I wanted to share my barber shop experiences with you all. Over the last couple of years, I have gone to countless barber shops spreading the word about my hair products.
I basically go to a different barber every two weeks to get a haircut and talk about my business. I have learned many things from my experiences both business-wise and personally.
I know how to get the best haircut out of any barber, I also know popular products to sell and all of the social quirks of barber shops.
I have had a lot of frustrating moments at barber shops from bad haircuts to weird social interactions but now I can go to any barber shop and have success. Here is what I learned:
How to get the best haircut
Every barber is different, every barber has a different way of cutting hair. I would say in general here are my tips for getting the best haircut:
Have your requirements ready
So when you go to a barber shop, have a very specific idea of what kind of haircut you want. For example, I say something like this:
"Hey, how's it going? So if you can please do not bring back my hairline. Please keep my hairline how it is naturally, please do not bring back my hairline" Note I say this because I have been to many barbers who will bring back my hairline trying to line up my hair. I believe I look best with a lower hairline. When my hairline is brought back it makes my forehead look big. I can't tell you how many times this happened before I started mentioning it. And I promise you, after I started mentioning it, it has never happened again. To continue... I say..
"Please line the bottom of my beard around the neck". I'm not too specific on this, I actually don't really care about how the bottom of my beard is lined but I find it easier to maintain on my own when the bottom alignment is very basic. To go on..
"With the facial part of my beard.." *Note I will point to the area, I am talking about the mustache and chops. "please keep this part as it is naturally, as in do not bring the chops down". I'm basically saying keep my beard how it looks naturally. Some barbers will take the liberty to shape my beard unnaturally and I think it makes my face look weird.
So that's all I really say, in a nutshell, just be specific as to how you want to look. I give them lee-way to express themselves but critical things like the hairline and the chops I make sure I mention. Also, you will notice I say things like "please" and "if you can". I say these things to be polite. If you are polite and respectful you will have a better experience, this goes in many areas of life.
I promise you, if you do not give requirements you are literally rolling the dice. There's a good chance you will get a haircut you do not want. But no matter the skill of the barber, the spiel I have been giving will give me a good haircut 95% of the time. I say 95% because one time a guy cut a weird C into the sideburns which has only happened once, and in all fairness he asked me if I wanted that during the haircut process and I said yes. I did not know exactly what he meant by that at the time.
Silence is golden
I find that if you do not talk most of the haircut, the haircut ends up looking better. That's right, if you distract the barber, they will lose focus. I typically say my spiel, I'm polite enough to ask for their name and smile and whatnot. But outside of that, I don't say anything until the cut is over (unless they ask me something).
This translates to other parts of life. When you remove distractions and focus, you often produce better work. Barbers are the same, they are happy to talk most of the time, but if you want the best results, let them focus.
How to act socially in a barbershop
So I am a sociologist and I am very aware of the social world and how to act in certain situations. I'm sure some of you may be nervous or not know how to act in barbershops.
I go to a lot of 'African-American' barber shops. I grew up in what's considered a 'White' area. I used to feel a bit uneasy around super hood black folks. I used to care that they would think I'm too ‘white-sounding’ or whatever. So how did I get over this? I stopped caring.
Some barbers I get along with really well, some, the interaction is kind of awkward. Some barbers talk a lot, some don't at all.
Some barbershops are very roudy, some are more quiet.
Some barbers are very cool, some are extremely weird.
Just to share, I have had two extremely weird experiences, which strangely, enough are very similar:
So basically, I had two barbers talk about the Illuminati and the end of the world. I had one barber proclaim Rasta Far is Jesus in the flesh. He literally spoke to me about this non-stop for like an hour straight. Like I kid you not, I could not get a word in, he would not stop talking about it. It was so weird that I felt weird the next two days. Note: if you have a barber that makes you feel weird do not go back to that barber.
The other experience, the guy talked about the end of the world and how I should get ready. Then he pointed to his friend in the shop who flashed a gun at me. I was like okay.. Needless to say, I did not return to that one. Ironically, that was the 2nd time I went there, the first time was fairly normal.
So how do you act in barbershops?
Basically, I think not saying too much works every time. These barbers typically just talk to each other and are polite but don't really expect you to have a thriving connection with them.
I always prioritize getting a good haircut over everything. I truly believe it works best if you just don't say anything during the haircut process. You may feel a bit weird at first but to be honest, it works and nobody cares at the end of the day. The worst-case scenario is leaving a barbershop with a bad haircut. Trust me.
So what if the barber is talkative? Yes, I will talk back and engage. I find that the very talkative barbers are good at cutting hair while talking. So if that's just how they are, just respond.
How you act does not matter. Some you will gel with, some you will not. Again, at the end of the day, all that matters is that your barber gives you a good haircut.
