How to Talk to Your Barber: San Francisco

The people of Peoples Barber & Shop in San Francisco, on how to make the most of your next cut-and-shave.

Peoples
The people of Peoples Barber & Shop in San Francisco on how make the most of your next cut-and-shave.

A Few Lessons On Lingo

Don’t Use Terminology, Unless You Truly Understand It

Amadeo Peña: “The hardest thing is when a client comes in and starts using official terms like ‘taper,’ ‘undercut,’ or ‘fade.’ Nine times out of ten, they’re using the term wrong. To avoid misunderstandings, I always make sure to break out pictures to help figure out what they really mean.”

“Undercut” Carries The Biggest Misconceptions

Amadeo Peña: “An undercut is essentially a disconnected haircut. When a client says they want an undercut, they typically don’t know that means taking one number all the way up into their part. And again, nine times out of ten that’s not what they’re really after—usually they just want a really tight fade.”

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The Fade vs. The Taper

Amadeo Peña: “A fade is more progressional. You start lower and get progressively higher. A taper is a shorter fade in a smaller area. You have to think of it like pants a little bit; tapered jeans come in close at the ankle, a taper cut comes in at the nape or sideburn area. Sometimes clients will say ‘oh I want a taper fade,’ that’s two different things.”

Don’t Say “You’re The Artist”

Benjamin Burgad: “A lot of people will sit down and say, ‘this is your job, this is your art, you know better than I do.” I may know better, but if this is the first time I’m seeing you, I don’t know anything about your personality. I don’t know your personal style or what your job is.”

Amadeo Peña: “That’s probably one of the most frustrating things, because even when somebody says the cut is in my hands, they also kind of have a picture in their mind of what they really want. If you tell me ‘go ahead, do whatever you want,’ and I just straight up shave your head, then I am pretty sure you won’t be happy. So just give me one little clue.”

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Focus On Front, Side, Back

Ben Burgad: “It’s easiest to break a cut down in terms of its elements. How long is the top? How short are the sides and neck? The majority of the work of a haircut happens in the part you don’t even see, so if you can describe the sides and the back, then we’re connecting all the dots.”

Remember Your Clipper Number

Ben Burgad: “A lot of times guys fire off a clipper guard, ‘I think it was a 2,’ just because that’s the first number that came to mind, doesn’t mean that’s what they got last time. I always make sure to check and show them an example to make sure it looks right, before we go too short.”