Clean Up Your Act: 5 Barbering FAQs
Top men’s stylist Thom Priano creates the looks for Abercrombie and Fitch, Calvin Klein, Ralph Lauren and GQ Magazine, and regularly works with a roster of high profile celebrities, including Brad Pitt, Robert Pattinson and Jimmy Fallon.
Thanks to slick role models like Usher who are always groomed to perfection, interest in top-notch barbering is surging. For the first time in a long time, clients are rethinking “the usual” and are talking to their stylists about classic barbering techniques like fades and hard parts. Are your barbering skills up to speed? Thom takes on some of your frequently asked questions.
Q: What’s the secret to achieving a flawlessly crisp, super straight line—nape, hairline, etc.?
THOM: The only way to get your line straight is by using the right clippers. My choice is the Andis T-Edger. The smaller, t-shaped blade allows you to curve out the unwanted hair. Always go in after you’ve created the cut and create your lines with your edger. You have to have skills to make a straight line, but the right clipper will support you.
Q: What are some good rules and guidelines for creating the best sideburn shape and length?
THOM: Think of sideburns as a contouring tool—you can really use the shape to personalize. For example, a long, full sideburn will fill out a thin face or balance a weak chin. If the cheekbones are chiseled, angle the ends of the sideburns up a bit to further enhance the shape. You can taper the ends of the sideburns to offset a wide forehead. And don’t be afraid to experiment—sideburns really add character. For example, big sideburns with short hair—Wolverine-style—can look cool on the right guy. If you and your client are unsure, use an eyebrow pencil to draw in the sideburn shape before cutting to determine if it’s flattering.
Q: What’s the best way to perfect a scissor-over-comb technique?
THOM: I prefer to use a longer comb and shears that are at least six inches. My favorite comb is the Tool Science Long Stylist Comb #15 because it’s flexible and you can really get in close to the head. Some barbers even like to use a comb with a handle. Avoid shorter blades—they will make noticeable chop marks in the hair. Start by establishing the hairline length guide. Then work up the back of the head, using the thumb blade to cut, while keeping the lower blade stationary. Open and close the blade completely so that you’re cutting with the center rather than the tips—this will make your cut smoother and more even. Come as close to the comb as you can without touching it, unless the hair is super short— in that case you’ll touch the scissors with the comb. Work up the head in vertical or diagonal sections—avoid horizontal sections, which will create marks in the hair. Stand slightly off to the side rather than directly in front of the head, which will make it easier to move and to see the angle of the comb and the amount of hair you’re cutting.
Q: What is the strategy for designing a long pompadour or a shorter quiff?
THOM: The technique for both looks is the same—it’s just a matter of adjusting the length. Begin at the nape and work up to the crown, establishing the crown length. Use a scissor-over-comb technique up to the crown and to the part lines on each side. Then, create Mohawk sections on top of the head and connect the back with the guide. Work forward in horizontal sections. For a longer shape, begin overdirecting the sections back towards the crown at the midpoint of the top of the head. For a shorter quiff, begin the overdirection a bit closer to the front hairline.
Q: How do you produce the straightest possible hard parts?
THOM: Hard parts took hold in the African American community—now they’re a popular embellishment for many guys. They really add an interesting design element to a haircut. I recently saw a guy with a fade on the sides and a long top section with a hard part at the transition line between the fade and the length. You can create designs—you can really take it anywhere. As with the nape and hairlines, I find that a T-shaped blade is the best tool for creating a clean line. That and a steady hand! These types of parts look best on hair that is thick or curly—if the hair is fine and straight, you’ll get a very thin line and it could wind up looking like a mistake!