Now I understand that may seem kinda shallow. So yes, before and after the cut I am extremely friendly. I have never had a barber try to fight me or make fun of me over the last year or so. Most do not care, especially if you tip well. In fact, most barbers I'm sure would whether have someone who tips well than someone who is super talkative.
My last tip is: dress well, you will feel and act more confident. This can help with any anxiety. You should also get more respect from the barber and others in the shop.
So what happens when that barbershop talk happens?
If you have seen the movie Barbershop, there are moments where the shop is talking about a specific subject. Should I chime in? I personally have found that in most instances chiming in is totally unnecessary but at the same time it can be interesting.
Most barbers are talking to other barbers and don't really expect you to chime in. Now if you start going to a shop a lot and know multiple barbers, you will feel more comfortable chiming in. Keep in mind the barbers likely know every barber in the shop fairly well.
I will tell you when this happens (barbershop talk), I have never had a barber call on me and ask for my opinion. Again, this shows that they don't expect you to really chime in. You can just be quiet. And again, when you are quiet, you often get a better haircut.
What I learned business-wise
So when I do talk, I often talk to barbers about my business and have gotten extremely good tips. I usually say something before or after the cut, or during, but I keep it short.
Barbers in general are quite passionate about hair. They also typically know many people, as they have a lot of clients. So you can learn of other connections like store owners or other significant people in your business field.
I typically exchange cards at the end. I will give them my business card, and a sticker (some barbers will put your logo sticker (if you have one) on their mirror or something). This can be an effective way to market and a good alternative to the classic business card.
I haven't been very successful with making sales with barbers, but they will give me really good tips on which products to sell. They also have good insight on how to navigate beauty supply stores (some barbers know the store owners and will introduce you).
So barbers know people, and they know hair, but they don't really want to buy your stuff, probably because they already have that stuff (atleast for my business). These are good things to know.
So if you have your own business, sure, talk about it, most of the time when I talk about this subject it goes over well. It's a pretty safe subject to talk about, maybe because barbers are entrepreneurs themselves, and understand marketing and whatnot.
Always tip. I used to be a waiter, and as a male waiter, as long as someone tipped at all, it was okay. When people don't tip, I think very poorly of them.
With barbers, I recommend you tip atleast $5. So if your cut is $35, tip $5. If it's $40, tip $5.
Tipping $10 in my opinion is too generous. However, if you make really good money go for it, it's a good sign of respect. The barber will appreciate a higher tip. However, I've found that $5 is enough.
Even if they do poorly I recommend tipping. However, again, if you give them good requirements this rarely happens.
So don't be a guy/girl that doesn't tip. It's disrespectful, and they won't want you as a client.
Walk ins vs scheduling
So a 'walk in' is when you walk into a barbershop expecting a cut without scheduling an appointment.
Barbers prefer scheduling. When they schedule, they make more per hour because of the less downtime. Also, consistent clients typically tip better.
Funny enough, I prefer to walk in. Why? It's typically faster and easier to accommodate my schedule.
For example, I've scheduled before and still ended up waiting. I actually find the wait time is about the same whether you schedule or not.
I personally don't care who cuts my hair. Again, the requirements I give are so specific you really can't mess it up. I also like meeting new barbers, I typically learn something every time. The last barber I went to got me to improve my diet by giving me some cool tips about detoxing..
So all in all, I really don't think this matters because again, for me, the main goal is to get a good haircut. If you get a good haircut, it really doesn't matter. If you do walk in, make sure you thank them for that, and be sure to tip.
I wanted to mention this because I have run into some girl barbers at predominately male shops. Not many, but it happens.
Every girl barber I have run into is really good. They typically talk more but in general, are really good. I highly recommend having a girl barber (if you're a guy).
I think girls can tell if a guy looks good better than another guy can. I mean that makes sense right, I feel like I don't really have to explain that one. But if I had to explain it, girls, atleast heterosexual ones, know how to make an attractive-looking man. Because they have hormones towards guys that most guys don't have.
Now I am not here to debate heteronormality and things like that but again, girl barbers typically know what a good-looking guy is.
Most women know more about hair care than guys do. Women in general, care more about beauty than guys do. Again, I hate to make generalizations but this is just from my experience.
This does not mean guy barbers are worse but the worst barbers I've met have been guys. I have met some extremely good guy barbers. All in all, as mentioned, if you just follow the tips above, you should get a good haircut anyway..
Barbershops are an exciting place. For many, it's one of the rare times you sit in a group with random people for 30+ minutes. It can be a great opportunity to meet new people and learn new things.
If you consider the steps above, you should get a better haircut and have a better experience, leaving you feeling more confident.
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Have a blessed day!