Confidently Navigate Your Visit To The Salon
What To Say, What To Do...and What Not To Do
We’ve suggested going to a barber shop for a beard trim and a glass of whisky with the boys. When it comes to getting your long hair taken care of—especially if you’re dealing with split ends or damaged hair—we advise calling on a trusted salon.
This raises the question, however: “what the hell do I say at the salon?”
The Salon Experience For Guys With Long Hair
Most guys have rarely stepped foot into this historically female territory, much less in seek of services, much less with their long manes on the line.
A pair of scissors approaching your locks can be concerning, even without having to provide direction to a stylist in an unfamiliar environment, or being disoriented by foreign sounds, smells and activities.
Your first trip can be harrowing. For that reason we are offering this introduction to the salon experience for men, where we provide the tips you need to confidently navigate your visit to the salon.
Choosing The Right Salon
If you’ve never been to a salon it can be intimidating to decide where to go. Look for a salon with education and experience. It’s a good indication if they offer classes or training, and if they post educational content on their website.
If you need to call in, politely ask what credentials their stylists are required to have, and if there are ongoing education requirements.
Some salons showcase their hair professionals on their website. It’s generally ok to request a specific person or someone who has worked with male clients. You may need to make an appointment in advance.
If you’re in San Diego, we recommend House of Imago and Style Lounge Salon. We can also provide a list of salons and hair professionals who participated in The Great Cut.
Begin With The End In Mind
A successful trip to the salon ends when you are happy with how your hair looks, and without taking any significant damage to your hair. A good place to start is asking yourself, “what do I want to look like?”
We all have our own taste but it’s probably fair to say you don’t want to be mistaken for a woman (a common longhair problem). As my stylist expressed to me, “when I look at a man with long hair from behind, I want to know I’m looking at a man.”
She went on to explain further, a man’s long hair can look a little more worn in, a little rugged. Not so soft and smooth and perfectly shaped as women may prefer. “Bounce, curl, and angular” are not really the words we’re going for when seeking a masculine appearance.
“When I look at a man with long hair from behind, I want to know I’m looking at a man.”
In terms of how much length to cut, you can actually see the hair that really needs to go. Comb it straight down. The stuff that’s really worn out and damaged will be almost transparent at the tips. That hair isn’t doing you any good and is ready to be cut.
What To Say At The Salon
With an idea of what you want to look like you’ll soon be walking in for your appointment.
Many salons will offer a glass of wine or a beer. Accept it gratefully to calm the nerves, but keep your wits about you. Remember, you’re walking into a cutting zone and you don’t want any mishaps.
After introductions with your stylist you’ll be asked what you’re looking for, or how you want your hair done.
Be clear and polite. Start with a concise description of what you’re looking for. Something like, “I’d like a minimal trim to clean it up and get rid of some split ends.”
Rather than trying to describe a particular style or technique, focus on what you don’t want. For example, “I don’t want to see four inches of dead fallen soldiers on the floor beneath my chair.”
Use a physical landmark of where you want your hair to reach, like a spot on your shoulders or chest. That’s of course when it’s DRY, because it’s longer when it’s wet. If they cut to a length when wet it will be shorter when dry.
A pretty safe bet is saying, “I would basically like to look exactly like I do right now, just a better, cleaner version.” You could even say, “I would rather leave some split ends behind and keep the length than take too much off.”
Err On The Side Of Caution
This may sound cautious, but here’s the thing. When you go in there, your stylist is going to look at your hair and see two feet of fresh virgin goodness. They’ve gone to school and learned all sorts of techniques and styles they’re dying to try. And more often they are dealing with clientele who have had their hair dyed, heated and treated.
Like an artist with a blank canvas, they could be eager to try some of their stuff on you. If you go in there talking about your wants and needs, this and that, they’re liable to get excited, envisioning an overly-robust haircut, and take you to the chopping block.
Tackle that possibility head-on by politely asking them to repeat back what you’ve explained, just to be sure we’re all on the same page.
Terms You May Hear
Thinning: this is a technique where the hair is cut at uneven lengths, providing layers and texture. The problem is this is a haphazard technique, leaving you with unequal lengths that aren’t going to work together. The shorter lengths will tend to kink and frizz, working against the full uncut lengths that are straighter.
Carving: this is a more refined technique where the hair is cut at an upward, diagonal angle. While still providing texture and a layering effect, this ensures the hair maintains a consistent growth pattern and the cut lengths will continue working for you.
Shape: generally speaking, you’re probably going for more of a square shape than rounded or angular. Steer away from concepts like “step cut,” “a-line” or “bob.”
This may be more than you need to know, but it won’t hurt to be familiar with the terminology. Regardless of what kind of technique they’re using, there should be no thinning, carving, chopping or cutting activities more than a few inches from the tips.
