These tips from Bolt Barbers—the best place to catch a buzz in L.A.—will enable you to leave the barbershop with your head held high.
By Ivan Zoot
You might think it’s impossible to screw up a men’s haircut. Just clean up the sides, trim the top, and you’re good to go, right? But there are actually endless variations out there, and if you don’t know all the right terminology for a discussion with your barber—and, really, who does?—you could end up sporting a Bieber shag or a borderline mullet. And no one wants that.
We recently did a photo shoot at Bolt Barbers in downtown Los Angeles, a hangout that’s part barbershop, part man cave. (Case in point: The shop offers handcrafted beer shampoo and conditioner.) While we were there, we picked up a few pointers on getting a cut that won’t make you hide under a hat for weeks.
TIP 1: PICK THE RIGHT PLACE
Beer shampoo isn’t the only reason to head for a testosterone-friendly barbershop—finding someone who specializes in men’s cuts will help you get the best results. Bolt founder “Mohawk Matt” Berman, who passed away last year, built his barbershop on the premise that it was an anti-salon—a place where guys could get masculine cuts from experts. “A barber is more familiar with clippers, more familiar with creating angularity—which is what defines a man’s physique—than a cosmetologist, who’s not as familiar with skills such as tapering and razoring,” he explained in an interview on the company’s website.
TIP 2: LEARN A FEW BUZZWORDS
You may not know a Caesar from a Brooklyn fade, but even if you’re clueless about the lingo, you can still communicate effectively—in plain English. The Clipper Chimps (aka Bolt’s team of master barbers) gave us six basic things to keep in mind when you’re telling your barber what you want:
Top: How long or short should it be at the top?
Fringe: Do you want it long in front or closely cropped? Do you want to be able to sweep it to the side, sculpt it into a faux hawk, or just keep it off your forehead?
Taper or fade: This is how the top blends into the sides. Pick your severity.
Neckline: Do you want it tapered (natural), blocked (squared), or round (rounded, duh)?
Arch: How much do you want trimmed around your ears? (Hint: A lower arch won’t look as awkward as your hair grows out.)
Sideburns: How long? If in doubt, just above the middle of the ear works with pretty much any style.
TIP 3: BRUSH UP ON THE TRENDS
No amount of good communication is going to help if you have no idea what you want to do with your hair in the first place. These suggestions take the guesswork out of grooming:
Go longer on top
Grow out the top a bit for styling versatility. Style and finish with pomades and waxes—the newer, water-based ones work great and shampoo out clean.
Clean up the sides
Taper things close and get your groom on. These shorter elements of your cut will need more frequent attention from your barber, but they’ll keep you from looking sloppy.
Revisit the classics
Nape tapering, blended sideburns, and flawless fading are the hallmarks of modern, classic haircutter craftsmanship, and differentiate a hack from an artist.
Your cut doesn’t have to be perfectly blended. The top and sides can have some overhang and roughness—we’ve gone back to the future with 1930s-inspired looks.
Don’t forget your face
Yeah, the lumberjack thing is big, but wild beards are kind of done. Having a beard is not about not shaving. Take it down close. Line it up crisp. Your girl will reward you handsomely.
With these tips from Bolt Barbers (BoltBarbers.com) in your back pocket, you can head to the barbershop knowing you’ll walk out with the cut you actually wanted. You can thank us later.
The author is a world-renowned grooming educator who helped behind the scenes when Bolt Barbers launched. He’s also known as ClipperGuy, and holds three Guinness World Records for cutting hair.
From the June 2015 issue of Penthouse