I’m about to become the best “backseat driver” as it relates to telling you how to be a barber, but I think I have the qualifications.
I have had a beard trim and/or haircut in 30+ countries and am qualified to say that 95% of barbers suc…could improve. This blog is a post of all the different techniques that have been used on me. Some orgasmic. Most average. A few a total waste of money.
As many barbers usually rely on repeat business, I figure I’ll provide my opinion on setting yourself apart.
Step-By-Step Barber Routine
Here is a guide to putting yourself in the top 99% of all barbers in the world:
Step 0 (optional): Offer a drink while the customer waits in your comfortable waiting area
Step 1: Trim/style beard, as requested, with clippers or electric razor
Step 2: Warm towel over face for 2 minutes
Step 3: Carve requested style into beard with a straight razor
Step 4: Trim mustache
Step 5: Trim hairs to the right and left side of the mouth opening
Step 6: Trim/Style hairs below the lower lip
Step 7: Shave with straight razor hairs on the forehead and around eyebrows (feels amazing)
Step 8: Trim eyebrows
Step 9 (optional): Add beard coloring
Step 10: Trim below the neck
Step 11: Head, neck, shoulder, arm massage
Step 12: Offer beard oil
Step 13: Style back of neck hairs
If the customer opted for a haircut, add these next steps:
Step 14: Straight razor to skim the top of head hair for evenness
Step 15: Shampooing with a head massage
Step 16: Styling
Best Beard Trim: Pereira, Colombia
The barber used a straight razor trimming my beard into a perfect C-shape as I asked. He also added a bit of color to make it look fuller and show off that C-line. He added a hot towel over my face before getting started and finished up with a nice styling and trim of the area around and below the lips. To finish, he used an automatic massage tool on my shoulders for 2-minutes. This all took about 45 minutes. Cost: $4
Worst Beard Trim: Redwood City, California, United States
The barber talked a BIG game yet takes the last place in my book because he used an electric razor only and still was able to make my neck bleed. He also fully ignored hairs around my lip. I was in and out in about 8 minutes. Cost: $15
The Barber Chair
You need a proper barber chair. This means that it reclines for the shave. The head should have enough padding that the back of the customer’s head doesn’t start to feel uncomfortable after 5 minutes. Barbers, you’ll know this if the customer slightly tweaks the position of his head more than once during the shave. If you’re doing things right (or, if the customer is just super tired) the customer should be in a relaxation daze during the shave.
If you want bonus points, get an adjustable footrest that can be adjusted upon recline with a padded side the customer can put up their feet on.
A 5-Star Barbershop Experience
To transform your barbershop into a 5-star experience, use any of the following strategies.
- Perfect C shaped curve (Stockholm, Sweden; Pereira, Colombia)
- This is by far the most valuable and hardest skill to achieve. 90%+ of barbers are unable to do this. It’s art.
- Shaving of hair on the forehead (Ubud, Bali, Indonesia)
- Straight razor to skim the top of the hair (Medellin, Colombia)
- I can’t really explain this but the barber took a straight razor (nothing else) and just barely skimmed the top of my hairs with it. I assume this was to even out the look, but it felt damn amazing.
- Trimming/thinning of the mustache (San Francisco, California)
- Probably the most expensive haircut and beard trim I ever paid for at $85, she did have a technique using a comb and clippers to nicely and evenly trim my mustache
- Adding coloring to make beard more full (Pereira, Colombia)
- I only knew he did this because I asked to watch his technique one day to with a mirror and at the end, I saw this and thought…huh, interesting. That’s probably why it looks extra good!
- Warm towel over beard before starting (Bangkok, Thailand and Lisbon, Portugal)
- Feels nice, adds a touch of luxury, and is good for the skin prior to a shave
- Trimming/styling hairs below the lower lip (Saint Petersburg, Russia; Las Palmas, Spain)
- Sometimes this is ignored, but is super noticeable when done correctly.
- Head, neck, shoulder, arm massage (Manila, Philippines and Pereira, Colombia, and Antigua, Guatemala)
- By hand is superior if you are good.
- Apron with clear plastic viewing window
- So the customer can use it to read a book or use their phone.
- Trimming on back of the neck (Casablanca, Morocco; Panama City, Panama; Hong Kong)
- Obligatory in my opinion. It takes 45 seconds and increases value 10x.
- Styling hair afterward (Mexico City, Mexico)
- Ask the customer if they know what they want. If they don’t, you should. Give them something that makes them look good. In almost all cases this part is half-assed.
- Shampooing of hair (San Francisco, California)
- I will probably remember this for life. I, luckily, said yes to the hair shampooing after my cut in San Francisco and this gay barber gave me the best head massage I have ever and probably will ever receive.
- Drink before (San Francisco, California; Almaty, Kazakhstan; Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam)
- In my opinion, fully optional. I don’t need a drink and if it increases the cost of the cut, I don’t want one. I definitely don’t want a beer. I usually opt for water or coffee. In Almaty, they offered this to me after the haircut which was different than the usual offering before.
- Facial cleanser before hot towel on the face (Almaty, Kazakhstan)
- This was surprising because I thought I had experienced everything before this. Isn’t it crazy how you can turn one act (a shave) into so many variations? Anyways, the barber lathered my face with a cleanser, put the hot towel over, then wiped it all up afterward upon towel removal.
- Beard oil
- At the end, ask the customer if he wants a beard oil. Mostly, he will say yes. Apply in a massage like fashion.
- Put shaving cream on one side at a time
- It just makes sense to me to put shaving cream on one side at a time. This may be personal preference, but this stuff isn’t meant to sit on the face forever. In fact, the less time the better.
The Worst Techniques Ever Used On Me:
- Using a used razor (Chiang Mai, Thailand)
- True story. The truly shameful part of this story was me not telling him to change it.
- Opting for electric razor only (Tbilisi, Georgia; Almaty, Kazakhstan)
- This should never be an option. A razor is a closer shave so it’s a better option. Plus, it’s a lot harder for me to do this by myself.
A Final Note
You know you’re a good barber if you have a nicely kept beard. Most barbers either don’t have a beard or have a disheveled one. This is my sure-fire way to identify a good barber as most will say they can do the job while we know most cannot.