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First Time Going to a Barber? Here’s How To Make It a Great Experience

At GreatMate, we’re not the most picky people on Earth when it comes to personal style, but if there’s one thing that annoys us, it’s getting a quality haircut.

Back in the early 20th century, going to the barbershop was commonplace.  You’d head down once a week for a trim and a chat with your barber, and life was good.

For some reason, barbershops have died out and discount haircut shops and absurdly expensive salons have popped up in their place.  For the budget conscious man, going to a salon that’s $50/cut and caters mostly to women’s hair isn’t the most attractive option…but neither is paying $8 for someone to run a buzzer around your head in a few minutes.

Barbershops are Coming Back, Baby


In the last 10-15 years, barbershops have been popping up here and there across the country.  All of them have one thing in common – a distinct personality and community built around the business that keeps men coming in the door for professional haircuts from experienced barbers.  The barbers behind the chair are masters of their craft, personable, and treat cutting hair like the art form that it once was.

Here are just a few things that barbershops do differently than the Fantastic Sam’s of the world:

  • Spend time talking to you about what you want, offering their input and suggestions to make sure they have your desires down pat
  • Wet shave to finish off your cut
  • Shave your sideburns with a straight or double edge-razor
  • Vibrating shoulder massage like the barbershops of old
  • A sense of camaraderie and community – you’re one of the family

How To Make Your First Barbershop Visit A Good One

Be on Time

Most barbershops require an appointment.  If you make an appointment for a cut, be sure to keep it.  Being a few minutes late early in the day can actually have a catastrophic effect on your barber’s schedule, which may make him rush through your cut to save time.  That means you get a rushed cut.

Communicate What You Want

Be as specific as possible before your barber starts to cut your hair.  If you don’t know exactly what you want, bring in a couple pictures of styles that you like and ask him if they’re doable with your hair type, length, and conditions.  I’ve personally brought in pictures of styles I like, only to have my barber tell me that with my hair type that the style wouldn’t end up looking the same.  He suggested a different but similar style instead, and it turned out amazing.

Don’t be afraid to spend a good amount of time in the consultation phase – it’s worth it!

Don’t Go In Late

Try not to schedule an appointment for the end of the day.  Barbers are on their feet all day long and work with their hands – they get tired.  They’re not superhuman.  Try to schedule a cut for early in the day when they’re fresh and can give your hair the attention it deserves.

Come In Clean

It’s a no-brainer to have washed your hair thoroughly before you go in for a cut, but you should also make sure that the rest of you is clean too.  You’re sitting in a chair next to someone who has to be up close and personal for the next 15-30 minutes – why put them through the torture of cutting a smelly man’s hair?

Pay Attention

Engage with your barber.  Feel free to pepper him with hair care and styling questions, as well as asking him about what he’s doing to achieve the look that you want.  Don’t talk on the phone or read a magazine – it’s rude.

Don’t Wear a Hat

Don’t wear a hat the day you go in for a cut.  This ties into washing your hair before a cut, but it needs its own section because hat hair can actually affect the way that a barber cuts your hair.  They won’t be able to see the natural behavior of your hair since it’s been affected by the hat, and this may affect the quality of your cut.

Be Nice

Barbers are service providers just like cashiers, waiters, valets, etc – treat them with respect, especially because they hold the power to alter your physical appearance quite literally in their hands.  Treat them as a professional and they’ll treat you with respect as well.

Tipping Etiquette

If all goes well, you’ll have a great relationship with your barber over the course of many visits, so learning how to tip respectably and appropriately is important.

Tip well when your barber listens to you carefully and makes good conversation.  If they take the time to give you a good cut and don’t seem to be rushing through it, tip them well.  For barbershops, tipping well is about 25% of the cost of your cut.

Leave a smaller tip if your barber doesn’t have a clean working area, if they rush through your cut, or if they blatantly forget (or don’t listen to) details about how you want your hair cut.  Another big indicator to tip low is if they take a call while cutting your hair – it shows they don’t value your patronage enough to put that call off for when you’re not  in the chair.

During the holiday season, it’s acceptable (but not required) to tip near the cost of the cut itself.  If you’re good friends with your barber, you can consider picking up a small gift that reflects his interests as a show of gratitude for his service.

Tipping well doesn’t just put more cash in your barber’s pocket – it ensures you get premium service and amazing attention to your hair whenever you go in.  You’ll have no issues getting an appointment, and you’ll build a deeper relationship with your barber, which means your hair will look absolutely amazing.


My personal experience with barbershops has been incredible.  I was sick of the bargain bin haircuts I was getting, and felt ripped off the few times I went into a salon and paid $45 for a fancier cut that didn’t seem all that fancier.

When I had my first barbershop cut, it felt like I was coming home to a place that was by men, for men.  They gave me a hot shave.  They trimmed my sideburns with a straight razor.  They used clippers, thinning shears, and buzzers when they needed to, not when it was easy for them.

If you’re unhappy with your hairstyle or last haircut, give a barbershop a try – you might just love it.

About the author

Kevin Espiritu

Cofounder of GreatMate. Lover of sandwiches, music-playing, weird hobbies, and building cool things.

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