How to Get the Haircut You Want, Not the One You Asked For

If you've ever asked for the Daniel Craig and walked out with the Daniel Baldwin, listen up. Learn how to get exactly what you want from every barber, every time.

You know, in high school and college, most people decided to just go crazy and dye their hair multiple color or try hairstyles that were so cool at the time. Now, however, pictures from the era prove only one thing – how tragic those choices were. If you were a person who did this, like me, you may wonder how anyone remained friends with you during those awful hair years.

My hair, for the most part, has had one consistent look since probably junior high. Spiky messy. Luckily for me, it's come in and out of vogue over the years, so I'm just staying the course. However, college proved to be a time to push the envelope. I had fauxhawks, buzz cuts, and big shaggy hair. I've even been known to flat-iron my hair for that sad, emo-hipster look.

But nay, no more. It's grody and unprofessional. The problem I have is being bored with my haircut, finding it dull and lifeless. I have dirty dishwater brown hair that isn't vibrant in any sense of the word, so I always want to punch it up with some color – if not for the fact that it gives it more of a life, then for the fact that it's so out of the realm of comfort for most of my coworkers to have dudes color their hair.

Well, there was even a point in which I shaved two big chunks out of the back of my head so that anyone behind me would probably ask their friend, “Should we tell him? Does he know they did that to him?” Yes, I did.

Please note I'm not talking about that horrible blonde tips trend that looked like men were just dipped upside down in a vat of bleach. No.

I digress. The point is, I had to finally make peace with the hair I had and try to figure out a look for me. And I think I'm there.

Here are my tips for getting a successful haircut/look:

  1. Be realistic. If you have a big-ass Charlie Brown pumpkin head like me, you know that buzz cuts or anything short is not really going to do you any favors. My rule is that when I go, the top must be a bit longer so I can wear it up and the sides/back must be short. What this does is give my face the illusion that it's leaner and longer than it is round and cheek-pinch worthy.
  2. Pictures are a plus. Sometimes I've went in with no game plan, just with the intent of getting a trim/cut and I've come out very disappointed in the results. So, anytime I'm getting ready for a cut I'll at least find one photo to take with me, but most times I try to find two that get the entire picture of the haircut I want. This is much more helpful to the stylist or barber because, let's face it – they work in a visual medium. My description will not be spoken in their vernacular and my intentions will be lost. However, as the saying goes, a picture is worth 1,000 words. So go to your favorite search engine and type in ‘male hair styles' or something to that effect and hit ‘search.' You'll see a lot of crazy styles you don't want, but you might find some good ones. Another plus is that you can just try to find a male celebrity or actor who has a cut you like. That's easier than to find a picture. It's also fun to see the bad hair choices they've made throughout the years. So we all make mistakes.
  3. Look at the person's hair who is cutting yours. Sometimes it'll give you a clue as to whether they will do something wild or something more even-keeled. I've had people cut my hair from all walks of life, all kinds of salons and barbers. Sometimes you'll get suckered into having a friend cut your hair, but if that works for you, then it's really convenient and great. (Please note: the friend(s) that have cut my hair have done a wonderful job).
  4. Put your hair in someone else's hands. Once you've taken the step to find a stylist/barber you like (see above), and given them the pictures of what you are going for, then sit back and shut up. Resign yourself to the fact that while they may not get it perfect, they're going to try to recreate a style on your hair that may not be made for your hair. But have some faith. I've been surprised many times too when I've come out with not what I wanted, but something better.
  5. You get what you pay for. If I can say one thing, if you are a professional guy in a professional world, stop going to those awful chains in strip malls (I shan't mention them by name). Yes, they are cheap – but so is your haircut. Plus, sometimes I feel like by going there, you're asking to wear a bib with cigarette burn holes in it. Be cognizant that haircuts usually run anywhere from $20-35 in most places. Suck it up – it's only an every 6 weeks thing. Yes, you should be getting a trim or clean-up every 6 weeks or so, depending on how fast your hair grows.

General rule of thumb is, the shorter the better. Anything that is long and stringy and black is not going to do you any favors out at the bar and especially not in the board room. Emo swoops – leave 'em to the teeny boppers or Fall Out Boy. Fauxhawks – with these, length is the crucial element; you can either have it too long and be considered absolutely ridiculous or have it too short and look so ‘straight-laced meets trying too hard.' You'll have to cultivate your own look once you find the basis of what you want your hair to look like.

→ Wondering how to cut your own hair? Check out our full guide!

But now that you have the cut, the work begins. It's dumb to get this great haircut and pay for it when you won't wake up 10 minutes earlier to fix it in the morning. If you've finally got a look that's gonna have everyone looking, then you're gonna have to work for it. I'm usually pretty wary of buying those expensive products from salons, but once I find one that I like, I'm a total convert. I was a victim for many years of that slick, wet-looking spiky hair that was hard as a rock. But those were the times, right? Maybe. However, I knew I had to move on to something else. There's so many products out there now for all kinds of hair types so don't feel you have to buy just a big jug of gel when it isn't the right product for you.

Article quote - Hair is almost your signature look

There are waxes, pomades, gels, sprays, scrunching serums, etc. A plethora of products for you to choose from. I'd recommend going for something with a bit of a hold and a matte finish if you wear your hair up.

My point is, you're gonna have to step up to the plate. Hair is almost your signature look. Fashion can come and go, but a classic hairstyle is just that – classic. It's gonna be with you for more of the trends and still look brand new. If you've had the same boring cut for years, then go to a salon and ask for advice or a new look. These people are professionals and can give you advice and a new outlook on hair styling.

Godspeed and good hair.

Justin Thompson is a freelance marketing consultant and writer by night and by day, toils in the belly of the corporate world with only the help of his iPod. To learn more about him, follow him @justinyourmind via Twitter or visit his website at