Hair Design for Men: A Cosmetologist’s Guide

Male client at a beauty salon getting his hair designed.

When we think of hair design and visiting the beauty salon, we often think of men getting their hair coiffed. Going back just a couple of generations ago, men went to the barber or opted to get their hair lopped off at home. Fast-forward a few decades, and some men now commonly prefer the salon experience rather than their forefather’s barbershop. As some men become more focused on optimizing their style, they turn to professional salons for an elevated hair design.

Creating a Man-Friendly Atmosphere

In recent years, hair salons that cater strictly to men have become increasingly popular. The most effective approach to a salon environment that speaks to men is visualizing the concept through their eyes. When entering a new environment, it’s common for a person to instantly scan the space to determine whether the surroundings are appealing or not.

To envision a comfortable and inviting men’s hair salon, in addition to a color palette that’s appealing to men, here are a few other simple tips to think about when it comes to the atmosphere:

Images of Men on the Walls

Prominently show images of men sporting the latest hair designs. A preferable way to display photos is to have a variety of sizeable clear shots depicting men in various everyday activities with current hairstyle trends. Think outside the box from the standard portrait hair design posters of decades past.

Reading Material for Men

Subscribe to men’s periodicals and place them in areas throughout the salon. Reading materials should contain varied topics and have plenty of images displaying current hair design trends. The level of maturity to the media placed around the salon is typically up to the hairstylist, the client base, and the salon’s theme. A good rule of thumb to go by is to not offend any patrons.

Carry Men’s Hair Products

Salons should carry hair and skincare product lines geared explicitly for men. Men are entering into a new phase of becoming more attuned to their looks, and for many, it’s an entirely new experience purchasing ablution items outside of the basics. Create a learning environment utilizing different types of look-inspiring resources is important to educate male clients on products the salon carries like pamphlets, videos, and samples. Another way to help clients achieve a new look is by scheduling live instructional events on male-specific hair and skincare.

Privacy is Key

Offer sectioned off privacy areas for more personal services like massage, hair removal, or processes involving strong chemicals. Although female salon clients publicly endured these services for eons, it’s still a new and sometimes embarrassing frontier for men. Keep a few areas private by the addition of walls, curtains, or portable room dividers. Instead of standard salon capes, to further minimize angst and embarrassment, try using more male-friendly designs like a tee or button-up shirt to protect the client’s clothing during services.

Tools of The Trade for Men’s Hair Design

When completing any manual task, knowing what tool to use is key to proficiency for men’s hair designs. Utilizing the right pair of shears or clippers at the right time creates a better design in the least amount of time.

Here are a few of the tools’ cosmetologists utilize when creating male-driven hairstyles:


Clippers/Edgers typically come in a motor or magnetic driven capacity and are the primary tool for finishing, tapered necklines, and short cuts. Motor-driven clippers rarely bog down when cutting thick dry hair and the varying sized blades are interchangeable for different hair lengths. Edgers are mainly employed to finish along the neckline.


Shears are optimal for men’s hair designs, come with blade lengths between 5.5″ and 7.5″, and provide enough surface for cutting and blending. The blade’s ends should come to a very minute point to execute detailed work. Blending shears unify hair texture, patterns, and density.


Hair responds differently to a razor than clippers or shears, offering an alternative approach for creating and controlling texture. When designing men’s hair, razors are a preferred tool of many hairstylists for more precise control.


Three varieties of combs typically round out the men’s hairstylist toolbox, classic clipper, medium, and finishing. The tooth size and width of the classic clipper comb coincide with the width of an electric clipper. Medium combs help for cutting over-comb, sectioning, and sub-sectioning. Cosmetologists utilize finishing combs for over-comb tapering, detail work around hairlines, and finishing.

The Consultation

Just as important as the necessary physical tools to create the perfect hairstyle for male clientele is the consultation. During the consultation, the main objective is to make the male client feel welcome and fully informed about the services they’re about to receive. The consultation approach for male clients is the same in many ways as their female counterparts. The consultation sets the appointment’s tone and is the first opportunity to put male clients at ease in the salon environment.

Keeping in mind the full salon experience is still relatively new for men; some alterations to this vital interaction between client and cosmetologist can help make the experience less intimidating:

Consider Words Carefully

While female clients think fun and flirty might aptly describe a hairstyle, they don’t appeal in the same way to a man. Adjust vocabulary during the consultation by using exact words that are straightforward and easy to understand. Avoid using industry jargon and flowery descriptive words to describe a style or service.

Ask Questions

Ask strong leading questions that encourage an active back and forth dialogue. Men are more apt to come into a salon without indicating a particular new hair design. Asking questions that make the intent clear derives more information about what a client expects from the appointment than open-ended questions.

Active Listening

Listen intently to extract information from between the lines. Typically, a client’s biggest concern is the first one mentioned. This most bothersome topic usually is mentioned more than once and less negotiable than other trouble spots. Use care not to interrupt if, along the way, the conversation gets muddled; stop, and clarify before moving on with the consultation.

Give a Full Explanation

Once the client finishes, present the best hair design, style features, and benefits. Men must know the care and maintenance of their look before deciding on a style. Women already acquire a strong knowledge of what it takes to maintain a more in-depth hairstyle. Describe the products and styling techniques required for home care to support the look.

Popular Men’s Hairstyle Trends

Let’s take a look at the current hair design trends for men. One notable trend is the long hair on top, messy, and textured haircuts and hairstyles. Men’s hair design options are about mixing up lengths, tapers, and fades to create unique designs. Also, currently taking center stage for men’s hair designs are cuts that emphasize longer natural-looking styles with movement.

Here is a list of a few examples of the latest and most popular trending hair designs for men:

High Fade Quiff – A popular men’s choice for the past few years. Combined with a high fade, the cut emphasizes messy textures and longer flowing lengths on top.

Messy Undercut – Features messy, longer textured hair on top combined with short-shaved sides. A modern twist on the undercut, this messy undercut fade works excellent for thick hair.

Modern Slicked Back – Instead of a plastered appearance, the hair on top appears more natural-looking. Rather than the traditional approach of using a shiny pomade, the hair gets brushed and blow-dried back to create natural movement.

High-Lo Fade, Surgical Line, and Long Fringe Combination – This unique men’s hair design combines a side part, bald fade, long fringe, surgical line, and longer messy texture on top.

Long Fringe Undercut – An asymmetrical look with longer fringe in front like the modern version of the classic skater undercut.

Shorter Textured Haircut and Long Fringe – Messy medium length textures on top create a spiked look while leaving the front fringe longer. Another example of an undercut with a modern twist.

Spiky Quiff – Made famous by the likes of David Beckham, this style is on the shorter side. Shorter choppy textures create a spiky appearance on top, utilizing a medium to firm hold pomade to keep the style in place.

Final Thoughts

Ultimately, more and more men enjoy salons as a place of pampering, leisure and luxury. Men also prefer the personalized relationships they form with their cosmetologist that many feel they wouldn’t achieve with a male barber. The hair industry continues to see an increase in the number of men that receive hair salon services, and those who receive salon services also tend to spend more than women.

Cosmetology Program

At Minnesota School of Cosmetology, we are dedicated to helping our Cosmetology program students develop a solid foundation and a flair for style through hands-on training in basic and advanced industry techniques. You will learn how to cut, color and style hair, give manicures and pedicures, provide spa treatments and perform various skin care techniques from industry-experienced instructors in a professional salon setting.

Contact us today to learn more about becoming a cosmetologist and starting a rewarding career in the beauty industry.

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