5 Barbershop Terms Every Guy Needs to Know

Eunice Lucero | 26 June 2017

Because understanding your hair is key.

Let’s face it: There’s something to be said about a guy who knows exactly what he wants. True, a picture (or screenshot) can say a thousand words—and yes, barbers are very visual creatures indeed—but it’s always good to know your way around the basics. To be honest, it’s quite baffling to us girls how some guys can just go to town on certain things—basketball stats, the nuances between rare vs. medium rare, how old that whiskey really tastes like—but then just go to the corner barbershop and be satisfied with “just a little off the top, thanks.” Hey, if you can describe how you want your steak cooked to exactly your preference (complete with how creamy you want your spinach), you owe it to yourself to know some essential barbershop terms. Because unlike a bad restaurant, you have to live with a bad haircut for much longer.

Let’s life-skill the heck out of this, shall we boys? Read on:

5 Essential Barbershop Terms To Know

1. Clipper

The clipper is the electric razor barbers and hairstylists use to shave your hair. Especially effective with buzz cuts, tapers and fades, the use of a clipper requires a moderate amount of skill as the clipper guards (the number/level of shortness, see below) are pretty straightforward to use, given that you know how short you want to go.

barbershop terms clipper guards
Guarding it: Zero on the neckline, which increases to a #3 and #5 near the skull bump.

2. Clipper Guards

Clipper guards go by size, or clips, and each has a specific limit that usually goes by fractions of an inch. Depending on the brand of clippers your barber uses, clips generally start from 0 (almost skinhead but with tiny fuzz) to 8 (1”). Knowing your way around clips can help take the guesswork out from your haircut and make the process—and desired result—clearer for all parties.

To illustrate:

Guard #0 (zero) = 1 inch. Best for buzz cuts, or what’s popularly referred to as a “zero all around.” Any shorter or for a total skinhead look, and your barber will use a razor.

Guard #1 (one) = 1/8 inch

Guard #2 (two) = 1/4 inch

Guard #3 (three) = 3/8 inch. #3 is usually the guard limit in shorter styles. Fade haircuts typically have a #3 on the sides.

Guard #4 (four) = 1/2 inch

Guard #5 (five) = 5/8 inch. #5 and #6 guards are normally used for longer, subtler tapers, as well as when trimming the neckline.

Guard #6 (six) = 3/4 inch

Guard #7 (seven) = 7/8 inch

Guard #8 (eight) = 1 inch

3. Notch

A notch/arch is the space or area between the ears and hairline. Men with smaller ears should ask for a “high” notch for the illusion of bigger ears; otherwise, choose a “natural.”

barbershop terms notch
Keeping it tight: A natural notch on short hair.

4. Nape

A.k.a. neckline, or the back of your neck. As far as preference (and barbershop terms) go, you may ask for either of three styles for your nape:

Blocked necklines have a straight line across your nape (and yes, some corners). Recommended for guys with thinner necks and want to make them appear wider. Not as natural-looking and needs more frequent touch-ups.

Tapered necklines, as the name suggests, blend into your neck’s skin naturally and gradually. They look neater, fade better into your natural growth pattern and require less upkeep.

Rounded necklines are similar to blocked necklines, but without the corners. Men who want to minimize or soften the look of a thicker neck usually ask for more rounded necklines. Slightly tricky to grow out.

5. Texture

Texture is, quite literally, the feel of your hair, which varies according to your hair type. We simplified the ones that are frequently asked for:

Razored texture is best for thick or curly hair types, or when you want to decrease allover “poof.” Will make hair lay flatter.

Thinned-out texture is for those with really thick hair who want to lessen bulk, but still want some volume and don’t want hair to be razored. Done with thinning shears, which are scissors specially designed for this purpose. Usually seen on clean-cut haircuts and gentlemanly crops.

barbershop terms thinned out
Great for thinning hair, layers give dimension without sacrificing your remaining fullness.

Layered texture is great for men with thin or thinning hair, as this gives you different lengths all throughout your head. Gives the appearance of volume, fullness and thickness, depending on the technique used by your barber.

Choppy texture, normally seen on popular bedhead and trendy spiky haircuts, is good for those with thick, straight or wavy hair. Usually done with a point-cutting technique, which involves your barber or stylist cutting different lengths and areas at a 45-degree angle.

Which of these barbershop terms do you already know?