How to Pick a Barber

by Brett & Kate McKay on August 18, 2009 · 79 comments

in Dress & Grooming, Hair

pickabarber

Image from Joe Leland

Unfortunately, many men today are missing out on the benefits of having a regular barber. As the barbershop tradition has faded, modern men just end up going to the closest unisex salon to get their hair cut. And each time they get they go, they end up with a different stylist and are forced to explain over and over again how they’d like it done. But “a little off the sides” means one thing to one stylist and another thing to another stylist. Stylists also have the tendency (in my experience) to try to correct what they see as mistakes that a previous barber/stylist made. Consequently, a man who goes to a unisex chain salon walks out with a completely different haircut at each visit. Not a good thing if you’re trying to maintain a consistent image.

Every man needs a reliable, skilled barber in his life. Having a regular barber will ensure that you get a consistent, sharp haircut with every visit. You can go in for a trim before a big interview without gambling on whether or not you’ll come out looking like you were attacked by a weed whacker.

Good barbers have a memory like an elephant. As you visit a first rate barber regularly, he’ll become familiar with the many contours of your head and the complexities of your hair and will know how to cut and style your hair just the way you like it. You’ll be able to walk in and simply ask for “the usual.” Plus, your barber can become a good friend, someone you can be comfortable shooting the breeze with and look forward to seeing every few weeks.

But how does a man go about forging this important relationship and finding a good barber? How do you know when a barber is a keeper? To help steer you in the right direction, I called up The Gent’s Place in Frisco, TX and talked to Ben Davis, the owner, and his master barber with 20+ years experience, Von Jackson.

Before You Enter the Shop

Ask around. If you’re new in town or aren’t happy with your current barber situation, the first thing you should do is ask people you know for recommendations. Especially seek out recommendations from men who always seem to have awesome haircuts. Chances are they have a great barber that they’d be more than happy to recommend to you.

Search online. After asking people you know for barber recommendations, check out what the hive mind of the web has to say. In order to find more masculine establishments as opposed to foo-fooey unisex places, Ben and Von suggested that you run Google searches with keywords like “men’s grooming in x-city” or “barbershops in x-town.” Also, check out barbershop reviews on sites like citysearch.com and yelp.com. Finally, be sure to take a gander at the AoM’s world famous barbershop locator. Hundreds of shops have been added to it and the database grows daily.

When You’re at the Shop

Look for confidence. This is a man you’re going to be trusting your noggin to, so you want a barber who’s supremely confident in his abilities to sculpt your hair into a masterpiece. Confident barbers will look you in the eye, smile, and give you a firm manly handshake when you first walk in. If a barber you visit for the first time avoids eye contact and gives you the limp fish, it could be a warning sign that he’s not that confident in his abilities.

You also want a barber who can confidently tell you what would work best for you depending on your requests and your face shape and structure. Barbers without much experience or confidence in their craft will do exactly what the client says, even if what the client asks for will look like crap. A good barber will have the stones to speak up and offer suggestions to the client to help guide them to something more suited for their face. Of course, if the client insists on his crappy cut, a good barber will do exactly what the client asks.

Check how well groomed the barber is. Give a new barber the once over. How is his personal grooming? Chances are if the barber has a crummy haircut and shave, he gives crummy haircuts and shaves. How is his clothing? Pressed and clean? This kind of attention to detail will likely carry over into the haircuts he gives. A great barber takes his personal appearance seriously because he’s in the business of helping men with their personal and professional image.

Take note of the shop’s cleanliness. If just looking in a certain shop makes your head itch, turn and walk the other way. Of course, most city health regulations have eliminated the “lice shops” that were once common in the 19th and early 20th centuries, but sometimes shops get lost in the bureaucracy, so it’s better to be safe than sorry.

In addition to the checking how sanitary the place is, just look for overall organization and order. Again, a barber with an eye for detail will make sure his shop and working area are in tiptop shape. If you notice that a barber has tools all over the place and mounds of hair under the chair, that kind of sloppiness may end up reflected in your hair cut.

Does the barber ask the right questions? When you sit down in the barber chair and the barber puts the hair drape around your neck, listen to see if the barber asks the right questions. Davis says if the first question the barber asks you is, “What number do you want on the sides?” run out of the shop immediately. Barbers who rely solely on clipper guards to cut hair tend to be lazy and unskilled. Besides, haircuts done with just clippers tend to be mediocre. I mean, come on. You can give yourself a haircut if you know what number guard to put on the clippers. Why pay a man $10 to do something you could do yourself?

Jackson says a good barber will ask you questions like, “What do you like about your hair?” “What don’t you like?” “Do you want to change your style?”

Does the barber ask for feedback during the cut? During the haircut, a good barber will stop and ask you for feedback. They’ll let you look in a mirror and ask if your hair is still too long or if your hairline’s shape on the back of your neck is to your suiting. By asking for constant feedback during the haircut, a good barber can preempt any haircut disasters. Bad barbers, of course, won’t ask you for feedback until they swivel you around in the chair to look in the mirror. By then it’s too late. You’re destined to walk the streets looking like a doofus until your next haircut.

Conduct an interview. When you visit a new barber, he’s applying for a new position as the go-to man for all your grooming needs. As with hiring any new employee, make sure to conduct a solid interview in order to get a feel for whether he’s the right man for the job. Davis suggested that your questions focus on two areas: the barber’s experience and the barber’s personality.

To get an idea of the barber’s experience, ask him how long he’s been cutting hair and where he’s barbered. If he’s a relative noob, tread carefully. Unless you’re willing to be this man’s practice head, find a barber with more experience. Also, Davis suggested that you ask the barber how busy he is. Great barbers have lots of clients. If he tells you he’s on his feet from open until close and that you need an appointment to see him, you’ve probably found yourself a quality barber. If he says that he spends most of his time playing checkers with the local crazy person and that you can walk in anytime, well, there’s probably a reason for that.

