I lately got into a somewhat heated debate with a gentleman regarding how to find a great barber or stylist. When I asked him what the first thing he looked for, he responded with, “price.” It his opinion that price is a great indicator of whether the haircut will be good or not. He even went as far as to tell me that he would not consider using my services because I charge less than $40 for a men’s haircut — in spite of the fact that I have over two decades behind the chair and am nationally known in the hair industry.
Of course, his haircut was not appropriate for his face shape, the blending was not quite there, and the finishing was a mess. However, he paid a lot of money for it, so it must be great, right? Are more expensive haircuts better? Not always. Here’s why:
In my two decades, I have fixed a ton of $80 salon haircuts on men.
Now, I’m not saying that hairstylists aren’t capable of doing a great men’s haircut. Quite the contrary. I am a licensed hairstylist. Here is the problem with most of the men’s haircuts in expensive salons. First, many salon hairstylists are trained to cut women’s hair, and women’s hair is different — the shapes created are softer and more feminine, and many hairstylists don’t really “get it” about creating men’s shapes (which are typically leaner and more masculine). Those who don’t work on men regularly normally don’t have the practice to properly blend or finish a men’s haircut, especially if the cut is a shorter style that involves clipper work.
The next aspect of the salon environment that works to a male client’s disadvantage is that men are not often the main profit center in a salon.
Services more geared toward women (color other chemical treatments) are high-profit services that take a lot of time. Stylists generally make more money on these types of services. Quite often, a stylist will attempt to “squeeze in” a quick men’s haircut while another client’s chemical service is processing.
This may not allow the stylist enough time to devote to doing a perfect men’s haircut, but they’ll work you in to help fill their downtime.
Of course, as a man, you may not be best served if you shop for the cheapest haircut either. Lots of low-end barbershops and also chain salons that charge $12 haircuts are working based on quantity, meaning to earn a good living a barber or stylist has to perform several haircuts an hour. This means you’ll likely be rushed in and out of the chair. Most really great barbers and stylists soon realize that if they are talented and have built a clientele, they can earn a better living working at a shop that charges more.
So, if you shouldn’t necessarily go to the expensive salon or the cheap chain or mom and pop, how do you find a great barber or stylist?
First, I would look for high-end barbershops or men’s salons — these places typically only cut men’s hair and are well-trained in the art of men’s hair. They’ll know how to shape, blend, and finish a men’s haircut properly. A fair price for a great men’s haircut will be in the $25 to $50 range. Now, if you are getting a fade or buzz, you could probably opt for a cheaper, more traditional style barbershop.
In case you are still having difficulty finding a place that suits you, I recommend asking around. If you see someone with a similar style you think looks great, ask him who did it. Of course, you might need to know how to spot a bad haircut, so you know who not to ask. You can also check some of the review sites such as Yelp, but make sure to read the reviews carefully (rather than looking at the stars alone). People complain about the most insignificant things, so if you see a shop that’s missing a few stars, take a look at the reviews and find out why. A guy once rated me one star because he was 25 minutes late for his 30-minute appointment and I could not accommodate him. If a shop has lots of five-star reviews, read those carefully, too. It’s not uncommon for shops to give incentives to clients for posting great reviews, so take that into consideration as well.
The bottom line is that, while most barbers or stylists who are great will charge a higher price, there are plenty of great haircutters who charge less and a lot of people who don’t have a clue what they are doing with men’s hair who are charging a lot more. You can’t tell if you have a great barber or stylist by price alone. If the haircut is amazing, it is certainly worth paying a little more, but you can likely find a great haircut that won’t break the bank.