The Ultimate Barbershop Term Guide

Hairstyle trends come and go, but several barbershop terms for haircuts are considered staples in the industry. The more specific you are when you communicate with your clients, the more satisfied they’ll be with your services. Whether you’re new to barbering or need to brush up on your lingo, we put together the ultimate term guide so you can feel confident executing various styles.

Barbershop Terms 101: 

Clipper Cut

As the name suggests, a clipper cut is when clippers are used to cut the hair. They’re great for fading the sides and back or short styles like undercuts and buzz cuts. Check out our post on how to choose between clippers versus trimmers

Point Cutting

Point-cutting hair is a technique used to add texture and movement to the hair. It involves removing bulk from the ends, which makes it easier for graduated layers to be seamlessly incorporated into the cut.

Zero Gap

Zero gapping involves adjusting clipper blades to achieve closer cuts than you would with a manufacturer's settings. Aligning the blades as close as possible allows for more precise cutting — especially in hard-to-reach areas. You must execute caution if you’re new to the zero-gap technique. If the blades are misaligned, you risk nicking your client’s skin. Also, if the gap isn’t precise and is pushed over the guard blade, you’re no longer protected. 

Further reading: Should You Zero Gap Your Clipper Blades? (And How To Do It!)

Neckline Shape

The three main neckline shapes on the nape of the neck are square, round, and tapered. The square is clean but requires a lot of maintenance as your hair grows. For round, a barber creates a curve at the neckline. The tapered neckline fades into the skin on your neck. It’s the most natural of the trio and doesn’t require much maintenance. 


There are different ways to add texture and movement to the hair. Depending on the client's hair type, a barber will use either the razor, layered, choppy, or thinned-out method. Hair products can also enhance texture. 

Short Back and Sides

This common barber term means that the back and sides of your hair are cut short while the top is left long. It’s the starting point for many haircuts, such as crew cuts and quiffs. 

Buzz Cut

A buzz cut is a general term for a style performed with clippers versus scissors, so it falls high and tight. Traditionally, it’s a style that involves shaving the side, back, and top of the head to the same length. The buzz cut of today offers more flexibility. You can work with your client to determine the desired length, which can be longer at the top. 

Bangs / Fringe

Bangs refer to the hair that lays across your forehead. They can be cropped short or fall longer around the eyebrow level. One of the most popular bang styles we’re currently seeing is the curtain bang, which frames the face on both sides. They’re typically cut shorter on the inside and become gradually longer as they reach the sides of the face and are often parted in the center. 


Sideburns are patches of hair that grow in front of the ears. A barber can change the length, thin them out, or just give a quick cleanup. Depending on the shape, sideburns can frame or slim down the face. 

Scissors Over Comb

This classic technique is used to achieve a more precise cut. A comb is used to help guide the scissors while shaping your client’s hair. It helps give a more softer look than a clipper cut. 

Clippers Over Comb

The only difference here is that you’re using clippers to cut versus scissors. The comb still serves as a guide to help blend the hair to look more even when it’s growing out. 


A grade is the term that refers to the clipper attachment that determines how much hair is cut. The lower the number, the shorter the cut. So, for example, a number one guard cuts a 1/8th inch length, whereas a number five would be a 5/8th length. It’s also safer to start with a higher grade if the client is unsure how much hair they want to take off. 


A fade is a barbering technique that fades the hair into the skin using clippers. You’ll use shears to cut hair at decreasing lengths down the sides and back so that it gradually transitions or tapers until it almost blends in with the skin. It can be paired with nearly any hairstyle on top, making it easy to customize the fade to suit a client’s personality and lifestyle. As a bonus, the fade flatters almost every hair texture and face shape. Check out our complete guide on how to cut a fade


The taper technique gradually changes the length of the hair, typically starting longer at the top and getting shorter as you reach the natural hairline on the nape of the neck and sides of the head. The length of a taper can be long or short, and most men’s haircuts include one unless your client’s goal is to grow out their tresses. 

Hard Part

This barber term describes a shaved line on the side of your head created with either a straight razor or clippers to create two sections of hair — typically at different lengths — that define a defined part. If executed well, it can be a stylish addition to a traditional or non-traditional cut. 


The arch is the space above the ear and the hairline. Most barbers will clean up this area with each haircut so that it blends seamlessly. 

Nose and Ear Hair Removal

Some barbers include nose and ear hair removal with a cutting or grooming service, whereas others offer it separately. A trimmer is a quick and easy way to get the job done. 

Beard and Mustache Grooming

A barber will use clippers and shears to trim and shape the beard and mustache, along with beard care, such as special washes, oils, and mustache waxes.

Straight Razor Shave

A professional straight razor shave from a barber is the best way to achieve a close shave while reducing skin irritation. The old-school barber experience starts with a pre-shave oil and generous lather to help soften the whiskers and prepare the skin for the shave. A hot towel on the face is the perfect way to end the treatment before aftercare is applied. 

Some of these barbershop terms refer to popular hair-cutting techniques, so if you’re looking for additional inspiration, check out our comprehensive Barbershop Hairstyle Guide!

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