Barbershop vs Salon: Which is Right for You and Your Hair?

Published on: 09/16/2021 11:45 pm
Inside of a barbershop

With the distinction among salon and upscale barbershops beginning to fade, choosing where to go isn’t always so (hair)cut and dry. Still, there are some defining characteristics that can help you understand how barbershops vs. salons differ.

Deciding between the two ahead of time can mean the difference between getting the perfect cut and leaving disappointed. 

Are barber shops succumbing to salons? 

Ever wondered if barber shops only cut men’s hair? While barbershops and salons used to be more gender-specific, today barber-salon concepts are showing up in trendy neighborhoods across the country. It’s a particularly large departure for barbershops, which traditionally served male clients and were found in neighborhoods with a large concentration of minority communities. 

This shifting industry is now going back to basics, making it less about who’s getting the cut, and more about who’s doing the cutting. There’s been a slow role reversal over the years with more women looking to barbers to keep their coifs fresh and more men visiting salons to shape and style their strands.   

Both barbers and stylists understand that great haircuts require good technique. And though the services offered vary slightly between the two (more on this in a bit) it’s how your hair gets cut that’s the biggest differentiator between a barber and a salon. 

Tools of the trade

Not all hair is cut the same way–and for good reason. Hairstylists train with scissors to help whip longer locks into shape. Barbers are a wiz with clippers and razors that offer clean lines and fresh fades. 

As the name implies, stylists are also skilled at styling hair with blow dryers, straighteners, and curling irons. They also help with product recommendations to keep every hair in place. 

Barbers, on the other hand, use different clipper guards to get a close, traditional cut that requires little to no maintenance between appointments. So do barbershops cut long hair? Well, that depends on the barbershop. 

Barber vs hair stylist training 

You might be surprised to learn that barbers and stylists go to school for the same length of time. For 12 months they each study and practice until they’ve accumulated about 1,800 hours

What they learn during that time begins their designation as one or the other. 

For example, barbers are the only professionals trained to provide patrons a facial shave. Conversely, many stylists double as colorists, learning how to dye hair and perform highlights. They also learn makeup and nail techniques as part of their studies. 

Who to call for what service:

Use this at-a-glance decision tree to help you pick the right industry professional for what you need.

  • Call a barber: 
    • If you want a traditional cut (flat top, military cut, fade with lines)
    • If spending as little as possible is a priority 
    • If you are looking to have parts of your head or face shaved 
    • If you want your hair to be naturally styled 
  • Call a stylist:
    • If you are looking for a more trendy hairstyle   
    • If you want to make a big change with your hair 
    • If you are hoping to partake in other salon services 
    • If you want to color your hair or incorporate product into your routine 

Barber shop vs salon FAQs

Whether you’ve never been to either or simply want to make sure where you’re going is the right space or what you need, consider these queries. 

Barber questions

Salon questions

Still not sure which is right for you? Sign up for Gina’s Platform to see local barbers and stylists in your area and book a consultation!