Should I Discuss My Divorce With My Barber?

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In this edition of “Step Into the Chair,” Cleve McMillan, stylist and DSC’s resident hair expert, weighs in on your burning questions about the mysterious adventure that is getting a haircut.

What should I talk to you about when getting a haircut—cliché stuff like the weather or something highly personal like my divorce?

There’s an unwritten rule that you’re a paying a customer and we’ll listen to anything you want to talk about, even if it’s your divorce. But if you want us to actually get excited to talk you, ask us about our lives: How’s my day’s going? Do I have any good stories? That kind of thing. Because I definitely do.

That said, you don’t need to talk to me if you don’t want to. There is an obligation for your barber to talk as part of the service, but I’d say, universally speaking, we don’t want to engage in conversation if we don’t have to. We’re just as anxious about small talk as you are.

All of this is moot, however, if you’ve been coming to me for a long time. Conversation in the chair is easy at that point, and we really do start to care about your life—even your messy divorce.

Is asking for “just a trim” the equivalent of saying nothing?

Pretty much, since it gives me little to nothing to work with. After I hear “just a trim,” I go straight into autopilot mode, and do my best to make it look like whatever I’m imagining it looked like the last time you got it cut. Which may or may not be what you had in mind.

So instead of saying “just a trim,” kick things off by letting me know when you last got a cut. It’s just as easy as asking for a trim, and it tells me so much more about what you need done. Hair, on average, grows about a one-half inch per month, so knowing when you last got a cut can give me a sense of how short I need to go.

Also, feel free to talk shape and/or tools with me: “I like it tapered in.” Or: “I like it when my head doesn’t look so round.” Tell me you want me to use scissors, clippers or thinning shears (the scissors with the “teeth”) if you have a lot of hair and want me to thin it.

Want a bit more something, but you don’t know what it’s called? You’re probably talking about adding texture, where I whip out my scissors and cut more free-hand into the structure of your hair. Just ask “can you give my hair some texture?” and I’ll know exactly what you’re talking about.

What do you do with all my hair trimmings? Sell it to a wig maker?

You know it. There’s good money to be made on bags and bags of hair trimmings. Just kidding. Hair goes the same place the rest of our trash goes: The dumpster. Some salons, however, do send hair to companies that will recycle hair for oil spill recovery, which is an exciting and innovative way to reuse something that would otherwise end up in a landfill.