Barbershop Lingo

Before doing part 2 of Barber Etiquette, I decided it would be fair to do a little education first. I’ve been meaning to do this, and there will be more to follow, but below are some common terms/mis-used terms in the Barbershop. Again – I’m just trying to help everyone out, not hurt feelings. Dropping knowledge, not bombs.

(Pretty much my own definitions… take it for what it’s worth.)

Barber Vocabulary / Definitions

Shears = Scissors… I don’t know why we don’t just say scissors because everyone just thinks about sheep when they hear ‘shears’. Perhaps it is because ‘scissors’ are what you use to cut paper, and those scissors are not for cutting hair.  If you are trying to convince your barber to give you a quick trim at your house, and they don’t have their shears, don’t offer them the scissors you keep in the drawer by the telephone. It’s not the same thing, and it’s insulting. Plus, he is sad you want a haircut in the kitchen in the first place.

Clippers = Electric shears. Clippers are used to cut hair efficiently and to give an even finish. They are not to be feared. They can be used with guards, detachable blades, free hand (without attachments or comb), and clipper over comb technique. If a barber uses clippers, it does not automatically mean you are getting a buzz cut. I promise! (more on this topic in part 2 of etiquette) Most barbers are trained with a strong emphasis on use of clippers. Barbers like to use clippers. There are hundreds of varieties but the ones you bought at Walmart are not the same clippers used by your barber. Hopefully. So again, leave those in the drawer with the kid proof fluorescent pink handled paper scissors.

Razor = A sharp blade – or sometimes referring to the instrument that holds the sharp blade.  There are many different styles of razors and each serve a different purpose. The most common are double edge, straight edge, or cutthroat razors, which are used for shaves. Also, often seen in the hands of your barber are styling razors, which are used for haircutting. There are conventional razors, and replaceable blade razors. Some barbers continue to use conventional razors (leather strap kind), while a growing number of barbers are choosing lower maintenance razors, and using replaceable blade types (throw away the razor blade kind). Conventional or replaceable will be the preference of the barber, but the results of the service will be the same for either . A clipper is not a razor, and a razor is not a shear. Don’t confuse these 3 things (Re-read above definitions if you are still unsure) Your barbers don’t like you telling them how to do their job, especially when you call the clippers a razor, or the shears the clippers… It happens a lot, I swear. So learn these now.

Trimmers = Small electric clippers used for detail work on a haircut. The perimeter, or outline of the haircut (you may hear trimmers referred to as ‘outliners’) is typically done with trimmers because they are small, light, and easy to maneuver. Also, they are adjusted to cut the hair closer to the skin than other clippers – usually all the way to the skin, to give your haircut ‘crisp’ lines. They’re the clippers  that give you goosebumps…



  1. Jeff C. says:

    March 4, 2014 at 1:54 am

    As a barber.. and your Co worker, thank you. I only wish every major men’s publication circulating nyc would bring this and your etiquette guide to print. Such valuable consumer information.

  2. says:

    August 9, 2014 at 11:55 pm

    Until I got married to a beautician, my favorite place to get my haircut was Pablo’s Barbershop in Logan. When my wife gets busy and I’m getting shaggy, I am tempted to sneak over there, but I know where I will be sleeping that night if I do. I assume it’s a very different place than your shop, but I can’t help but appreciate how it was there. When Pablo was busy, one of the older latina women would be a great substitute. They were so impressed when I demonstrated my meager spanish speaking skills.
    I’m curious, who cuts your hair Clark? Does your wife, a co-worker, or do you do it yourself?

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