There are still places in this days where it’s possible to get a great haircut for $20, but most stylists charge double that, and some even get into the hundreds of dollars. Guys who balk at spending a car payment on a haircut often assume this is a racket, but there is real science behind a great haircut. A solid barber chooses a style for you based on your head shape, then adapts the cut to specifically fit your skull.
“If you use a number 3 guard on clippers, you’re cutting every hair to the same length,” says Shirley Hagel, a New York City stylist who cuts the hair of New York Ranger Chris Kreider.
“But nobody’s head is perfectly smooth. What makes a good haircut is cutting all the hair differently to make it look like it’s all the same length.”
A good barber or stylist will work in narrow sections and follow the contour of your head from base to crown, lifting the hair with a comb while snipping the strands that pop through the teeth. “Cutting with scissors lets me, rather than the guard on the clippers, control how close I get to the head,” says Kristan Serafino, who’s cut hair for Ryan Reynolds and Matthew McConaughey.
This means that if you have, say, a flat spot, your stylist can cheat and leave a little more length to fill out the shape.
There are other hacks: leaving cowlicks longer than the rest of your hair so they lie flat; thinning out the hair around patches of gray, because gray hair tends to appear shorter; and even blending the areas around bald spots so that the contrast between them is a little less noticeable. The person cutting your hair needs to consider geometry, gravity, color, and texture when creating something that also looks good. It’s architecture, made out of something your body grew. Which is only gross if you think about it.