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Layers and tapers and fades – oh my!


Layers and tapers and fades – oh my!

Our guide to decoding barbershop lingo

  • Find your style4 MIN LONG
  • Find your styleLOW EFFORTS
  • Find your style2 PRODUCTS

June 2019

By Harvey Gates


Getting a solid haircut ain’t necessarily rocket science but, when it comes to men’s hairstyles, sometimes the task of explaining exactly what you want to your friendly local barber can leave you feeling a little lost for words. Think back to your last trim that left you less-than-ecstatic as you walked out, reaching for the nearest newsboy cap. True, true, it might be a lack of skills on behalf of your man with the scissors but more often than not, it all comes down to communication, (as your sweetheart might say).

Basically, barbers ain’t mind readers and the lingo they use can be quite unique - ever sat at your local and wondered what on earth the pro’s were on about? – so it helps to speak the same language to make sure you get exactly what you’re after, especially if it’s an ever-so-slightly complex David Beckham haircut.

So, for your comprehensive pleasure, our guide to barber shop vocab.


Blunt cut: Done by cutting each strand of hair at exactly the same length, suited for blokes with thinner hair.

Buzz cut: A super short, buzzed haircut, also known as a military haircut, anywhere from a Grade 1 to 4 (see below for hair grade chart).

Caesar cut: The top is about an inch longer than the rest of the hair, leaving a short fringe on the forehead that is combed downward, leaving the back and sides untapered. A cut like this benefits from the help of a little volumising product like the Change It Up Texturising Clay .

Crew cut: This cut has tapered back and sides with slightly longer hair on top cut to a uniform length, sometimes slightly longer at the front.

Fade: A graduating process for the hair from top to bottom, finishing above the natural hairline so it kinda looks like your hair has blended into your skin.

Graduation: Where the hair uniformly increases in length, the further up the head it goes.

Layered: Layers help to create volume and remove weight from the hair, giving it texture and creating movement – especially good for lads with longer locks.

Razoring: This technique tapers the hair to a thinner peak and, like layering, creates texture and a softer silhouette – works best on thin, straight hair.

Taper: Like a fade, a taper is a gradual change in hair length from the top of the head (where it is generally longer) to the nape of the neck, getting shorter as you go.

Thinning: Unlike what you might think, this is a technique for men who have particularly thick hair and helps to remove the bulk, creating find layers.

Toner: This is a colour that is applied to damp hair and left to sit for about five minutes, cancelling out the dreaded yellow tone that bleach can often give.

Top knot: A man bun worn directly on the top of the head – you’ll need at least 6-10 inches for this style. (Pro tip: Smooth lengths down with the Seriously Groomed Beard & Hair Balm pre-style to soften and ‘discipline’ hair for a clean overall finish.)

Undercut: A cut with very short, closely-shaved hair on sides and back without tapering in most cases and a lot of length on top. The perfect starting point for the Pompadour or Quiff.

NECKLINES (Back of head)

Rounded: This is a straight, sharp line across the natural neckline with rounded corners.

Blocked: Similar to the rounded neckline but with straight corners, this is a style that is perfect for perfectionists. Bonus: it makes your neck look wider than other options, if that’s what you’re after.

Tapered: This follows your natural neckline and gets shorter toward the back of your head, remaining blended as your hair grows in – so perfect for those who are low-maintenance.


Grades are the different lengths that you can get your hair cut to, going from 1-8, (8 being the longest) depending on what you’re after.

Grade 1: One-eighths of an inch

Grade 2: One-quarter of an inch

Grade 3: Three-eighths of an inch

Grade 4: Half an inch

Grade 5: Five-eighths of an inch

Grade 6: Three-quarters of an inch

Grade 7: Seven-eighths of an inch

Grade 8: An inch


1. Have a style in mind before you get to your barber.
2. If you want a fade, know your grade.
3. Brush up on your lingo and if in doubt, take a visual reference – a picture tells a thousand words after all.

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