Better Grooming, How To Talk To Your Barber

How to Talk To Your Barber: Holy City

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Two of Charleston’s best barbers on how to make the most of your next cut-and-shave.

“If you want a successful experience at the barbershop, you have to go to a place where you all have the same ideals.”


There is a proper way to arrive at your friendly neighborhood barbershop. You might be excited after doing your research, making an appointment in advance of a big date or meeting, but stay cool. It’s time to walk in the door, and there are actually ways to mess this up. But you won’t, because Holy City Barber owner Jen Sample and barber Rusty Ross are here with some tips and plenty of outspoken opinions on how to enter scene and proceed.

Rusty: “The one thing you can and should do when you arrive at your barbershop is to just come in and sit down.”

Jen: “There are a few “don’ts” as well. Don’t hover behind me, don’t stand in the middle of the room, and don’t expect us to stop what we’re doing. Wait until we come to you. It’s just the polite thing to do.”

Ok, we’re starting simple. We can do this, team.


Your barber is a highly-trained professional who takes pride in their craft. Speak to them like you would any other service provider. Respectfully and with a level of deference.

Jen: “Show some respect when you talk to your barber. They’re a normal person just like you, and there’s no need to talk down to them. I don’t like when people show me a picture and say “Do you think you can handle this?” It’s a little rude.”

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Rusty: “Less instruction is more sometimes. When you give too much instruction, it can be confusing to figure out what exactly it is that you want. You don’t go into a tattoo shop, tell them how to do a tattoo, you know?”

Jen: “Don’t be a backseat driver who keeps stopping and checking in every time I make a cut. Let your barber do their job. My favorite people are the ones who just sit back and relax. Just give me an idea, give me a length. Say, stop “above the ear” or “over the ear”. For the neck, say you like it “tapered off” [ed’s note: gradually changing in length], or square cut [ed’s note: same length across the neck]. That will help the direction.”

Rusty: “And at the end of the day, it’s hair and it’s going to grow back.”


In the era of Pinterest and Instagram and a continuously captured zeitgeist, you may find your inspiration online. Maybe you’ll even bring in an image to share with your barber. That is absolutely fine.

Jen: “Pictures are good as long as it’s realistic. You can’t show me a picture of somebody’s hair type if it’s not your own and expect it to work out.”

Rusty: “David Beckham is like the guy. Everybody wants to be him, but not everybody is as good looking.”

Jen: “That’s the haircut, yeah..both the buzz cut or his other looks. I’ve been a barber for 10 years, and I can’t tell you how many hundreds of thousands of pictures of David Beckham I’ve seen. I’m not mad at it. I enjoy looking at the pictures. But we can’t work miracles.”
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Keep in mind that your relationship with your barber is a physically intimate one, so take care of yourself before heading over. And then there is the matter of manners.

Jen: “I always like when people take care of themselves. Check your breath, and clean your ears out before coming in. We see a lot of dirty ears. It would also be nice if people would put their phones away. I’m not doing a haircut when someones looking at their phone, or even answering the phone. A lot of people get on the phone, “Hey, I’m here getting a haircut” and the person keeps talking to them, and man, you shouldn’t answer it to begin with. I’m not cutting people’s hair on the phone, that is rude.”

Rusty: “You have to take into consideration that we’re both really southern, and we both like manners. So, essentially, just use your manners.”

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Not every barber is the right barber for everyone.

Jen: “The best way to find your barber is to go up to someone whose hairstyle you like, and ask them where they got their haircut. Looking online isn’t the best way, because I could take a picture of an amazing haircut and post it, but that might be one out of 20 that day. Asking people in real life if they like their barber is a good way to avoid a bad haircut.”

Rusty: “If you want a successful experience at a barbershop you have to go to a place where you all have the same ideals. And if you like those ideals, you have take the good with the bad.”

Jen: “We run into that here. I opened a small local business and we’re occasionally closed for sick days or what have you and some people can’t deal with it. They want the convenience and reliability of a national chain, but the look and feel of a small local shop. That can be frustrating. But we just keep doing what we’re doing, and just hope that people understand. This is the old type of thing that’s always been around. This is what’s always been in Charleston and we’re just keeping it alive.”