English for the hairdresser’s and barbershop

Jay hasn’t been able to get his haircut because of the corona virus so Vicki takes on a hairdressing challenge. What could go wrong?

Learn lots of English words and phrases that you’ll need at the hairdresser’s and barbershop.
You’ll learn how to:
– explain the haircut you want
– give instructions to your hairdresser or barber
– engage in small talk

Here’s just some of the hairdressing vocabulary we look at:
The tools: scissors, clippers, cape, gown, straighteners
Actions: to blend, to blow dry, to trim, to braid or plait, to clip close
Problems: bald spot, receding hairline, too much volume, straggly eye brows
Hair styles: pony tail, buzz cut, undercut, bob, quiff

You’ll also find out whether it’s possible to cut someone’s hair after watching YouTube videos. Enjoy!

My hair’s getting very long because the barbershops are closed.
Because of the corona virus.
So Vicki’s going to cut my hair.
I’ve never done this before.
But she’s watched some YouTube videos.
What could go wrong?
You’re going to learn phrases you could use at the hairdresser’s today.
And the barbers, or the barbershop.
Barber’s are for men and hairdresser’s are for men and women.
But mostly for women.
And we also have hair salons and beauty salons and styling salons.
But for us, it’s the kitchen!
Here are our tools. We have scissors.
We have combs.
We have a hairdryer.
We have clippers.
Straighteners. I don’t think we’ll need them.
And a spray bottle for keeping my hair wet.
It’s a bit dirty, Jay.
Yes, I use it when I’m grilling on the deck.
OK. We don’t have a razor.
That’s a very, very sharp blade.
And we don’t have one of those brushes for brushing away the hair that’s been cut off.
Another thing we don’t have is a cape.
That’s the gown they give you to wear so you don’t get hair all over your clothes.
But we do have a bin bag. Here’s your gown, sir.
Then it’s time for the haircut. How do you want me to cut your hair.
Shorter.
Yes but… Ok we need words describing what you want your barber to do.
Well, shorter all over, but not so short that my bald spot is uncovered.
Oh, OK. A bald spot is a place on your head where there’s no hair.
That’s different from a receding hairline.
A receding hairline is when your hair moves up and back.
How much shorter would you like? About .. about this much?
A little bit shorter? Maybe you can cut an inch off?
So you want quite a bit off. You don’t want me to just trim it.
No, a trim is really not short enough.
When you trim hair you make it neater by just cutting off a little bit.
I need to trim my fringe.
We call those bangs in the US.
What else can we trim?
Well we can trim a hedge.
Yeah.
We can trim the lawn. Erm, we can trim costs.
Oh yes. A business might have to trim costs.
Right.
The first thing they do at a barbershop is wash your hair.
I think we’ll use the squirty bottle. Um. It’s not working Jay.
You have to twist the front.
OK. We’ve hit our first problem. The squirty bottle doesn’t work. I’ll put some.. I’ll use a cup of water. All right?
Oh Jay. You’re going to get very wet today.
I AM getting very wet.
It’s a good job you’ve got the dustbin bag.
Jay’s hair’s very curly. Mine’s pretty straight. It’s just wavy at the bottom.
My hair’s getting so long, you could possibly braid it.
A braid. We call that a plait in British English.
It’s when you take three pieces of hair and rope them over and under eachother.
You can braid of plait and it’s a noun as well.
And if you have lots of them and they’re really long, they’re called dreadlocks.
And then there are pony tails.
That’s when your hair is tied at the back of your head.
Or pig tails. That’s when you have two bunches of hair.
Is your hair dry or oily, Jay?
Its dry. And hair can be thick or thin. Mine’s thin.
Uhuh. Mine’s pretty thick. So sometimes when I go to the hairdresser I say, ‘Can you take some weight off?’ or ‘Can you take… Can you give me less volume?’.
OK Jay. Do you want a parting?
No thank you. In American English, we call that a part, and I don’t want one.
OK Jay. Here we go. And this is getting serious now. Can you take your glasses off?
Sure.
Great. How much do you pay your barber?
My barber is really very inexpensive compared to other barbers in the city here. He only charges me $20 for a haircut and I give him a $5 tip. But most of the barbers around town are $35 for a haircut, or more.
You see for a women’s haircut I think I pay about $75.
Well you generally have more hair than I do.
I don’t think we pay your barber enough. OK, tilt your head forward.
Does your barber offer you anything to drink?
For a $20 haircut? No!
I always get a cup of coffee.
I guess that’s why you pay $75!
Let me see how long it is in the front.
Cut some more off.
Cut more off?
Oh yeah. Sure.
Yeah. Oh, you’re right. Look at that.
Barber’s also cut sideburns.
Oh yes. That’s when you have hair that comes down here.
Well, we refer to ‘the sideburns’ even if they’re higher. The question is how do you make them absolutely even?
Oh.
And the answer is the line in my ear. Right here. You make it even with that line..
Oh right.
And when you get the clippers out, you can make sure it’s a sharp line.
