The 101: Men’s Hairstyles

Ashley Evert, Assistant L&A&E Editor

Many men sit in my chair at the salon and when I ask them what cut they want, I get one of two responses: either a very specific clipper guard number and exact instructions on what they want done, or “uhhh…” before they spit out some general statement like “long on top and short on the sides.”
The latter seems to be the more popular response. So for all the confused men out there and all the curious women, I’ve decided to give you a guide to getting the perfect haircut.
Communicating with your stylist or barber is essential in achieving a style that you are both happy with. In order to communicate effectively, you need to have a basic understanding of terms that your stylist will use. Examples of these terms include guard numbers, fades and tapers.
Clipper guards are usually referred to as plain numbers. I have many customers who will say to me, “I want a five to a three fade.”  What that means is I will put a number five guard on my clippers and cut the top portion of the head, then use a four for the middle of the head, then switch to a three for the nape of the neck.
This gives the look of longer hair on top, graduating to shorter hair on the nape. It creates a nice, clean “fade.” A fade, or taper, generally refers to the graduation of hair from long to short. Usually if someone asks for a fade they’ll want their hair shaved to their skin on the sides.
Fades are commonly paired with shape-ups, crew cuts, flat tops and high and tights. More recently, men are asking for the “Macklemore” with almost no graduation in length from the top section of the head, straight to a skin fade on the sides and back.
I do an ex-Marine’s hair every two weeks because he likes it scissor-cut on the top, blended to a one on the sides, then faded to the skin so there is no defined hairline. Cuts that are so short and close are more obvious when they grow in, so they need to be upkept more often that longer hairstyles.
I generally tell men with variations of the crew cut or a cut that tapers very close to their necks to come in a get it cut again in two or three weeks.
Men with longer styles like the pompadour, Ivy league, quiff or skater hair can get away with five or six weeks, if they’re lucky, without looking scraggly.
A tool that is used to get closer to the nape so more frequent cuts are not neeed is a straight razor. No, I’m not going to get all “Sweeney Todd” on you if I bring out my razor during a cut — I’m just trying to get a closer shave on your neckline than a trimmer can provide so the hair doesn’t look so grown in as fast.
In terms of styling your new cut, your stylist should have mentioned any products you’ll need to use. For men who need a little texture on super soft hair to define some pieces in the front or tame some wild flyaways in the back, a good hair wax will do the trick.
For those with a pomp or quiff, a pomeade will do wonders in keeping the top perfectly combed without making the hair look too greasy. Your grandfather used pomeade for a reason: it works.
Those with coarse hair, gravity-defying spikes or a Pauly-D blowout will need a maximum hold gel. Got 2 Be makes a wind-tunnel-tested gel (I’m not kidding) that will make even the thickest hair stand straight up with the help of a blowdryer to style it into place.
Next time you head into your regular barber shop or salon to get your tresses trimmed, remember all the stylist jargon you’ve learned here to avoid those hat days and get the perfect cut and style every single time.