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.

guide to improve barber shop
One barber in Medellin wanted a photo for his Instagram so puffed up my hair.

Step-By-Step Barber Routine

Here is a guide to putting yourself abov 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)
    • Simply felt amazing
  • 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.

Barber Shop Upsells

Guide To Improving Your Barber Shop nose hair wax

Barbershops are notorious for NOT selling. Imagine going to a restaurant and NOT being given a menu. You’d probably buy something familiar to you. You probably wouldn’t buy things like wine or dessert. Restaurants are smart. They try to upsell you on things that make sense.

Barbershops, on the other hand, don’t. Yesterday, my barber shoved hot wax in my nose and then pulled it, along with all of my nose hairs, out of my nostrils. If I’m being honest, it was exhilarating. The insides of my nose went back in time 25 years!

These two services make sense. They pair well together.

What about if your client is thinning? Offer him a hair-growth shampoo.

Dandruff? Have a product ready to offer to combat this affliction.

If he has a beard, why not offer beard wax, beard oil, beard comb, etc.?

You’re the expert, right? So take some of your damn time, expert, and find the best products out there for the money and offer them to your customers.

…but I don’t earn any money from product sales or commission from upselling other hair services, so why should I? First, for job security. Trust me, your boss knows who’s bringing in what kind of money. Same as he notices how many repeat customers you have.

Second, propose a deal with your boss. Commission on sales of hair products and services. Bam. You just increased your monthly income by your selling abilities.

The best thing a barber can do to increase his monthly income is upselling on those products/services that make sense. Barbers are TERRIBLE at selling. Click To Tweet

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.

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  1. I like how you mentioned having a barber routine. My brother wants to become a barber since he’s good at cutting hair. I’ll share this with him so he can improve his skills.

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