After you get an idea about his experience and how in demand he is, ask some questions to get a feel for his personality. After all, you’ll possibly be spending 30 minutes with this person at least once a month, maybe more if you go in every two weeks. Part of the appeal of the barbershop tradition is the camaraderie men enjoy there. If your personality clashes with the barber’s, it can suck all the joy out of getting a haircut.

Davis also recommend taking mental notes on any clues about the barber’s personal life. Barbers and hair stylists are notorious for having a lot of drama in their lives. If they say stuff about switching shops because they didn’t get along with the owner or they’re having lots of family problems, this is a warning sign that you won’t be able to count on them. Barbers with lots of drama in their lives have a tendency to cancel or show up late for appointments. Eventually, they end up leaving and have to go to another shop. Even if the barber cuts hair like a genius, it might be more trouble than it’s worth to fit your schedule around a barber’s personal turmoil. Go with someone more reliable.

Start out slow. Of course once you’ve gone in and talked to a barber, even if you’re feeling like he’s not the right guy for the job, it’s hard just to get up and walk out. And even if you’re thinking that a new barber fits the bill, you won’t know for sure until he cuts your hair. The best way to figure out how skilled the barber is without risking a dopey hair cut is to simply ask that he clean up your hair line around your ear and your neck. It’s hard too screw up and even if he does, it’s not too noticeable. Just from the 10 to 15 minutes you’re with him and the quality of the trim, you should be able to get a good idea if the barber is a keeper or not.

Any other tips on picking a good barber? Share them with us in the comments.

Big thanks to Ben Davis and Von Jackson at The Gents Place for allowing me to interview them and for their great tips. If you’re in the Dallas area, be sure to stop by The Gent’s Place barbershop for a guaranteed good haircut.

{ 77 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Steve S August 18, 2009 at 10:46 pm

Ya I can attest to the “unisex salon” giving you a different cut every time, even if you request the same thing. It’s like a friggin’ crap shoot whether your hair comes out halfway acceptable or not.
I’m actually not sure I even know anyone who uses an actual barber these days, and the last time I tried one I appeared to be their youngest client by about 30 years.
The guy I tried I kind of liked, but I just gave him the “use a #2″ instructions as stated by the salon and he ran with it without any discussion – maybe he just figured I knew what I wanted so why argue?

2 Eric August 19, 2009 at 12:11 am

Yeah, I found a great Barber a few months ago. Whats odd that he is the same guy I used when I was like 10yrs old. I stopped seeing him when I was 16 because I moved out of town and spent ten years bouncing from crappy barber, to salons, and so on. Well, I stopped in a few months ago and he saw me, walked over, and he even remembered my name(ten years later!!) I gave him the jist of what I wanted and he started, stopping every few minutes to ask me if I wanted this ,or that…Now, he can cut my hair without any questions. And the best part, $16 a cut, $7 a trim. The man is a genius, Seriously, go get a barber–it makes life so much easier.

3 Playstead August 19, 2009 at 12:33 am

Great post. I wish there were more real barbers around these days. I go to a new “barber” shop that is employed by all women, but cater exclusively to men. The leather chairs and flat screens are a nice touch, but it’s not the same.

4 Shaun August 19, 2009 at 12:37 am

A good barber cut is something I’ve really missed since I first shaved my head a few years back. Like the article says, why pay someone if you can do it yourself, right? Maybe I’ll go in for a shave one of these days…

5 Blake August 19, 2009 at 12:39 am

Easily the worst part about moving to a new city is finding that new person to cut your hair.

6 Oracle989 August 19, 2009 at 1:47 am

My barber gives a great cut. I can really tell a difference between the salon men out there and the barber men…

7 Ammon August 19, 2009 at 2:55 am

I haven’t been to a barber since I was a kid. “Chuck” treated me like a man even though I was still in cub scouts and he gave a mean flat-top.

Back when I was still at university, my wife started doing my haircuts to (forgive the pun) cut back on costs. Several years later, she still does it. I’m always happy with the results–she’s good. But, I’ll always have fond memories of going to see Chuck with my dad, he’d been his barber when he was young, too!

8 Lando August 19, 2009 at 3:38 am

Having a good barber who knows the contours of your noggin and how you like to have your hair cut is a definite plus, if you can find one.
I remember I moved to a new city a few years back, and I had to search for a new barber. Suffice it to say it took me nearly 2 1/2 years goinf through 1/2 dozen barbers before I found one that was both knowlegeable and experienced who could cut a decent head of hair.
I remembered the first time when he broke out his old fashioned switchblade razor to line the front of the edges of my hair after using his clippers then his scissors. I was like this man knows his profession well and knows you need more than one tool to do a good job.

9 Pipp August 19, 2009 at 4:04 am

Excellent post (as always). Good points on how to find yourself a good barber and they work equally well for a good hairdresser for us ladies. Because it is no joke, you get a good one and you try your best to NEVER let them go. Cutting hair is a real bit of art, and you need a good artist to do a good job, no matter if you are a Man or a Woman!

10 BK August 19, 2009 at 5:43 am

For an at-a-glance way of measuring how clean the place really is, look at the where they keep their combs — they should be in a glass tube that’s full of blue disinfectant. If not, have fun swapping filth with the greaser who just got out of the chair.

11 Dave August 19, 2009 at 6:49 am

Shaun

I’m in the same boat.
I started shaving my head a couple of years back and it’s a 2minute ritual when I get in the shower now.

What I have done in the past, is to ask a barber if he (a she in a couple of cases – she knew what she was doing, I must say) could shave my head with a straight-razor.

I must actually go do that again, it’s quite a thrill.
Sorry, forgot to add great post! Can’t wait to see your next post!

