height of the quiff depends on the length of your hair, but you’ll definitely need some product to hold it up.

How To Ask For A Quiff

To ask for a quiff, you’ll need to have grown out your hair so your barber has some length to work with. For a modern textured quiff, we recommend a high skin fade on the sides cut with clippers; although you can opt for a longer, tapered number 2 to avoid going too short.

Cool Modern Textured Quiff

Depending on whether you want a short or medium-length quiff hairstyle, your barber will use scissors to trim the top, leaving the fringe thicker and longer than the rest to carry the style. Maintaining a layered look with plenty of volume is important to styling the quiff right.


The pompadour is another iconic hairstyle that remains a barbershop staple. The pompadour needs the same general haircut as the quiff, but the styling requirements are different. The classic pompadour is more structured and requires a strong pomade to keep in place; although guys can choose to get a modern pomp, which is more textured with a natural-looking finish.

How To Ask For A Pompadour

To ask your barber for a pompadour, you’ll again need a decent amount of length to work with. The sides will be faded, tapered, or undercut, and the hair on top will need at least 3 inches in the front and 2 inches towards the back. This is because, where the quiff is styled forward, the pomp is styled back.

Comb Over

The comb over has become one of the coolest hairstyles in recent years. Classy yet simple, like the side part, comb over haircuts come in many forms. For instance, there is the comb over fade and undercut. Then you can get your barber to emphasize the part by thickening the gap, thereby creating a hard part. Finally, as you’re styling the comb over, you can brush it straight over or diagonally for additional volume. As you can see, the best feature of the comb over is its versatility, because it suits any type or length of hair.

How To Ask For A Comb Over

To ask for a comb over, you’ll need to decide whether you want a fade or undercut on the sides. If you ask your barber for a comb over fade, how high or low and tapered or faded will determine the final look. The next step is to consider whether you want a short or long comb over on top. Anyone with at least 2 inches of hair can get this look by simply parting their hair to one side and combing away from the part.

To do a comb over, you’ll definitely need a good pomade or hair wax to sweep the hair over and keep it in place all day. A strong-hold pomade with medium shine can offer a sleek finish, while hair wax can provide texture for a natural look. The latter is more what the modern comb over is all about.

Slick Back Hair

Slick back hair continues to be a badass hairstyle. As one of the few cuts and styles that accommodates short, medium and longer hair, slick back hairstyles offer a beautiful balance between classic sophistication and the modern hipster. Like many of the other haircuts so far, guys can choose between the slick back undercut and slicked back fade. However, the general concept of brushing and pulling your hair back can be applied to almost any haircut.

Slicked Back Undercut

Either way, after you ask your barber for a slick back, the most important step is applying the right hair product. For a sleek hipster look, you’ll want a strong pomade with a high shine for a glossy finish that will stay styled all day. The best thing about the slick back is that your hair is long enough to style into a quiff, side part, or spikes if you get bored of the same look every day.

Faux Hawk

The faux hawk is a fun, edgy hairstyle for men who don’t want a full mohawk with shaved sides. Also known as a fohawk, the faux hawk haircut takes elements from the mohawk and tones them down by adding a fade or undercut on the sides. Nevertheless, to create the right look, you’ll need to tell your barber to leave more length in the middle of your head.

How To Ask For A Faux Hawk

While the mohawk can be eye-catching, the faux hawk can be toned down for every day situations. And even though there are a variety of fohawk styles, from the faux hawk fade to ones that are styled short, long, or messy, styling your hair is much easier than you think.

To style a faux hawk, simply apply product throughout your hair and then brush all of it upwards and towards the center of your head. Unlike a mohawk, you don’t need every hair glued to the middle – a little texture and messiness can go a long way to making this trendy look stand out.

Buzz Cut

The buzz cut is the ultimate short haircut for those who want a simple, low-maintenance look. While you can opt to go with a high and tight fade, where the hair on top is buzzed very short and the sides are faded, most men pick a guard size for one-length all around the head.

How To Ask For A Buzz Cut

If this is your preferred cut, then you may be able to cut your own hair at home with a good pair of hair clippers, although others will want to visit the barber to ensure that they get an even cut. Easy to get yet stylish if you have the right head shape for it, the buzz cut remains a barbershop favorite.

Crew Cut

The crew cut is popular because it is universally flattering. Also known as an Ivy League haircut because preppy guys from Harvard, Princeton and Yale love it, all men can wear this cut no matter what bone structure or face shape they have. With short back and sides and a few inches of length on top, the crew cut hairstyle is great for those who don’t want to look after a lot of hair but still want the option of a side swept fringe or short side part.

How To Ask For A Crew Cut

Asking for a crew cut is easy. Just tell your barber you want one, how you want the sides faded, and the length to leave on top, and he’ll take care of the rest. If you want to be able to sweep your hair in the front, ask your barber to leave a little extra length in the fringe. For extra contrast, request a high fade; otherwise, a low fade is more traditional.

How To Ask For An Ivy League Haircut

The crew cut is much like the textured crop – you can leave it natural and unstyled most of the time, or you can apply a matte pomade or hair wax for a textured finish. And whether you choose to sweep it to one side, leave it messy, or keep it flat, the crew cut will always look good.

French Crop

The French crop, also known as a textured crop top, looks much like the crew cut but with some subtle differences. The primary feature of the crop is the short but defined fringe in the front of your head. This cut is especially tailored for guys with thick hair as it allows for easy styling.

