You asked for a little bit off the top when you walked into the barber shop. “No problemo!” said the dude who’s now whacking your mane like a gardener who drank six espressos with his nose before trimming some bushes. Cold sweat cascades down your forehead and the back of your neck as your barber asks, “So, what do you think?”
Frankly, you think this man needs to retire his clippers — and possibly receive some kind of mental counseling, or at the very least, get his eyes checked — because your new haircut looks like a bird’s nest that’s been chewed on by an 80-pound rottweiler. The trouble is, it’s tough to criticize a dude who’s waving sharp scissors around next to your ears. And what if, instead of fixing it, he gets mad and makes it look even worse than it already does?
So, what do you do, and more importantly, what do you say? I spoke with a bunch of hair professionals to find out.
Cleve McMillan, hairdresser: Before you say anything, you need to decide whether or not your barber can fix it. If it’s the first time you’ve given this particular barber a shot, it’s probably not worth the hassle — just walk out of there and never come back, otherwise you run the risk of receiving an even worse fixer haircut. On the flip side, if it’s your trusted regular barber, let him or her down gently. Just say, “Do you think we could get a little shorter on the sides?” or “Would you mind taking another inch off the top?”
The best way to avoid this situation altogether is by paying attention and asking a ton of questions during the haircut. Speak up when you notice the cut not working for you, rather than waiting for it to be finished. Barbers need feedback on the fly because (1) they work super quickly and (2) their cuts rely on a series of steps. If the part you don’t like was step three out of twenty, your barber has to go back and basically do everything all over again if you don’t mention anything until the cut is over.
Asia J, barber: You always want to leave the chair happy. If you don’t feel like this cut is a good cut, just definitely ask them. You have to tell them upfront so they can fix it right away. If you don’t like something, you just tell your barber or stylist, like, “Aye.” They can fix it, or they can give you somebody who can.
Megan Lam, recruiter and stylist at Rudy’s Barbershop: When you’re unhappy with your haircut, first let the barber or stylist know what it is that you’re unhappy with — be as blunt and honest as you need to be. Did they execute what you wanted? Does it not look how you thought it would in your head? Can we fix this? Maybe show them a photo of what you’d like the cut to look like, or even better, bring one in at the start so the barber or stylist can better create the look you want.
Don’t be afraid to let them know that some changes need to be made. They’re professionals, and they can adjust your cut to help you leave happy. Be specific about the technical stuff you don’t like, and don’t let it become about the stylist — let it be about you and your needs, all while being realistic about your expectations.