12 Kevin August 19, 2009 at 7:53 am

About ten years ago, I landed in the barber’s chair of a quiet, Bosnian war refugee at the local barber shop and, 25 minutes later, I had received one of the best haircuts of my life. As time went on, I realized this guy was good – in a shop with 6-8 barbers working at once, some of them would sit idle while “my” barber would have a handful of men (and even older women!) waiting for him to finish up with his current cut. Long story short – he eventually left that barber shop (which is less than a mile from my home) and started his own shop with his wife; that shop is about a 50-mile roundtrip for me now, but I gladly make the journey (and hand over a $20 for a $12 trim) for the best haircuts I’ve received in my life.

13 Chris August 19, 2009 at 8:26 am

The best couple of haircuts I’ve had were done by barbers who did the ENTIRE job with a straight-razor and a comb (and I’m not talking about shaving down to my scalp). Any barber who can do that has my highest recommendation!

14 Murchada August 19, 2009 at 8:35 am

You don’t pick your barber at my shop. One guy consistently gives bad haircuts and I dread when I walk in and he’s up to bat.

There is a shop in Boston that tries to look very old school (but isn’t – it’s kind of hip). The haircutsa are good but expensive. They do throw in a beer.

15 Lee August 19, 2009 at 9:06 am

I have a feeling I’m going to be in the vast minority on this, but I’ve got to pipe my voice up anyway, just because I’m a stubborn cuss like that.

I’ve been keeping my hair long since I graduated high school, so finding a barber for me isn’t really an option, and I find that a shame. I have this sinking feeling that even if I were to try and find a barber to get a good wet-shave, they (or their other patrons) would judge me for choosing to keep my hair the length of the warrior’s of old rather than cutting it short. I feel that I keep my hair neat (it’s never not in a neat queue at the nape of my neck) but I still feel leery around a guy with scissors and clippers, and a poor opinion of “them dirty hippies.”

Feel free to agree or disagree with my position; I’d like to hear some of AoM’s readership’s comments on the manliness/unmanliness of keeping one’s hair long.

16 BillC August 19, 2009 at 9:07 am

Great article! I am the son of a barber and I used to shine shoes in his shop as a boy. Dad warned me about the unisex shops 20yrs. ago and he was so right. Dad wore a suit & tie every day, knew all of his customers personally and told the greatest jokes in the world! I got my haircuts in the kitchen until he died. Had a difficult time finding someone after and found a retired 70 year old barber who gives me haircuts in his kitchen! How cool is that!

17 Marcus August 19, 2009 at 9:43 am

I moved to Washington, DC 4 years ago, and for the first 6 months, bounced from bad haircut to bad haircut – as I found the best option for testing a barber, was to sit in his chair. I wish I head these guidelines then! But I’ve since found a great barber in a shop just a few blocks from home. She does a great job, knows what I want, and honestly gives the best cut I’ve had in my life. And though it’s pricey, I figure that it’s OK for me to treat myself to their whole routine (wash, shampoo, condition, hot towel for the face, toner for the face, cut, styling, and shoulder rub with that weird vibrating hand thing) once every a month or so.
I’d put them on the map, but I don’t have a google account – if someone else could throw it on, I’m sure it would be appreciated by future DC noobs.
The Grooming Lounge, DC
1745 L Street, NW
Washington, D.C. 20036
Phone: 202.466.8900

18 Dan August 19, 2009 at 10:10 am

It’s tough to find barbers who can take care of us long-haired gents. I had to swap my barber (who was fantastic in all other respects) for a woman’s stylist who could manage my shoulder-length curls… I miss the barbershop experience.

19 Dan August 19, 2009 at 10:15 am

Lee….. there is nothing unmanly about long hair (provided it is maintained and kept clean). Anyone who says long hair is unmanly, is less of a man.

20 Jack August 19, 2009 at 10:58 am

Be careful about just walking into any place and trusting your hair to whomever is available. I once spent a week looking like Lloyd from Dumb and Dumber because I didn’t shop around more.

21 Chemical Erik August 19, 2009 at 11:29 am

I’ve gone with what I believe is another legitimate option – I shave my head. It’s not for everyone, but if you have a nicely shaped head and “shave like your grandpa” it’s a real option. I shave every day, so I never have a bad haircut! I’ve consider getting a straight shave from a barber, thought finding a barber who does good straight shaves is even more difficult than finding a barber who is decent at cutting hair.

22 David August 19, 2009 at 11:33 am

Great post. Although I don’t use a barber anymore (not enough hair on the ol’ brain basket), I do actual miss the ritual. When I was just a kid, my Dad always cut my hair. Then, one day my Grandpa took me to a real barber shop – like a real man. I still remember the smells, the other men, all the guy talk, the whole experience. I guess those good “manly feelings” and bonding stuck. So, find a good barber and if you have a young man around – introduce him to this manly ritual and get him started on the right track early.

23 Robert August 19, 2009 at 11:40 am

I was in the Army Band years ago, so had to have a neat haircut all the time. Even at PX prices, I felt it was too much to pay every week, so finally I bought some clippers and started doing it myself. With about 4 exceptions, I’ve been cutting my own hair since the 70s. As to those 4 exceptions, one was an emergency for a job interview, done by a female stylist, and she cut off so little hair for the price AND offered to trim my eyebrows! I never went back even though she was cute. Another was a man in a small town nearby who has been doing it for years. A nice guy and a good barber. The other was younger man, who takes Wednesdays off for golf, has a nice small place and does a good job. And the fourth was a nice black woman who went to barber school to eventually get a good income. She was a great barber and a very enjoyable person to talk to. I learned enough about barber school from her to wish I had the time and money to attend and become a barber myself!

