in: Hair, Style

• Last updated: September 10, 2023

A Guide to Barbershop Etiquette

There’s nothing like the experience of getting your hair cut at a quality barber shop. The smell of talc and hair tonics is evocative. The feeling of a hot towel on your face is relaxing.

Another thing that adds to the pleasant experience of a barbershop is the unwritten code of etiquette that should prevail there. Understanding and following these guidelines can make your visit to the shop more enjoyable and allow you to develop a positive relationship and rapport with your barber that can last for years to come. 

To get the lowdown on barbershop etiquette, I hit up AoM’s resident barber, Thad Forrester, co-owner of Hudson / Hawk Barber & Shop. Thad has been my go-to consultant for content related to hair for years, ever since we made some videos together back in 2016 (check out “Shave and a Haircut,” “How to Get a Side Part Haircut,” and “How to Talk to Your Barber), and I liked Thad’s haircuts so much that I’d sometimes drive all the way from Tulsa to his Hudson / Hawk location in Springfield, Missouri just to have him cut my hair. This was particularly true after I grew my hair out; cutting my long, thick, poofy hair is tricky, and I couldn’t find anyone locally who did it well. So I’m really excited that Thad has added to the Hudson / Hawk locations in MO and AR by opening a shop here in T-Town. If you live in the Tulsa area, make sure to check it out! You’ll likely bump into me there getting my Sam Elliott hair trimmed. 

Wherever you go to get your hair cut, here are some rules to follow to do so like a gent:

Be punctual. Respect your barber’s time by punctually arriving to your appointment. Most barbers schedule back-to-back appointments. One late client can throw off their entire day.

Cancel well in advance. If you have to cancel an appointment, do so with as much advance notice as possible — a couple of hours beforehand at a minimum — so that the barber can try to fill that spot. 

If you accidentally no-show for your appointment, the generous and gracious thing to do is call your barber and pay for the haircut you didn’t get. This will obviously pain you, but by not showing up, you basically robbed your barber of a paying client who could have filled your spot. So if this is a barber with whom you want to maintain a positive, long-term relationship, pay for the missed haircut.

This is a problem you can avoid by keeping your appointments.

Communicate clearly. Know how to talk to your barber. Clearly communicate the style you want and any specific requests or concerns. If possible, let your barber know the kind of haircut and haircare you want when you make the appointment, so he can allot an appropriate amount of time for completing the service.

Stay still. Keep your head still and follow your barber’s instructions to ensure a clean and precise cut.

Put away your phone. Texting, scrolling Instagram, and talking on the phone won’t allow you to stay still, which makes your barber’s job harder. Also, when you’re on your phone, it prevents you from interacting with your barber: answering questions he might have about your cut and making the kind of friendly chit-chat that builds increasingly comfortable rapport. 

Practice good hygiene. Make sure your hair is clean and freshly washed before your appointment. Barbers don’t appreciate having to work on filthy/sweaty/greasy hair. 

If your barber will be washing your hair at the shop before he cuts it, your hair doesn’t have to be clean-clean, but it shouldn’t be so dirty that your barber will be reluctant to put his hands in it.

Don’t put product in your hair before your cut. When your hair is full of creams and gels, it turns your barber’s job into a sticky mess. 

Respect other clients. Keep your voice down and avoid disruptive behavior and controversial topics to respect the experience of other clients. 

Be politely assertive when you see a problem with your haircut. If you see your barber doing something with your hair that you don’t like, let him know right away so he can course correct. 

If you aren’t satisfied with the finished product, don’t mumble “It looks great” when the barber asks you what you think and then go and leave a negative review online. Try discussing the issue with the barber first. As Thad says, “A good shop and barber will appreciate hearing how they can do better. We all make mistakes. The measure of a good shop is how we address them and try to make them right. Going direct to the business owner or barber shows mutual respect and is more well-received and likely to be considered seriously.”

Tip generously. A good rule of thumb is to tip 20% of the cost of your service. If you appreciate the service and experience, take care of your barber, and he will take care of you!

Show appreciation. Say thank you and show your barber your appreciation for their work. A positive attitude and a smile go a long way in creating an enjoyable barbershop experience. 

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