Enjoy The Shampoo Experience
Most salons will shampoo your hair before trimming, a calming and relaxing experience. They’ll do a thorough cleansing using high-quality shampoo, getting deep into the roots and massaging your skull. In some cases they may even use a stronger cleanser or clarifying shampoo. Think of it as a deep clean in between your normal shampoo regimen.
Not only are you going to get a thorough cleanse, but it’s a great feeling getting your head massaged. As nice as those fingers in your hair might feel, do not utter any moaning or verbalizations that may be heard across the salon.
This is very important. It will dramatically decrease your time at the shampoo station and you will get shut down.
PROTIP: Do not utter any moaning or verbalizations while getting your hair shampooed.
Observe The Cutting
Once you get into the cut, stay alert. If it looks like there is too much coming off, pump the brakes. DON’T BE SILENT. If you see something, say something. This is not a time to hold your opinion and hope for the best.
Also, don’t be distracted by boobs in your face. This can be a real hazard. One minute your mind is a steel trap focused on the task at hand, then a few accidental boob shots to the head later you’ve forgotten where you are and scissors are operating on your position.
PROTIP: DON’T BE SILENT. If you see something, say something.
Suddenly you’re panicking and all that comes out is a meek and muffled nooooo, drowned out by the steady drone of blowdryer engines and distant female chatter.
Keep it together. Remember, you are here on business.
PROTIP: Do not be distracted by boobs in your face.
When your hair pro is finished you’ll have a chance to examine the results. Having been cautious from the outset, you may find you don’t look that different. If that’s the case you can always ask to have a little more taken off, not so much the other direction.
You might also have your neck hair cleaned up, as well as around the ears, depending on your preference.
Lastly, don’t be shy about asking questions. Most hair pros will be glad to explain what they’re doing and it’s a great chance to learn and be educated about your hair.
When your hair is looking good it’s time to bail, and always tip your stylist. You want them to remember you fondly and look forward to you coming back, especially if they did a nice job.
There you have it boys, that’s what to say at the salon. Follow these tips and you’ll walk out with your locks intact, looking fresh and ready for the next #hairwhipwednesday.
Are you using hair ties or shampoo & conditioner that’s damaging your hair?
If you’re using any of these...the answer is yes.
Nice article! Having a clear conversation before your haircut will save you from any mishap. A Clear instruction about what to do, what don’t and how much. These points that you have added in this article are useful.
Thank you, Jason! We are thrilled to hear you enjoyed the article.
I like how you said to talk to your barber and tell them what you need precisely politely explaining to them as these people are experts in this industry and know what they are doing.
We will be attending my sister’s wedding next week and want to ensure we have the right haircut and style for her event.
I’m glad I came across this article and learned the benefits of talking to the barber and requesting the haircut you want or need.
Thanks for talking about this matter. I’ll share this with my partner and see what he thinks about going to a barber before the wedding.
Nice guide. Is there anything different to what’s mentioned here for someone with long curly/wavy hair to know/say?
Great advice. Just braved the salon for the first time after 2 years growth, with the words of this article ringing in my ears. Was strangely intimidating entering a somewhat “female” world but I managed to hold it together. The stylist was cool, put me at ease and I got a lovely trim up. Cheers lads!
Very nice article .Thanks for sharing this great post.
We’re thrilled to help, Cucumba! Keep lettin’ it ride.
Anyone have a hair salon in San Francisco they would recommend?
Kudos for the great content!
Would like to know how men here deal with wives and girlfriends who are negative on long hair for men: not masculine, crazy hair, always pointing out the short cuts she likes…
( I realize this is more of a relationship issue than a hair issue…)
For me, some day I will find a shorter style I like, but right now I’m enjoying it after 1 1/2 years of growing it out during the pandemic; I’m 66 years old and it’s surprising how the color has come back after being short and gray.
Give it some time. As it gets longer they will turn a page. Once you’re at the 2 year mark and it’s on the shoulders, things are different. Another thing is ask them for help. That will allow them to teach you something about hair. Keep doing you and just take the shots for now. I’m telling you, they’ll love it eventually.
How often should I go to the Salon
I recommend every six months.
I’ve been growing it out for about 10 months now and it’s coming along ok. The one area I have an issue with is the back curling up and out. I am scared “S” less to go to a barber and I don’t know of any salons in my area as I’m new here I was introduced to a guy who’s wife is a stylist and she looks well groomed. I was thinking of asking her for a recommendation or for a consultation. I’d rather not to to the salon for this but just get some advice I’d certainly pay her for a consult Any thoughts
Sounds like a good plan. I’d mentioned the things from this article in advance just to make sure you’re all on the same page. Stoked you’re at the 10-month mark, you’ll be hair whipping in no time.