24 Bruce Williamson August 19, 2009 at 11:59 am

The unisex stylists are not for me anymore. Sure you can ask for a particular stylist or you can make an appointment for your favorite. But for my summer haircut, a simple buzz, the stylist is a bit pricey and overkill. So, I went to a barber shop in Rockledge PA called Rita’s barber shop. Rita is a Russian immigrant and she IS a barber.It was at Rita’s that I was re-introduced to the straight razor used to trim the edges. In Pennsylvania only barbers may use a razor or put an edge to the skin. Stylists cannot and must use an electric trimmer. I have since made the buzz my normal haircut. Rita charges $8 for a haircut and $8 for a shave! I usually give her $12 and feel like I am getting a bargain.

One thing not mentioned in the article is that most barber shops are not part of a chain. They are usually owned by the barber. Whenever I can I use locally owned businesses.

25 R. J. Vincent August 19, 2009 at 1:35 pm

I use a great shop near me called Caravellli’s. The shop has been around for more than a century and got new owners just before I started going there. Big Mike (the owner), Anthony (his son?) and Mike from Russia are great. I usually have either one of the Mike’s cut my hair (not a lot so it’s a case of “mow it Mike”), but I’ve also had Anthony cut it and while he’s young, he does just as good a job. It’s a traditional barbershop and they keep it neat and clean. Everything is in its place and they use a replaceable blade straight razor (health code requires it) to trim the edges and to line the areas that need it. It’s a great place. Plus they’re big sports fans so it’s just makes it that much more enjoyable.

26 Torrey August 19, 2009 at 3:56 pm

Get a referral. I don’t really think how his hair is cut in a sign that the person is a good barber. Many barbers don’t trim their own hair. Find someone with a style that you’d like, and ask them who they have as a barber. Surefire way not to have someone experimenting on your scalp.

27 Michael August 19, 2009 at 4:18 pm

First things I look for in a barber shop are dead animal heads mounted on the wall and old guys doing the cutting!

http://www.americanprofile.com/article/20438.html

Seriously though, when I’m not shaving my head I keep my hair military-short: high and very, very tight. The Trophy Barber Shop in Baytown, TX and a little hole-in-the-wall in Houston called, oddly enough, “The Barber Shop” are the only places I’ve found that cut it just right.

28 jim August 19, 2009 at 4:31 pm

I’ve never had my hair professionally cut. My mom would use the electric clippers, and now I do it. I keep it pretty short. Its a pain in the ass because my hair doesnt grow nicely, all different ways making it impossible to do anything neat with. So I end up needing to use hair gel as the only way to comb it neatly. I would like to possibly try a professional cut to give me something that looks good and is easier to maintain but I’m horribly shy about it. Never been to any sort of barber/stylist so have no idea what I’m looking to get. My hair is thin on the top and I’m not ready to shave it all off, I dont even think I have the head to pull that off anyway. So how can I go about just finding out what may work for me? Without sitting down for an actual cut and probably getting screwed over.

29 matt82 August 19, 2009 at 6:14 pm

I used to go to a local barber by my college in Pensacola, Fl. It was such manly place hunting or speed channel on the tv, field stream magazines on the table and most importantly hair cut and straight razor shave for $10. Now I’m 27 and back home where all we have is foo foo shops. So I have my dad cut my hair, it sounds kind of kiddy but he does a great job and its free!

30 Cameron A August 19, 2009 at 7:13 pm

Geat! I just recently found a wonderful barber but I didn’t go though any of these steps, most of the information I got was from people from work. I love the shop but it is no piece of cake, it’s about 2 hours for a haircut, and half of that is waiting for the barber. But, as long as I’m living in this area, I won’t be going anywhere else.

31 Trevor August 19, 2009 at 10:46 pm

Lee, I definitely think long hair can be manly. But I can understand how a lot of the old school barbers who lived through the 60′s might associate it with dirty hippies. I’m sure that will go away as they die off and new barbers come up through the ranks.

32 Steve Doran Trail Boss August 19, 2009 at 11:15 pm

There is nothing like a barber cut, you can have a real conversation with the guy, he takes his time and the hot lather on your neck followed by a straight razor cut is the best.

33 Matt August 20, 2009 at 3:30 am

Don’t go bashing unisex shops to much. The local barber in my hometown isn’t that good. He has been doing it for over 30 years, but he is a little behind on the times. I get my hair cut at a little family owned unisex shop, The shop only has 5 employees including the owners, and in the 3 years I have been easily able to see the same person each time. He easily meets all the above criteria and then some. Each and every time I come in he remembers how I got my hair cut last time, and asks if I want it the same way again. Then again, it could just be the fact that I live in a small town where southern hospitality runs rampant. I will,however, admit that I have seldom received a great cut and customer service at a chain saloon.

34 Mark August 20, 2009 at 12:17 pm

I have come to realize that nobody really leaves a shop with a bad haircut. The stylist (or whoever) would be out of business in no time if customers left the shop a mess. It usually takes two weeks to find out how poorly your hair has been cut. So I get my hair cut every two weeks or so, using a barber and paying $10 – 14. Twice a month at that rate is till cheaper than a foo-foo shop, and by the time I get trimmed again I know whether to go back. Of course sticking with a good barber once found is ideal.

35 AcmeNews August 20, 2009 at 11:18 pm

Unisex salons are called that because they make you look like either sex.
Men have no business getting their hair cut by women. If there was no straight razor involved (something only barbers are licensed to do) it isn’t a hair cut, it’ a “do.”

Sadly, barbers are hard to find in the suburbs. Want a barber? Go to the city or a small town.

36 Frank August 21, 2009 at 3:09 pm

I travel to New York City often and now schedule my trips around haircuts and shaves. I now exclusively go to a place in midtown called Truman’s (www.trumans-nyc.com). This place is top notch in every way and do everything right based on the criteria above. Not your average barber and well worth the time and money. I highly recommend it.

37 Timothy August 21, 2009 at 7:23 pm

I visit the barbershop in my town every ten days. A triple-x cut all over. Not quite a clean shave, but very close: and always a clean-up around the ears and the back of the neck with a straight razor.

