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If you’ve never been to a barber shop before, the experience can be quite different from a hair salon or a discount haircut chain. Unlike more upscale hair salons, most barber shops offer quality haircuts at affordable prices; usually, you can plan to pay somewhere around $10-$15 for a haircut (give or take a few dollars, depending on the locale). While most salons and haircut chains do not offer facial shaves, many barber shops routinely offer shaves, often including warm lather and sometimes a hot face towel.
A few barber shops may request that you make an appointment before you visit, but most shops operate on a “first-come, first-served” basis. When you enter a first-come, first-served shop, take note of who was already waiting ahead of you, and keep a mental note of your place in the order as new people enter, so you’ll know when it is your turn. (Newer shops may use sign-in lists to minimize confusion. ) It is customary when you’ve entered an unfamiliar shop to take the next available barber when your turn has come up.
However, once you have established a relationship with a particular barber in a shop, it is perfectly acceptable to wait for that barber when your turn comes up. For example, if it is your turn to get a cut, but your favorite barber, Sam, is still cutting another guy’s hair, you can simply say, “I’m going to wait for Sam. ” Unless someone else who was ahead of you is also waiting for Sam, you’ll be next in his chair. Once seated in his or her chair, your barber will ask a few questions about how you would like your hair cut, at least until getting to know your preferences and style.
He or she may ask when your last haircut was, whether you wish to simply trim the style you currently have, whether you would like a blocked or tapered neckline (details below), if you would like your sideburns trimmed, if you would like a part in your hair, if you want your neck shaved, if you would like your beard trimmed, if you’d like a full shave, and so on. If you request a very short cut, your barber may ask if you know the clipper blade number that you prefer.
Keep in mind that different clipper manufacturers may use slightly different numbering systems for their blades and attachments (more on clippers below). If you have a specific, traditional style in mind (such as a crew cut or a butch), feel free to request it, but understand that these styles can be interpreted slightly differently from barber to barber. It may be wise to describe specific details you are looking for until you and your barber become more familiar with one another. Unless your hair is very dirty, most barbers will not shampoo your hair before cutting.
Depending on the preference of the barber, he or she may use clippers or shears (haircutting scissors) to cut your hair; one is not necessarily better than the other, as they are both means to an end. Your barber may use warm lather and a straight razor to clean up the outlines of your cut around the ears and neck. Payment is usually given directly to the barber who cut your hair at the end of the cut, and tipping is customary (between 15-20% is appropriate for most areas of the country).