How To Ask For A French Crop

As a hairstyle that’s been trending hard lately, most barbers will know exactly what you want. All you have to describe is how short you want the fringe and hair on top to be as well as how to fade the sides.


A fringe can be added to most haircuts for a trendy twist. Both the French crop and the Caesar haircut are variations of the crew cut with fringes included. These styles will flatter those who want a short cut but don’t want a harsh, military-type look. Furthermore, fringes look good on a variety of hair types, lengths and textures, including wavy and curly hair.

How To Ask For A Fringe

To get a fringe, tell your barber to leave the hair in front longer than the rest. How long depends on your type of hair and how manageable it is. If you’re unsure about a fringe hairstyle, be sure to ask your barber and get his opinion.

Side Part

The side part is a classy hairstyle perfect for any occasion. Smart and sophisticated, men can wear side part haircuts to the office or on a date without restyling their look. While the side part may look exactly like the comb over to the untrained eye, there are some understated differences.

How To Ask For A Side Part

For one, the side part is more of a structured style and often comes with a hard part to one side. In contrast, the comb over offers more flow and is usually combed diagonally – back and to the side.

Because the side part is a universal cut, asking your barber for one may be the easiest haircut you’ll ever get. The old-fashioned side part haircut comes with a low fade, but some guys may want to experiment with a modern version by asking for a high fade with a thick part.

Hard Side Part Fade

The side part hairstyle is achieved by dividing the hair at your natural part and then combing one side over. By parting the hair to the side and shaping the haircut around the face accordingly, the style looks softer and more natural.

Spiky Hair

Spiky hair was a popular hairstyle in the 90’s and was achieved by applying gel and twisting clumps of hair to create spikes. While spiked styles are making a comeback, guys are no longer using gel as much. Instead, pomade, wax or clay is used for a textured and/or messy look. With a natural finish, spiky hair can be surprisingly flattering for men with short haircuts.

How To Ask For Spiky Hair

Just ask your barber for a taper fade or undercut coupled with at least 2 to 3 inches of hair on top. Just remember that spiky hairstyles are best for men with thick hair because styling thinning hair in this way can expose the scalp.

Medium Length Hair

Medium length hair is the perfect in-between for guys who aren’t sure whether to go for long or short hair. With the versatility of medium length hairstyles for men, you get the best of both worlds and can try out different styles.

Medium Length Hair For Men

If you plan to ask your barber for a medium length haircut, be sure to know what specific look you’ll be styling most of the time because your choices range from the long comb over and brush back to the man bun and top knot – each of which requires a slightly different cut.

How To Style Long Hair For Men

However, if you plan to grow your hair out, we highly recommend you only trim the tips to remove split ends, and leave your hair shoulder length and flowing for maximum volume and movement.

Man Bun

The man bun is a beautiful and trendy hairstyle specifically tailored for guys with long hair. By pulling your hair into a bun and securing it with a tie, your hair is out of the way for every-day tasks but the bun is still a fashionable look.

Man Bun

But don’t underestimate man bun hairstyles – they actually offer a lot of options. To change things up, the man bun can be braided, transformed into a ponytail, or split with some hair tied up and the rest flowing naturally.

Messy Man Bun Hairstyles

If you’ve been blessed with the ability to grow long hair, the man bun is one of the hottest long men’s hairstyles worth trying just to see if you can pull it off.

Where To Get A Haircut

Figuring out where to get a haircut can impact the quality of your cut just as much as how well you communicate with your barber. After all, all the hair and barber terminology in the world won’t get you a good haircut if the barbershop you visit doesn’t have a solid reputation.

For the best places to get a men’s haircut, we highly recommend you ask family or friends, and read online reviews. But don’t just focus on reviews of the barbershop in general – make sure to ask for the top-rated barbers at that location.

Average Price For A Men’s Haircut

When shopping around for a barbershop near you, it makes sense to compare reviews and prices. But if you’ve ever wondered about the average price for a men’s haircut in the United States, it’s about $28, including tip. Obviously how much a haircut costs depends on where you live and the skills of the barber cutting your hair, but this figure gives you a general idea.

Here’s a chart comparing men’s haircut prices by city. You’ll notice major metropolitan cities like Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, Seattle and Chicago maintain a higher average cost than the national average. If you live in these areas and are getting a good haircut at your current barbershop, then feel confident you’re getting value for your buck.

Average Price For A Men’s Haircut

How To Ask For A Haircut

Fade or taper? Crew cut or French crop? Layered or thinned out? Quiff or pompadour? If you’ve been confused by these words in the past, you’re not alone. Learning hair terminology can seem like speaking a foreign language with words that all mean similar things.

Understanding haircut numbers and the names for different types of haircuts both require more knowledge than most men have. For this reason, many men don’t enjoy going to the barber and don’t end up with the hairstyle they wanted. They can picture what haircut they want, but don’t know how to ask for it.

Fortunately, if you use our guide above, you’ll quickly become an expert at hair cutting and styling terms. Going to the barber should be an easy conversation rather than a confusing ordeal, and this guide aims to make the process smooth and enjoyable.

Asking your barber for the haircut you want may seem daunting, but remember that they will work with you to achieve the style you want. If you’re still unsure about how to describe your favorite cuts and styles, bringing in a picture can help you get the best haircut!


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