38 Todd Serveto August 22, 2009 at 1:43 am

I got so burned out on those “unisex salon” places that I’ll only go to them in an ABOSOLUTE emergency—and even then, I’d usually rather just do without a haircut until I can get in to the barber. My experience at those places has been pathetic. One place I went to, all the “stylists” had call-girl nick names (I.E. “Bubbles”, etc), and the one cutting my hair would talk to me in this sensuous, vampy voice–I’m a married man, and I’ve got my limits.

Here in Oklahoma, most of the “stylists” in those places got their license by going to the vo-tech while still in high school. I absolutely DESEST this barrage of stupid questions they are trained to ask–ostensibly in an effort to sound “with it” or something. They’ll be like “the last time you had your hair cut, did you get a scissors cut or a clipper cut”—I’m thinking, “HOW SHOULD I KNOW? JUST CUT MY HAIR!!!!” My hair is wavey and not the easiest to cut, and I’d almost always come out looking like Aunt Matilda got out a bowl and a pair of scissors and chopped my hair at the kitchen table.

I want to go to a clean barber shop that looks, smells, and feels like guys belong there. I want a barber who can make me look sharp, and I want a haircut that’s going to stay sharp-looking, even a week or so later–not one that makes my hair look uneven the first time I shampoo it or the next time I brush it. I also want a barber who acts glad to see me, and who remembers a few details about me so he can make friendly conversation when he sees me. I don’t want a barber who hurries.

And while I usually prefer to go to a man if I have my druthers, In all honesty, I have had a couple of good female barbers. But I can’t stand female barbers who, on one hand, try to flirt with me or act like a little tart, OR who go the other way and don’t say two sentences to a guy if they don’t think he’s cute and available.

Fortunately, here in my town there is a barber I’m happy with. But I’ve been “between barbers” before, and it’s a real pain. Thanks for a good article!

39 Ric August 23, 2009 at 11:42 am

When I lived in Phoenix, I found the best barber shop ever called V’s. This was a great place that not only had the decor of a man’s barber shop, but gave an outstanding haircut and perfect straight-razor shaves. Unfortunately, I had to move not long after I found them.

Now I’m in central Missouri and trying to find a decent barber shop is less than easy. There is one that has horrible hours for someone who has a job, and finding a parking spot on Saturday, is insane. I have finally succumbed to going to Sport Clips. It is not bad, and pretty consistant.

I just took an extended trip to San Antonio and found a place called Rooster’s. Although on comparison it is not as good as V’s, it is definitely good. One of the more interesting parts is that as soon as you walk in, they offer you a beer. That is unique at least.

I think my biggest annoyance is that some states, or even local areas, do not allow straight razor shaves. Granted, I would not get one as often as a haircut, but when shaving the neck a straight-razor should be used too.

Without the straight razor, some actually use disposable razors, but others use a trimmer. The worst part about the timmer is that there are barbers that feel they need to put full body weight into it so that it will actually cuts the hair.

If that occurs, I will never return.

40 Paul August 24, 2009 at 4:46 am

I just recently tried a real barber, and it was worth every penny ($20 each for cut and shave)

The guy has been cutting hair for decades, and really knew his stuff.
A tad shorter than I like on the cut, but the shave was perfect and the best I’ve ever had.

41 Larry Caragnano August 24, 2009 at 7:38 am

As a just retired barber/stylist from The Mens Room I agree with all the above comments. If you find someone who cuts your hair the way you like it , stay with that person and if moving to a new city ask your barber if they know someone in the new city to refer you to, whether male or female. Chances are they do. Also a cut using the razor over comb system always results in a more controlable style. The idea is to never have to look like you need a cut or just have had a cut.

42 MIKEY August 24, 2009 at 1:39 pm

for the 7-8 years i was going to a very nice lady stylist who cut my hair very well just the way i liked it… but at the end of the day i was in after all a ladies hair salon no matter how you slice it… little old ladies getting perms, high school prom queens getting their hair done for the big dance… and around xmas time forget it… i could wait an hour for my appt that’s how far behind she could fall…. most of the bona fide barbers (few and far between) in my neighborhood on Long Island were mostly these skinny 90 year old Italian guys with shakey hands… you’d be lucky to get out of there with both ears and eyes intact! now in all places north carolina i’ve found a young barber… cuts my hair perfectly and shaves my neck with hot lather and a straight razor! two big plasma screens on the wall tuned into the sports channels with the volume turned low to keep it peaceful… the magazines are all “man oriented” not a ladies home journal in the bunch… no kids… and when i went to pay the first time… sorry no credit cards… cash or check only and the cash register is hand operated… like stepping back into a much better time!

43 Ben August 24, 2009 at 11:55 pm

This article really brought me back; I remember going to a wonderfull small town barber as a kid. I havent hought about that man is years. The shop was very smoky, this was way back before smoking in a public building was so frowned upon. The shop was decorated with stuffed fish and i remember a small bear with sunglases and a police hat on. This was a truely manly place. When i was about 13 i started going to the foo foo shops and the tarts mentioned above i have to admit was the primary motivating factor. I kept with them through highschool when i finally realised the bad cuts outweighed the flirty women. Now I cut my own hair but I do miss that old shop.

44 Matt August 25, 2009 at 12:56 am

Bruce: Where is Rita’s Barber Shop in Rockledge? I’ve been looking for a good barber since I’ve moved down here.

45 Andrew August 25, 2009 at 9:48 pm

I’ve been fortunate to find three (!) actual barbershops as an adult; amazingly, one of these was located on my university campus (complete with old-school leather chairs and B&W television, and right across from a “salon”). My current barber has thirty years’ experience, and is a fixture on the city’s East Side, knows how I like my hair cut, and certainly does NOT just run the clippers over my head like some other places I’ve tried (for more money, too, I might add :\). Now, when I want to step Out On The Town, I’ll head down to the local haberdashery for the full-on treatment for $25, and get the hot towel, straight razor shave, etc., and it’s worth every penny.

