Undercut Hairstyle: How to Ask Your Barber For the Style You Want

We're noticing a slight disconnect here.

Whether you’ve grown up going to the same corner barbershop or have a new, well­-researched place on lockdown, the first step to getting the right undercut is choosing a barber you like and trust.

Although it might be tempting to just name drop your celebrity man-crush whose look you want “copied exactly,” it’s extremely helpful to actually know some basic barbery terms. Yes, it can help, but not all hair types and grooming habits are created equal.

What might work for a Hollywood A­-Lister with an on­-call stylist might not work for the busy everyman who can barely squeeze a cut in every two weeks. Sometimes scoring the right cut is as simple as telling your barber exactly what, but that you’re also open to his expert opinion. Read on to discover if the undercut sounds like it could be your next style to experiment with:

How to Get the Undercut You Want

Sleek and ever-so-slighty subversive: our kinda guy, our kinda haircut
Sleek and ever-so-slighty subversive: our kinda guy, our kinda haircut.

1. Last Look First

Very important, and a step most guys forget, is telling your barber how long it’s been since your last haircut, undercut or fade. This gives your barber a good reference point of how your hair looked when it was freshly cut. Secondly, it gives you something to work with during your current appointment,” e.g. “I want something shorter/longer/more manageable than last time.”

2. Divulge

It pays to be open about your lifestyle and habits—specifically how much time you have (or want) to spend on your hair every day. Whether you can commit to something more intense or if you’re a wash­-and-­wear guy, makes a big difference. Also, if you work in corporate but still want a trendy style like an undercut, which involves partially or completely shaving off hair underneath a longer layer, ask your barber for his opinion. He can suggest a more moderate version of these cuts, or at least offer up some tips and products that will help tone things down for the workweek.

undercut high fade
Be clear about what you want, especially how high (and whitewalled) you want your undercut to be.

3. Set Your Terms

We’ve all learned the hard way: One man’s trim is another’s crew cut. Be specific, and as with most things, inches get your point across the best. If you’re clueless as to how short you want to go, start long and work up from there. If you want to make life really easy for the both of you, know your clipper guards, then you can clearly ask him for the following:

Taper or fade (interchangeable)
A taper is a style that gradually shortens in length from the top of your head to your neckline. This implies hair “fading” from the crown downwards. Sounds almost crazy obvious, but this long-­to-­short distinction is good to know. This comes into play when asking for styles like a true undercut, which has no taper at all.

Neckline (or nape, back of the neck)
Commonly, there are three basic neckline styles available: blocked, rounded or tapered. Blocked necklines are shaved in a square shape with hard edges and give a crisp­-looking outline,  Downside: Regrowth outside the outline is quite obvious, requiring frequent touch-­ups. Rounded necklines have no angled edges, offer a softer appearance and are great on longer, non-­shaved hairstyles. Lastly, tapered necklines are the most versatile (and slimming, if that is a concern). The hair gradually just “disappears” into the nape. This is the most natural­-looking and easily maintained style.

Texture
It pays to know your hair type. Thinner hair can do with more volume at the crown. Ask your barber for some choppiness, which he might give you by point-­cutting hair at a 45-­degree angle for some sexy texture. Thicker, coarser, generally unruly hair? Tell your guy you need your hair to be thinned out at the top. He’ll most likely take some thinning shears on your crown—special scissors that cut some strands and leave others alone—for more balanced, refined tips.

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