OK, you want a sharp line.
Absolutely!
If I.. If I comb down.
I see.
And then cut it.
You’ll cut my ear off.
It will all look… It will look funny.
I see.
So you have to blend it.
I see.
That’s what they do on YouTube.
Oh, I hope I haven’t taken too much off. Do you think that much was too much?
I have no idea.
So what different kinds of men’s hairstyles are there, Jay?
Well there’s a buzz cut. That’s a military style where your hair is really very, very short.
And there’s also a crew cut. That’s a little bit longer than a buzz cut, but it’s similar.
And there’s a mohawk.
That’s where it’s spiky on top.
You have to put products in your hair to make it stand up straight.
And you could have an out-of-bed look. Sort of bed head. That’s when your hair’s a mess. It looks like you’ve just got out of bed.
There’s also a fade. A fade is when it’s very short at the bottom and gradually gets longer.
And there’s also an undercut. That’s when the bottom is really short and the top is much longer.
Women have this cut too and it’s quite fashionable. So sometimes they’ll have very little hair on the side, but then they’ll flick their hair over and it’s long.
And then there’s a quiff. This is a British English term. It’s when part of your hair stands up in the front above your forehead. Elvis Presley had a quiff. There’s another British term too that’s a bit old fashioned. And it’s a short back and sides and that’s when you have short hair at the back, and at the sides.
There are different kinds of hairstyles for women too. Long, short and medium length.
And some women have a bob, that’s very common. I have a wig that’s a bob. The hair is the same length all the way round. And then the opposite of a bob would be a layered cut where the hair is different lengths.
You know you need small talk when you’re at the barber’s of hairdresser’s. What do you talk about with your barber.
Well, we talk about how we’re feeling, we talk about our lives. We talk about how work is going. There are people that we both know. We talk about them.
Uhuh.
You’ve known your barber a long time, haven’t you?
Well he’s been cutting my hair since 2003. That’s seventeen years.
OK, what about if you met a barber for the first time? What conversations could you have with him?
Well I’d ask him where he’s from. And how long he’s been doing this. I might ask about his family. Sometimes they talk about their children and grandchildren. It’s always fun.
So you go to very old barbers then.
Yes. Very experienced barbers.
With my barber, I always talk about politics. But it’s a safe topic for us because we support the same policies. Do you think politics is a good topic, Jay?
No, I do not. I’m not sure what my barber’s politics are and I’m even less sure of the other people in the waiting room. So no, it’s not a discussion I would have in the barbershop.
You could ask your barber to recommend hair products for you. The only one he’s recommended actually is, after he’s seen my gray hair, he’s recommended dye.
Jay and I don’t dye our hair, but sometimes I get highlights. It’s when they make strips of your hair lighter than others, so I have blonde streaks.
You can also get lowlights. That’s when they make some streaks darker.
The word ‘hair’ is tricky. It can be a countable noun or an uncountable noun.
When it means all the hair on your head it’s uncountable.
I have gray hair. That’s uncountable.
But when we’re talking about individual strands of hair, hair is a countable noun.
I have some grey hairs. Can you see them? Most of my hair is brown, but there are some grey strands there.
What products do use use on your hair, Jay?
Well there’s conditioner. That’s a liquid or cream you put onto your hair during or after washing to make it softer. It stops it from being dry.
And there’s hair spray. That’s a sticky liquid you spray on to keep it in place. It stinks.
And then there’s hair gel. That’s a thick wet substance that helps your hair hold a style.
And then there’s hair wax. That’s similar to gel but it’s made of wax so it doesn’t go hard. It doesn’t dry out.
I’ve never used clippers before. You can put attachments on them.
So Jay. Do you want it clipped close?
Not terribly close. I just want the lines to be straight.
Do you know what number you want?
Something in the middle maybe?
Number one is the shortest and then a higher number gives you longer hair.
Put your head down.
OK.
I can make a line like this Jay.
That’s right.
Good job, Vick.
Sometimes barbers will trim your beard if you have one, or your mustache. And they will trim my eyebrows.
Oh, I can do that for you because I saw how to do that on YouTube.
Good because I definitely need it.
Would you like your eyebrows trimmed, sir.
Please trim my eyebrows! I’m told that the gray ones are the worst ones to cut.
Are they?
Because they’re the straggly ones.
When the barber is done he always gives me a mirror so I can look at the back of my hair. With a hand mirror.
We don’t have one of them.
No.
Probably just as well.
OK, sir. I hope that I’m going to get a good tip.
Oh absolutely! You’ll get the best tip that there is.

 

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