The simple answer: Train Me*
It seems the general public is unaware that most haircutters in the majority of salons and barber shops are minimally trained to do numerous things. While this lack of awareness isn’t necessarily bad, I feel it has led to an astoundingly large number of disappointing haircuts for all of us.
Hair is easy to cut–anyone with a cutting implement can do it. Additional skills are nended to leave the hair attached to the head (as opposed to what falls on the floor) in a style that pleases the wearer and occasionally those looking at him or her.
Acquiring these skills for most of us seems to begin by cutting our own or other people’s hair out of necessity or desire. In the U.S. we then attend an accredited school for the number of hours designated by the state in which we wish to be licensed. Only then can we take either the Master Barber or Cosmetology licensing exam. (Master Barbers are able to own their own shops.) In Tennessee we spend 1500 hours (9-10 months) in school and, yes, we too are taught primarily in order to pass the test–both written and practical sections.
Because we are licensed to do more than cut hair, my hours in barber school were filled with classroom lectures (safety, sanitation, skin and hair disorders, head musculature, etc.), workbook homework, shampoos, scalp massages, facials, mock straight razor shaves, mannequin practice haircuts/styles, perm rolling, mock and actual hair color application, highlights, scissor and clipper haircuts on paying male & female clients, manicures, and being a model for others to practice on. I had fun, but did not come out knowing all there was to cutting hair.
After all these years I still don’t. From every head I learn ways to improve my haircutting prowess.
TO TRAIN ME :
Tell me or show me what you want in detail. The better you explain the specifics the better I can picture where I’m going to take your hair from it’s current state. Believe it or not, we all picture an inch differently. Define the relationship between your hairline and ears or collar (off, touching, covering) if it’s important to you. Be very precise about length on top–show me with your fingers. Styles change, I’m not up on the latest, so provide a picture of modern popular styles. If I think I couldn’t do it justice I will recommend someone who may be able to rather than waste both of our times and your money on a disappointing attempt.
Tell me what you do & don’t like about your hair. You know it better than anyone else. Okay, sometimes it is good to tell me what someone else likes and doesn’t like about your hair’s appearance, but you’re the one who has to live in it so I place your preferences over someone else’s. (A special note for parents and other care takers: it is important to me to make both wearer and payer happy, so I endeavour to compromise between you if an agreement wasn’t reached before getting in my chair.)
Give me artistic license to make you look good. I naturally work to make you look better to me. Everyone should have the haircut that best frames their face at all angles (viewed head-on, from the side, below, behind, above when seated, etc.).
Come back. Give me four opportunities to learn. If I can’t be trained to do it the way you want for whatever reason (we all have different aesthetic sensibilities) I will try to recommend someone who can. I have discovered many people are still searching for the right haircutter or have long since settled for “okay.” I’ll do my best to help you even if that means referring you to someone else.
Come back before nature destroys what I last did. In other words, don’t wait too long! (too long = when it’s well past where you like it) If I can’t see how what I did last time grew out I can’t improve upon it with or without your input. I always like to figure out how to make the next cut grow out better. But the only way for anyone to improve on anything done in life is repetition, repetition, repetition. Waiting too long means I have to relearn your hair and head every time. I am more than willing to write myself notes (a praescriptio TONSUS) to remember, but it is up to you to bring my directions back along with your head.
Did I take it too short the first time? Was that the only thing wrong with it? Then it’s even more important not to wait too long to return. Although I’ve been known to get some cuts right the first time, others take me a few times to adjust. But I’m always willing to learn. Come back when your hair is exactly where you like to keep it for Maintenance and ask me to neaten up your hairline only or dust the ends (I’ll even them up without removing length to make the hair lie smoother). I will then be able to see for myself the length you like to keep it.
Be honest. Don’t say you like it if you don’t. If you later discover it isn’t as nice as you thought, come back in or call and let me know. I want you to get the cut you want as much as you do. I’m willing to refer you to another haircutter if I think they would be a better fit for you–just ask.
Remember I am human. Occasionally a haircut will haunt me. I know if I’ve done that thing you said be careful not to do. I heard what you said and then I read your hair and head, so In these instances I find out the hard way why haircutters seem to always do this thing that you don’t like. I’m always sorry I did it, too.
Whether you are willing to allow me to right an error with another opportunity or not is up to you. There has never been a haircut to leave my chair I wouldn’t love to see in a few days to review, adjust if needed, or make notes for next time. Sadly this profession is not well suited for that kind of learning.
* I’m not the only one for whom this applies.