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A Beginners Guide: How to Get the Cut You Really Want with Rudy's stylist and educator Jen Oato Bennett block.settings.block_image_full_mobile.alt

If you’re not sure how to talk about your hair, don’t worry. You’re not alone. Here are a few talking points that will make you sound like you know your way around a pair of clippers the next time you’re in for a cut.

STEP 1: The Consultation


This is the first question you should expect to answer, and it’s the key to beginning a conversation that will get you the cut you actually want. By asking for your haircut history, your stylist is trying to figure out if you’re in for a touch up or if you want a whole new look.

Essentially, this is the same questions as, “How much length do you want to take off?” But my idea of an inch might be different than yours. Before the cutting happens, ask your stylist to show you on your strands how much length that equates to and go from there.


While an Instagram photo is a helpful reference, don’t expect the picture to do all the talking. Be prepared to discuss what you like about the style. Spend time getting to know your own head of hair so you and your stylist can figure out what will work best for you.


A good haircut is more about putting personality into a shape rather than trying to recreate someone else’s look.

STEP 2: Know Your Hair


If you’ve ever described your locks as feeling thick, heavy, or bulky, chances are you’ve got a dense head of hair. Density is the amount of hair growing in a square inch of scalp, and it’s determined by how easy it is to see your scalp.

Once you’ve figured out the most dense areas of your head, you can easily identify where to remove weight so you get more movement. But that doesn’t mean going all Edward Scissorhands. Certain styles need weight in order to achieve the shape you want. Ask your stylist if weight removal is needed to help you realize your dream hair, especially when you’re going for an undone or messy look.

Illustration of dense hair versus not dense hair


No two curls are the same. Hair can spiral into tight corkscrews, like barrel waves breaking in the ocean, or it can be loose and wavy, like ripples on the surface of a lake. No matter how you roll, the key is letting your stylist see how your curls naturally take shape.

That means no hat hair or messy bun. It’s best to show off your natural locks and over communicate how you treat them. I’ll ask my clients how often they wash, what products they use,  and what they like or dislike about their curls. The answers to any of those questions might just give me the secret to enhancing or softening their spirals. After a fresh cut, your curls will react differently. It’s helpful to return to the same stylist so they have a chance to see how the shape changes as your hair grows.

Illustration of a wave and a ripple

STEP 3: Get the style you desire


Though many clients will interchange the terms fade and taper when talking about their cut, the differences between the two are subtle but dramatic. A fade is more extreme - showing skin around the bottom edges of the hairline. Think of a vintage US military cut. Whereas a taper refers to the hair getting shorter at the bottom of the cut the same way pants narrow at the leg.


If you’re comfortable showing a little skin, ask for a fade. But if you only want to keep your neckline and edges tight, a taper is what you want.

Illustration of what a taper looks like and what a fade looks like


When it comes to finishing your cut, one of the most important decisions you’ll make, and one that carries the most consequence, is to blend or not to blend. A blend between the sides and top is the most low-maintenance option. It’s a transition from short to long in a way that’s softer and more gradual. It gives you the ability to wear your hair in a variety of styles or part to either side without looking too severe.

A disconnected cut is when the sides are buzzed and you have an abrupt jump to longer length on the top. This makes for a much more dramatic look and puts an emphasis on a side part. But it also means weekly maintenance, otherwise you’ll end up dealing with awkward grow out. This is what Macklemore made famous. While this cut seems easy to wear, it’s not for everyone, and frankly, even Macklemore has moved on.

Now get out there and get your cut with confidence.

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