You’ve probably gotten a haircut at a barbershop plenty of times in your life, but being a great customer goes beyond leaving a big tip. Even though you mean well, there’s a chance you’re making things tough on your barber without even realizing it.

Sometimes not being specific with what you want or telling the barber to surprise you with a haircut might not be as easy for them as it sounds. Whether you’re going to a new barber or want to improve your relationship with your current stylist, it’s always a good idea to learn the unspoken rules of barbershop etiquette. Check out our guide below for a few simple rules to follow:

Rule 1: Wash Your Hair And Face

As a courtesy to your barber, prepare to come to your appointment with clean hair. Make sure to comb your locks so it’s not messy or knotted, wash off any product, and leave your hat at home. Coming in with products on your hair can alter its texture and make it difficult for your barber to manage, potentially resulting in a haircut that doesn’t look great.

Rule 2: Show Up on Time

Arriving late, even by a couple of minutes, is not only disrespectful but can affect your barber’s schedule for the rest of the day. If for any reason you won’t be able to show up on time, let your barber know right away via phone call or text in case they need to reschedule your appointment.

Rule 3: Practice Patience

Although barbers try their best to stick to a schedule, you may have to wait a few minutes for your appointment to officially begin. Whether that’s the result of a late client before you or other circumstances, come prepared with reading materials or another activity to keep you occupied while you wait.

Once the appointment before yours is done, don’t jump into the barber’s chair until they tell you to do so, as they may need some time to clean up their station. Being patient and understanding that some styles may take longer to achieve is key to a positive relationship with your barber.

customer getting scissor over comb haircut

Rule 4: Know What You Want

To achieve the best results, your barber will need to know exactly what you want. Asking for “a short style” isn’t very clear, and you might end up with a haircut you don’t love. Bringing photos and learning some basic barber terms can help you better articulate what you want and make the process smoother.

Rule 5: Set Realistic Expectations

Even if you have a haircut you really want in mind, it’s always good to set realistic expectations. Sometimes a certain haircut won’t work for your type of hair or a different style might fit your face shape better. If you find out that the haircut won’t work for your hair, communicate with the barber and ask for suggestions. They might be able to show you some past customer photos of styles that would fit you better.

Rule 6: Trust Your Barber’s Opinion

Knowing the basic barber terms and describing the details of what you want doesn’t mean you should be dictating what types of tools or methods they should use. The stylist will know what will work best to achieve the look you want, so there is no need for micromanaging their work. It’s also good to come with an open mind, since they may suggest a cut or style that you hadn’t thought of getting before. 

customer getting haircut with clippers

Rule 7: Speak Up Early On

Even though you shouldn’t be micromanaging your barber, be sure to pay attention if they start to cut off more than expected. If that happens, make sure to mention it right away so the barber will have enough time to fix it. Waiting until the end to speak up may take longer to work around it and cost you more. 

Rule 8: Don’t Move Your Head

If you notice your barber adjusting your head regularly, start to focus on staying as still as possible. Try to resist the urge to nod when making conversation, and don’t move around much. It’s best to keep your head still during your haircut to help your barber out. 

Rule 9: Don’t Text or Talk on the Phone

Similar to nodding, moving your head to text or holding a phone up to your ear can make it more difficult for your barber to work. Try to avoid phone calls until after your appointment, since it’s a little rude to both the barber and others in the shop. 

barber speaking to customer

Rule 10: Chat a Little With Your Barber

Making light conversation with your barber can be a good way to build a relationship with them and make the experience more enjoyable for both of you. Although some might consider going to the barbershop a social event, there is no need to keep chatting the whole time, but try to take a few minutes to chit chat and have a little fun. One way to show you’re an active listener is to mention details your barber shared on your last visit as part of the conversation.

Rule 11: Tip Well and Tip Directly

Thank your barber for their work by giving them a fair tip. A good rule of thumb to follow is to tip at least 15-20 percent of the final bill. Asking your barber how they prefer to receive their tip is also a way to show respect and appreciation for their work. Consider giving your barber the tip directly rather than to the receptionist for full transparency. 

If you think you might’ve been breaking some of these unspoken barbershop etiquette rules, don’t stress. Barbers understand that there are no hard-and-fast rules and that things can vary by personal preference. However, learning to practice these etiquette tips will not only please your barber but also improve your experience when getting a haircut. Now that you know the real rules of going to a barber, you can look through our community of Pros to find a barber near you so you can impress them with your barbershop etiquette knowledge.