For men, getting a haircut used to be simple, we’d go to a barbershop. Those days, like it or not, are virtually over. During the last part of the 20th century, many traditional barbershops went out of business, forcing men to choose between cheap high-volume chains or high-end “unisex” salons. So which to choose? Should you choose a cheap chain or a high-end salon? Well, neither, in my opinion.
I’ll go on the record as saying there are some capable stylists in the high volume chains just as there are some haircutters in high-end salons that can do a great man’s haircut. That said, neither concept serves the needs of men, and I’ll explain why. Of course, every salon and employee is unique, but generally speaking neither concept, in my opinion, serves men well.
Your hair is such a big part of your look, so a great haircut is a good investment.
In the cheap high-volume chains, the business model is centered around doing as many low-priced haircuts as quickly as possible. They put their stylists through their training “systems” with the goal of teaching them techniques that allow them to do as many haircuts as possible. Many stylists working in chain stores are forced to finish a client’s haircut in fifteen minutes or less (or face write-ups or termination). Combine that with the fact that someone doing haircuts for $12.99 (or less as many chains run frequent deep discounts) at the commission of 45% or so, then you can see they have to cut a lot of heads to make ends meet.
Granted, the chain stores are great places to gain hands-on experience for stylists fresh out of school, but you can imagine great stylists won’t work for peanuts very long. Turnover in the high-volume chains, is, as you can expect, rather high. For a guy with a simple layer cut or buzzcut (of course, you can often just buzz your head at home), you can probably get by with a cheap chain cut, but if you’re concerned about your look, investing in a great haircut is certainly worth it.
Should you go to a high-priced salon? Well, maybe or maybe not. In the high-end salons, the focus can fall on chemical services, complex women’s hairstyling, and other services. Men’s haircuts, quite often, are seen as quick services that can be “squeezed in” while another client’s color or perm is processed. Add to that the fact that many salons focus on ladies’ haircuts; stylists don’t often get the opportunity or time to refine their skills on men’s haircuts (especially shorter men’s haircuts). Often, a man will end up paying fifty or sixty dollars for a haircut that is rushed or performed by someone who doesn’t do men’s haircuts on a regular basis.
Choosing Between Barbershops And Salons For Men
So, what’s a guy to do? I recommend skipping the high-volume chains or high-end salons and seeking something in the middle.
Of course, the first step is choosing between a barber or stylist and that choice is fairly straightforward. For tight clipper cuts or shorter styles, a barber is almost always the best option as that is what they do. For longer styles or colors, a stylist is a better choice as that is what they are accustomed to doing on a more regular basis. One shift in the industry that makes me happy is that there are more and more high-end barbershops or men’s salons that now do a much better job of focusing on the unique needs of men. Typically, these places are better options as the barbers and stylists working in them are trained on men’s haircutting techniques and masculine styles that work with men’s face shapes. These shops fall somewhere between the cheap chains and high-end salons.
How much should a man pay for a haircut? Well, of course, price does not necessarily equal quality when it comes to men’s haircuts, but generally speaking, somewhere in the $20 to $40 range is probably fair, depending on the environment. I own a couple of high-end barbershops and I charge $28 (plus tip), and I think that’s a fair price for a half-hour of my time. Finally, how do you find a new barbershop or salon? These days that is fairly easy with the abundance of user-driven online review sites (such as Yelp). If you know the difference between a good haircut and a bad haircut, you could also simply ask around. Find a guy who has a similar style you think looks great and find out who cut his hair. Yeah, you may think it a bit odd asking another guy where he gets his haircut, but it can certainly be worth the effort.
The bottom line, in my opinion, is this: Your hair is such a big part of your total look that it is worth the extra time and expense to get it done the right way — in an environment that is comfortable and inviting to men and performed by talented people who are focused specifically in the unique art of cutting men’s hair.