46 John Beeler August 27, 2009 at 1:22 am

I’ve cut my own hair for 10 years with clippers – I know what I want to look like. But I miss the barber experience too. Went to one until he died about 15 years ago, an Italian immigrant whose shop was like stepping back in time before the ’60s changes. He even had one of those ’30s massagers you strap on your hand with the big motor on top. RIP Luca.

47 Les Chaps August 29, 2009 at 9:43 pm

Whenever I have a new barber, I try to figure out as quickly as possible whether he was trained in the military or in prison. Both types will ask you what you want, but the military barber is not going to ask your opinion again, and you’ll get what he’s decided you are going to get. The prison barber is going to try to give you what you want, in case you are armed. Keep in mind, though, that he *is* armed, so don’t mess with him too much.

48 Marc August 30, 2009 at 11:52 pm

I used to go to a really good barber who did nice flat top haircuts for me, with white wall sides. Now my hair is really receded so I opt to shave it myself every couple of day with a razor. Keeps it neat a clean looking. I don’t believe in trying to pretend I am not loosing my hair and doing the dreaded comb-over.

49 cam September 21, 2009 at 6:55 pm

ive been pretty lucky with my barbers. i used to go to the same guy my familys been useing for ever but hes not open all the time now a days so i had to go looking for a new barber an i think i found the right one doing these thing without even knowing it.

50 Aaron September 21, 2009 at 8:07 pm

Or just grow your hair long and save all the trouble.

51 Kevin October 9, 2009 at 12:43 pm

Sadly, my hair is a bit of a rat’s nest at the moment. I’m not happy with my current barber and am likely to be forced the unisex salon route. A year ago, though… now THAT was a different time!

I had the World’s Greatest Barber: George Tomasic of Tar Heel Barber. The man was brilliant. He knew everything there was to know about the art of cutting hair and the even more subtle art of conversation. Whatever your preference, he was engaged, interested and able to dive right in: politics, technology, sports, business. Anything.

He died last January two weeks after taking his last appointment. He wouldn’t put down his scissors until he was too weak to stand. The reaper had to fight him to take him and I do believe the reaper would think twice if he had to face George again!

So this is my little tribute to George: a Man’s Man and World’s Greatest Barber. You are still missed!

http://www.chapelhillnews.com/news/story/38797.html

52 Rob October 11, 2009 at 1:12 am

Some of my first memories, and definitely some of my best memories happened in the kind of barber shops that are steadily disappearing. My favorite Barber story is about the man who use to cut my hair as a kid. His name was Trenny. He lost his leg in the war and had a prosthetic, but when he was in the war he was coming home on a train when a customs guy stopped him and proceeded to arrest him in Spanish. Trenny, being Mexican, obliged the man and tried to tell the man, in Spanish, that he was in the Army and not an illegal immigrant. The man wouldn’t listen and took him to the station. While in the station the officer was talking to another officer about Trenny in English. He wasn’t saying very nice things about him. Trenny looked at the guy and said in perfect English, “You know I speak English and I understand what your saying.” The officer, dumbfounded, said to him, “Well if you speak English why didn’t you say so?” Trenny looked at him and said, “well you were doing such a good job in Spanish I didn’t want to discourage you.” Trenny you will be missed.

53 Tim October 28, 2009 at 9:05 am

Many years ago I frequented a traditional “two chair” barber shop in Chicago. The old Italian barber was classic – straight edge around the ears, lather and talc on the neck, the whole bit. The only problem was that I don’t think he could see very well anymore and thus gave a pretty bad haircut. I’d have to have my wife cut the parts he’d missed when I got home. So after a dozen or so bad cuts, I began to lurk outside the shop, peeking into the window until the older barber was busy and the younger barber was free. Sometimes I’d go weeks without getting a haircut at all! The shop has long since become a taco stand and I moved away, but I’ll always remember the shop fondly.

54 library_goon October 28, 2009 at 1:40 pm

A barber just opened up within walking distance of my workplace. He’s been cutting hair for years and just decided to venture out on his own. Anyway, he did a great job! He used clippers AND a comb on the sides and scissors on the top. Doesn’t look “bowlish” in anyway. And it was cheaper ($15 compared to $20 plus)!

p.s. One of my ex-girlfriend’s usually cuts my hair and does a great job too. However, sometimes it looks better than others.

55 Vincent LoGreco November 5, 2009 at 10:07 am

I have recently discovered the joys of going to a barber shop when I was the best man in a wedding. The groom took all of the groomsmen to his barber shop in Waynesboro Virginia. It was my first time in a good barber shop (I was in one that should have been called a butcher shop in west virginia once). The barber looking at my head was able to tell me what I wanted before I could tell him. He used clippers on the sides and scissors on top and the crowning moment was the hot towel, hot lather and straight razor on my neck and sideburns followed up by a brushing of talc. It was fantastic. Needless to say my next haircut at Super-cuts was disappointing and I have now been searching for a good barber in my area. Anyone know of a good barber in Pennsylvania in the Valley Forge area? Possibly the Blue Bell Area too.

56 MC November 11, 2009 at 9:27 pm

A couple months ago I learned the value of a good barber. One of the barbers at my regular shop just retired, and the only good barber left in the shop is pretty slow, so I thought “why not try out a salon for a change?” Big mistake. I get my hair cut pretty short…it’s cut to about 1/8 of an inch and I let it grow for about a month before the next cut, so it’s never very long. The barbers at my regular shop generally cut it almost entirely with clippers (without guards…they NEVER use guards) and I like the way it comes out.

