In this edition of “Step Into the Chair,” hairstylist Cleve McMillan weighs in on your burning questions about the mysterious adventure that is getting a haircut.
My barber always trims my sideburns perfectly, but I can never maintain them. How do I keep them even?
First off, you must own a pair of electric clippers if you expect to rock even sideburns. The main reason sideburns are so difficult to maintain is because they tend to become bushy — that is, they grow out rather than down. It’s nearly impossible to trim a straight line into bushy sideburns.
As far as the actual trimming goes, use a #3 clipper to remove any bulk below the top of the ear. From there, use your razor blade to ensure that both sideburns are even with each other. The key to trimming your sideburns evenly is making sure the edge of the blade is parallel with the ground — that’s because most men are capable of eyeing their sideburns for evenness, but they screw it up by not holding the razor in a completely horizontal position, ending up with one sideburn curving upward and the other pointing towards the ground. Once you have two even lines, shave upward (against the grain) to those lines to give your sideburns a nice, clean look.
I’ve had the same haircut for as long as I can remember, but I’m not totally sure if it suits my face. How can I find out?
If you search Google for haircuts according to face shape, you’ll find a bunch of charts telling you which hairstyle is right for you. The problem is that I (and most barbers) don’t follow those charts: A good barber will organically cut your hair according to your face. Because of this, it’s better to have that conversation with your barber rather than try to find a hard and fast rule that tells you which hairstyle you should wear. Simply ask, “If you had free range to do whatever you want with my hair, what would it be? Is my desire to keep wearing the haircut I’ve always worn getting in the way of what would look better on me?” A good barber will be honest with you.
If you’re still feeling iffy about it, take a trip to a salon (not a barbershop) to ask for their opinion. Sometimes a different set of eyes with a different set of expertise is all you need to figure out whether or not your hairstyle suits you.
My barber always tells me he’s “layering” and “texturizing” my hair, and I usually just nod my head. What do those words even mean?
“Layering,” from a technical standpoint, refers to a hairstyle that isn’t all the same length — that is, not all the hairs end at the same place. An extreme example would be Billy Ray Cyrus’ old mullet, where the top layers (those that grow nearer to the crown) are cut shorter than the layers beneath. A better (looking) example might be your average undercut, where the tops layers drape over the faded sides. This technique is usually used to take off weight or to add depth to the hairstyle.
When a barber says he’s going to add “texture” to the hair, that means he’s going to cut lengths in between the lengths. For instance, if you have 20 hairs and cut 10 in half, that’s texturizing. It’s typically used to reduce the weight of the hair, but the varying hair lengths are also great for achieving that “messy” look.