Barbering techniques

Barbering is a trade taught at many vocational and cosmetology schools. The practice of barbering has changed much through the years. Early barbers were also involved in forms of community medicine, such as bloodletting or dentistry. Barbering declined as a profession in the 18th and 19th centuries, but in 1893, A. B. Moler began the first school of barbering in Chicago. Those interested in becoming a barber should first pay attention to a few key requirements, principles and techniques used in barbering.

Barber School

Those who intend on going into business as a barber need to obtain a state license for barbering or cosmetology. Accredited schools exist that charge students a tuition fee to provide hands-on educational services for the length of time necessary to obtain a barbering license. State educational time requirements differ, but are measured in hours. New York and Massachusetts both require 1,000 hours for a cosmetology license, while California requires 1,500 for a barbering license. Some states have a reciprocity statute that allows barbers to use licenses earned in other states, but not all states include these clauses. In order to find out about cosmetology schools available for the study of barbering, contact your state's board of cosmetology.

Basic Tools

There are a few basic pieces of equipment that are necessary to begin cutting hair properly. Scissors are used to trim longer strands of hair, shearing off excess to a uniform length. Razors, either straight or electric, are used to shear off excess growth closer to the scalp--the shorter strands of hair that won't be picked up by scissors. Different types of scissors, such as a notched shear or a thinning shear, will produce different styles of cuts. Keeping different shear types along with an original pair of scissors gives your styling ability some versatility.

If you prefer to work with wet hair, keeping a clean water supply or spray bottle handy is very convenient. Wet hair can be much easier to manage and cut than dry hair. A hair-cutting stool is a great seating arrangement for customers, allowing you to adjust the seating height and turn the customer at your ease. A proper barber space should also have a broom, dustpan and trash receptacle for hair on the floor, as well as common accessories such as towels, varied hair products and shampoo.

Principles of Barbering

A few basic principles aid many hairdressers about to trim a scalp. Sectioning a head refers to internally visualising sections of a customer's head in equal pieces of either four or five sections. This allows a hairdresser to break up their task into parts, minimising any mistakes that may make the hairstyle seem lopsided or poorly cut.

Elevation, or how the hair is held while cut, determines much of how the hair will be shaped. Hair cut at straight elevation is being held 90 degrees from the scalp, standing straight up on end. Holding the hair at a higher elevation, more than 90 degrees from the scalp, produces lighter, thinner hair. Lower elevations give the hair more weight after the cut. No elevation indicates a cut right at the level of the scalp, such as those given by an electric razor.

Cutting Lines

When applying shears to hair trimming, the line at which you cut the hair will create an impact on the overall finished product. Cutting hair at a straight vertical, which is normally used for hair on the side of the head, keeps volume regular while removing excess weight. Horizontal cuts are utilised for fringe or other haircuts used to control the vertical weight and length of the hair. Diagonal cuts are generally made sloping away from the head, and allow a hairstylist the ability to thin and shape hair around the crown of the head as necessary.


One of the most common aims of barbering is to thin excess weight from the body of the hair. This allows even longer hair styles to be more manageable. First, the customer's hair should be freshly washed with shampoo and warm water. When the customer has been reseated at the hair-cutting stool, the hair should be combed to find out how the hair naturally lays and the location of any natural parts. Grab the hair and slide your hand up the strands until you are grasping a line of hair that is level on the scalp. Take note of the shortest lengths of hair from that scalp level, and trim the longer lengths to that shorter length. This will create consistent texture throughout the hair. Apply this cutting technique evenly throughout the entire haircut, shearing away excess growth to a desirable weight. Blow dry the customer's hair, and then use a towel to wipe away any excess hair remaining on the back or neck.

Cite this Article A tool to create a citation to reference this article Cite this Article

About the Author

This article was written by the Pocketpence team, copy edited and fact checked through a multi-point auditing system, in efforts to ensure our readers only receive the best information. To submit your questions or ideas, or to simply learn more about Pocketpence, contact us here.

Try our awesome promobar!