I just left the Navy after 40 years and now I want to grow my hair long. I always new I had great hair and still dark brown too with a hint of grey. I was constantly having to get haircuts before anyone else it grew so fast. After 6 months it’s getting long now, looks and feels great, it’s my latest hobby…my hair. But the wife is asking me, what are you going to do with it? Dunno.
I was just thinking if I could bring a photo of another guy with long hair whose style I like, if that would be OK. I sort of like the aged-rocker look.
Last time my hair was this long, AC DC came out with Back in Black! 🙂
Tony, glad to have you here! Thank you for your service in the Navy, now we are glad to welcome you to the longhair ranks.
You can definitely bring a photo of another guy whose hair you like into the salon.
Thanks for being here amigo!
my wife asks the same thing…and i have pretty much the same reply, it’s a journey, nobody’s telling what I can and cannot do.
Going in for the trim today, boys! It’s a salon that caters to men, but I’ll stay vigilant. Wish me luck!
You got this man!
Hi my name is Andrew Danny I have a question it something that been on my mind for a really long time can I ask to we’re multiple capes to be put on me during a haircut either in a salon or barbershop I’m talking like two
How i select my hairstyle on my face
Your guys products or so good I love you hair ties now we want to get headband but I only get your products on Amazon
Thank you Anthony!
I’m lost what to do about the back. I’ve got shoulder length in the front, and it’s a couple inches longer in the back , angled to the middle of my back. 2 years growing out and looking forward to a couple more years.
Should I get it all leveled out to the same all around? If yes, when?
My hair is as wavy as the beach . Tried growing it out after high school and it was straight up curls, now I’ve got the strong waves of thick hair people would kill for. 🙂
I go to a Toni & Guys in Manchester, UK. If you have the option, get a guy to cut your hair. I’m lucky enough to have a couple of guys work there who used to have long hair so they know what will suit a man. Not always the case, but it’s about mitigating the risk.
At a salon, they will most likely straighten with a blowdryer and brush towards the end of your session. If you do not do this at home, tell them to finish your hair naturally so you get an idea of how it will look day to day, and make amendments from there if necessary.
In this age of smartphones, you have no excuse for not having couple of photos with you of celebs, models etc to show what you are going for.
Good luck guys!
Yo Ravi thanks man!
Don’t be afraid to say NO! A stylist on virgin hair may possibly go nuts with your natural mane. If a wild idea is suggested or staff use salon lingo for something you have no idea what is being spoken about, ask for a clear meaning of what is being suggested. While some Longhairs may not mind having their hair fried, blown-out, extensions, permed, etc., know what you want. Be clear and concise. I for one do not want color or heat near my hair as I donate my lusciousness to an organization to help women and children who want wigs; my hair needs to be au naturale and healthy. Also, know what the cost will be upfront. Their are some sly stylists that can smell your inexperience and will up-charge you for every treatment imaginable. Once your chair experience is over and it’s time to pay…surprise! You come out of the salon dazed and confused b/c you just spent a couple of hundred greenbacks on your fabulous locks (even it felt like you might have gotten a lap dance out of it). And while it’s going to cost you more than going to a conventional barber, you shouldn’t feel like your scalpt monetarily. And remember, if the service was amazing, don’t forget to tip. It will go a long way for the next time you are in the stylist chair.
HAHA spoken like a true longhair veteran Equus! Thanks for the great comments as always, had us cracking up over here.
another tip: don’t go alone at the hairdresser’s
go with your wife or any long hair friend female ( they are more respected by the stylists)
if you are too afraid to go there, you can buy a ” creaclip” and ask an longhair friend to trim with that accessory
i’ did share your tips on my french blog: http://chamanedaniel.canalblog.com/archives/2016/08/14/34190636.html
Great advice as always, Chamane, thanks for translating and linking us up. Hoping your French-speaking readers enjoy!
I have been thinking about going to get my hair cleaned up all summer. I am glad I held off for you guys to pump out this great article! I think I am finally ready to give it a try. Besides having my neck trimmed at home, I haven’t cut my hair since I started growing it two years ago. Wish me luck gentlemen!
Yo dude, just in time! Good luck and let us know how it goes.
“Don’t be silent.” That’s the best advice by far! If you see the stylist grab the scissors and she’s about to cut a huge chunk of your hair, SAY SOMETHING! I learned this the hard way by just “trusting” that the final product would look good. No, if she is about to cut off several inches, you can’t glue that hair back on. It’s gone!
Dang man, you went through it…how was the conversation after you saw the final product?
Strong post, guys. Good tips.
My wife wants me to go to her hair dresser…. think ill hod off till it s. Longer….. dont want any gone right now…. great article
Karl, just go when you’re ready man.