Well, the stylist at the salon immediately tells me “I don’t use the clippers very much. What size guard do I use?” I should have left the chair immediately, but I went through with it. She cut my hair all over with one guard and it wasn’t short enough. So she had to cut it again with the smallest guard she had and it still wasn’t short enough. It looked like it had been growing for a week already. She left the front longer than the top when it should’ve been the same length. She didn’t taper the sides. She just barely tapered the back, and only after I made her do it. I wasn’t the least bit happy with it when she was done, but I wasn’t in the mood to sit there and try to tell her how to do it right, so I paid and left. I went back to my regular barber shop 2 weeks later and this time, I didn’t care how slow the barber was. It didn’t take any longer than instructing the stylist at the salon, and it came out looking exactly the way I wanted it. I just hope this barber doesn’t retire any time soon.

57 David J. Rivera November 18, 2009 at 8:30 am

The problem I run into today is not having any barber shops in my area. Sound crazy? I’m in the Army, stationed in Germany and right now in Iraq. The “barbers” here are from India (I think) or locals brought in to cut our hair. You can’t tell them what you want, there’s no conversation and in the end they’re just trying to get as many people through as they can. The barber shops in Germany aren’t much better-high turnover rate of cutters, and the only real barber is always booked out. I remember visiting Red’s barber shop in Corpus Christi TX when I was in high school. I didn’t know at the time, but those were the best haircuts I would ever get. Maybe I should look into opening a traditional barber shop in Germany!

58 Matthew Redard November 27, 2009 at 7:48 pm

Just had the beard trim and straight razor shave from Von at The Gent’s Place here in Frisco. Amazing. I’m a new man.

59 tomtheft December 11, 2009 at 10:40 pm

What if the barber is a woman? It is a “barber shop”, but they just have a woman who cuts the hair. I have never gone there, but I plan on trying the place at least once. Wouldn’t it be funny if she cuts the hair better than the guys there?

60 B.R. December 18, 2009 at 11:28 am

I’ve been to a lot of barbers over the years. I don’t have a whole lot of hair, so it doesn’t necessarily make financial sense, but the ritual is nice and the little details add up to a better haircut than just having the girlfriend use the clippers. I often go to The Barbershop of Napa Valley, although I see they have many negative reviews. I’ve always had good haircuts there, and a good straight razor trim around the ears and neck, and always leave smelling of bay rum. Nicks Barber and Hair design, in Paso Robles, CA, gave me a good haircut and my first and only straight razor shave. Shaved twice, once down, once up. I didn’t have to shave for two days, it was so close. A good experience, but I’m not often in the area, so I haven’t been back.

61 Sean January 7, 2010 at 7:39 pm

I am retired from the Navy, so I regularly go to the barbershop on the base. I still get my haircut military style. There are one ot two barbers I try to stay away from, but most of them do a good job. After all, they have to do them all the same way. I get a consistent haircut for a decent price.

62 P. Farrell January 14, 2010 at 10:01 am

FYI, on your Barbershop locator for Colorado, you have Flloyd’s Barbershop in Highlands Ranch. That’s a deception; it’s not a barbershop. I visited the place. It’s a bunch of young women stylists doing basically the same thing as a unisex salon. Their haircuts are lousy. No shaves. Flloyd doesn’t even exist. This a fast food chain of “haircuts” with outrageous prices. Although more of the clientele are male than you usually see, but that’s only because they got faked out. Hardly a male barber in sight. Take ‘em off your list; they’re lyin’.

63 JC DeRosier January 18, 2010 at 7:46 pm

I became a Barber to get a good haircut. I swear this to be a true statement.

64 Paul S February 2, 2010 at 3:47 am

Normally, I just buzz my hair(a #1 all around). I’ve never had the experience of an old-school barbershop atmosphere, but every now and then if I need to look especially good(I’m talking job interviews, dates, etc.), I go to a shop run by an artsy lady barber I’ve run into a few times. She does a perfect job, very much rooted in actual barber style as described in the article, complete with straight razor work to clean things up along the lines, done almost entirely freehand(no guard on the clippers). I can’t afford $20 a cut often, but for special occasions it’s something I relish.

65 Brian March 17, 2010 at 3:14 pm

One of the important things about choosing a barber is how he gets along with the other guys in the shop. In my old barbershop all the guys there got along and spent their downtime talking to each other, but they didn’t carry the conversations into the haircuts. During my first cut at a new salon, the “stylist” (he actually asked me not to call him a barber, red flag right there) couldn’t stop talking to the girl at the chair next to mine. I don’t have a problem with that, but about halfway into the cut he let the edge clipper run about 3 inches up the back of my head. I got up and left right there, didn’t even take the apron off until I was halfway through the parking lot.

66 RustyJohn May 16, 2010 at 2:24 am

I would have a horrible time trying to find a good haircut and would usually end up at one of those national chains. Several years ago I moved to a very small town and there was an older barber there named Frank- Frank had been cutting hair since before “the war”- that was WWII- and then went to war. When he came back he reopened his shop. Unfortunately Frank was pretty old and his skills had diminished in the 60 years since the war- I asked for a straight shave one time and he said he hadn’t sharpened his razor in years- he just didn’t offer straight shaves anymore.

When I left town and moved in with the gf she recommended I go to the salon she frequented- very pretentious, very pricey ($60), the haircut would look good the day I left the salon but I didn’t have 30 minutes every morning to “do my hair”.

Then I landed a new job and was walking around the block by my office and found Thee Barbershop- I hadn’t shaved in over 10 days, and probably hadn’t had a haircut in 4 or 5 months. Pete Lira, the owner, cleaned me up in no time. My first shave with a straight razor and a damn good haircut. Twenty bucks for the cut. The gf didn’t like it as much as the salon, but every where I went the next week I was asked, “Where do you get your hair cut?”

The barbershop is key- there’s jazz playing on the radio, the choice of reading material is either the paper, Guns & Ammo, or Penthouse (no f’ing People magazine, thank you). And the jokes are good.

