Barbering Techniques making the cut

Julian Maloney: As an experienced barber who’s also involved in the wider hair industry, I’m often asked how to execute a short men’s cut using barbering techniques, frequently by hairdressers whose clientele are asking for a classic skin fade or tight men’s cut.

There’s now a client awareness of on-trend men’s cuts, these are often extremely short around the back and sides, while sometimes keeping length and texture on top. 

Clients are influenced by their peers and workmates, social media and, for men, sports stars, like the All Blacks or Warriors. Women too are now confident having their hair cut into more masculine styles like cool quiffs, and short cropped tops with clippered back and sides.

From my experience, modern barbering in Australasia, North America and the UK is made up of two different cutting barbering techniques:

1.Traditional hairdressing with sections, limited or no use of clipper guards, and the emphasis on clipper over comb and scissor over comb. Also technical use of a blow dryer and brush, with pre blow-wave lotions and spray, using medium strength products.

2.The second style is very North American, maximum use of clipper guards, straight razor and now a modern ‘foil’ electric shaver (a heavy duty version of a traditional electric shaver for the face – I use the Andis Pro Foil Shaver, now available in NZ from Crew Distributors.

Clipper guidelines are cut in, leaving a clear line between each clipper guard length (see photo). These lines are then blended, or ‘rubbed out’ with the clipper acting as an eraser, combined with a soft bristle brush to continuously brush away the loose hair.  

Check out London’s Ego Barbers (@egobarbers) on Instagram for some great short videos that show this technique. There is limited sectioning and blow waving and the style is finished with a maximum strength product.

I personally like to take the best elements of both techniques, or combine them. As an example, for your National Certificate in Barbering final practical assessment, you’ll have to cut three models in one hour, and you can only use clipper guards on one of those cuts.

Also, you can’t use your fingers to pull the hair up to cut; you may section by using the comb only. That’s right, look ma no hands! Do try and do your next men’s haircut without touching the hair at all…It’s a challenge at first!

Getting down to the art of barbering, keep to these three basic principles:

1. Men’s cuts are square. Try not to round out the sides or run the clippers up too high. Use your mirror to check that the sides are angled out, not in.

2. Blend in the back. Never square off the back of the nape unless the client asks for it, or he is an Action Man or Lego figure. Instead, taper the back – go for a natural looking hairline every time.

3. Perfect profile. To get a nice overall shape, keep some volume at the front. With the crown, don’t be tempted to cut it too short; this is an easy way out if it’s a challenging crown but can result in a blunt, ugly profile. Try to work with the natural direction of the hair, even if it means keeping some length there.

Those of us in the hair industry have a natural ability to change, are always looking at what’s happening next, and can adapt to future trends. But sometimes there is no clear pathway on ‘how to’ – you just have to ‘do’. Instagram and other social media are great for looking and learning, then you just have to practise, practise and practise. Remember to have fun and embrace the short cut!

Julian Maloney is the owner of Maloney’s Barber Shop in Auckland’s CBD / @maloneysbarber on Instagram / maloneysbarbershop on Facebook

Photo credit: Chris Smith