What to Expect From Your First Legit Haircut After Lockdown

Here’s what not to expect: A miracle.

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It’s been nine months since the pandemic began and that’s a long, long time to go without a decent haircut. Some have chosen the trimmers and buzzed their heads, hoping for the best. Some have become mountain-less mountain men and let it grow out. But a lot of us, afraid to cut our hair too short or leave it too obnoxiously long, have heard the siren song of the home haircut at some point in 2020 — and this could mean trouble for your eventual return to the barbershop in 2021.

Whether you’ve tried to cut your hair yourself or had a friend or loved one do it, there is very, very little chance you’re currently sporting the hairstyle you usually get, let alone the one you want. This isn’t to knock any amateur who’s given you a trim; it’s just that barbers and hairstylists are professionals because they’ve attended and graduated from schools that teach them how to cut hair, because hair is tricky, and it grows in much, much weirder than you realize… that is, until you get that home cut and discover several random tufts of hair sticking out at some very unexpected angles.

“Professionals know the techniques of cutting the hair, so when it grows back in it grows naturally and properly,” says Amanda Hughes, manager of the Dr. Beard barbershop in Los Angeles. “It’s a lot of shaping people’s curls and waves and cowlicks and angles. It’s all about knowing the patterns of the hair, so it doesn’t look wonky or bushy.”

It’s an extremely complicated process, which is why you can’t expect to sit down for your first session with your barber or stylist in a year and expect everything to be fixed immediately. Two sessions — with a decent amount of time to let your hair grow a bit in between — is more likely, according to Hughes. “The first is to try to tame down whatever’s been done [to it],” she says. “That will start the growth process on the right track. Then in a month or six weeks or so, your next haircut will start the base [of your hairstyle] over. It’s like planting a seed, and then as it grows you can begin to trim the bush.” (Not like that.)

To continue the metaphor, you can do yourself a huge favor by letting your hair grow long now to give your barber or stylist the biggest bush possible. If your hair ends up longer than you normally have it, then they can give you your classic ‘do and send you on your way. Even if your hair is still suffering when you finally get your appointment, the longer it is, the sooner your hairstyle will be on the road to recovery.

“Just leave it alone as much as possible,” suggests Hughes as prep for your first legit, post-pandemic haircut (whenever that may eventually be). So for the rest of winter at the very least, put those scissors away, and let it grow, let it grow, let it grow.