67 Justin June 4, 2010 at 4:03 pm

I definitely agree with Steve. I used to get my hair cut at Supercuts and it was a damn crap shoot as to whether or not i got a halfway acceptable hair cut. I started going to a real barbershop recently and couldn’t be happier.

68 ashley June 22, 2010 at 11:05 pm

I just wanted to say that not all barbers are men, I went to barber school and can shave with a straight razor with the best of them. I also always use clippers and a comb, and try to leave the guards alone unless someone wants a buzz. The point is- don’t write someone off as a barber just because they’re a woman-some of us don’t want to cut women’s hair and do perms and color, we want to shave faces and give great “manly” haircuts!

69 Nora July 25, 2010 at 7:59 am

Being a female barber, I totally agree with Ashley. There are many of us female barbers working in ‘manly’ barbershops and we are busy. Many customers feel we do a more thorough job than many men barbers. We also can talk sports, politics and current events with the best of them. Don’t mean to be pompous, but feel the articles on this site shouldn’t exlude the fact that woman make good barbers, too.

70 Joe August 15, 2010 at 6:17 pm

Great article and comments. I moved a little over a year ago and have yet to find a decent barber. In my old town I had an experienced barber-stylist who took her time and always did a great job. Since moving all the barbers I have tried have done fast, sloppy haircuts that were uneven and cut so that the hair did not lay right on my head. The last one spent all of ten minutes on my haircut. Even if she knew what she was doing there is no way to do a proper haircut this quickly.

None of the girls at the local beauty solons know how to do a tradtional men’s tapered haircut. They will slap a guard on the clippers and cut the hair one length all the way up and block it straight across the back. When they use scissors they cut the hair in a similar shape, though not quite as short.

It seems that men’s haircutting is becomming a lost art. Many people cut men’s hair, but few do it well. Beauticians don’t know how and most barbers are either incompetent or careless. Instead of gambling on another new barber I think I am going to make an appointment and go back to my old barber. She is over an hour away, but it will be worth the drive once a month just to get a decent haircut.

The best haircuts I have ever gotten were from barber-stylists who work by appointment only. They will have a half hour or so scheduled for your haircut which allows them to take the necessary time to do a good job. In my experience, many barbers at walk-in shops are in the habit of working fast because they have other customers waiting and they want to help everyone as soon a possible.

71 Melissa Colabella August 19, 2010 at 1:09 pm

One cannot stereotype all barbers in the same way you can’t stereotype all stylists. Do all barbers really have the cognitive capacities of an elephant? Barbers focus on volume, creating cuts in 20 minutes or less, leaving very little time for detailing. Stylists spend 45 minutes to an hour tailoring cuts to the individual. I should know, I’ve worked as both a stylist and as a barber. Also, the more time you spend with a client, the more you get to know about them, including their maintenence habits and personal pet peeves. If you’ve been getting bad haircuts by a stylist, then maybe it’s your stylist, not ALL stylists. Also, a clipper cut gives you a very different look than a scissor cut can. If you’re not getting what you want, then maybe talk to your stylist/barber a bit more during your consulatation. And as for trashing women barbers, I’ve said it to GQ already so I won’t say it again. See:
http://trumans-nyc.blogspot.com/2010/03/my-gq-rebuttal.html

72 charlie (female) November 11, 2012 at 1:04 pm

love this post! this coming january i will be attending my very first barbering classes and im just a tad bit curious. this is by far my passion and my dream is to own my own barbershop. A real barber shop that men can be comfortable in and shoot the shit as i know they like to do while recieving a cut. i need help with how i should run this shop.. all men barbers? both men and women? all women? want to be unique of course but dont want to take away from barbershop traditoins that so many are looking for these days. thoughts?

73 mike havery December 8, 2012 at 10:43 am

i was a barber for 40 or years i hoped i pleased all the people i serviced in return it became a place where people help out a meeting place a place people would ask ever one a little help MY shop i treated all equal .doctor an lawyers waited like ever one else we told jokr no feeling where hurt ever one was jokeing around people hung around so long the wives would call

74 Chino July 20, 2013 at 12:26 pm

I generally agree with that which you have written, but a personal anecdote supports the claim that there is an exception to every rule. Once upon a time, I moved abroad and found myself in need of a good trim. After finding a friend’s recommendation to be of dubious value, I stumbled upon a small shop in my resource-poor neighborhood. Everything looked old and, to be frank, unkempt. This included the barber, whose own mane was a mess. But as I watched him deftly cut each client’s coiffure with attention, detail, and precision, I became comfortable with the idea of taking my own turn in the chair. As I spoke with the barber, I learned that he had been in that same spot for 50 years, and he was, as it turned out, an institution unto himself. Never have I had a better barber. I was so relaxed each time I visited that I would find myself falling asleep in the chair. That’s never happened anywhere else. Would that I could return to visit “el viejo peluquero, Andrés.”

75 Richard August 9, 2013 at 9:41 pm

I am old school and believe men should go to a barber shop not a beauty parlor. I have a barber who’s been cutting hair for over 50 years; he is a little slow these days but the haircut is flawless. I tip him 25%.

76 Ben August 10, 2013 at 7:30 pm

My experiences on this topic are mixed. I used to go to a barber who always cut your hair shorter than requested (he had the whole military look with a flattop) so I always ended with something that was more like a crewcut rather than a traditional taper (but he was cheap). Then went to a stylist for a medium length taper that was actually cut quite well. Now my long-haired friend (whose a barber) cuts my hair and he does a great taper. I would say look at the quality of the haircuts being given before going into the chair. If it’s good, than go for a more complex style. If not, then indicate you want a small trim (if it’s a barbers, it’s normally going to be cheap)

77 Jason January 3, 2014 at 11:45 am

My first straight shave as on my wedding day. Sweet Mercy was it amazing! One of my Ushers also got his hair cut, and it was very well done. The only thing that needs to be mentioned about good barbers is that you get what you pay for!

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