The preponderance of grooming advice for men has much to recommend when it comes to shampoos and detanglers, hair wax, facial exfoliator, shaving cream, and cologne. Under-eye cream: also covered. But when it comes right down to it, the single most important element of grooming – aside from basic washing and scrubbing, which we trust you to manage – is the haircut. It frames the face. It says, "I'm a successful Madison Avenue ad man" or "I live in the woods like Jeremiah Johnson" or "I just don't give a damn." Haircut advice typically suggests where to go and what to ask for.
Our question, to the chagrin of partners and loved ones: Can we just cut it ourselves? To find out, we met with Jen Atkin, a Los-Angeles-based hairstylist and the celebrity stylist for Clear Men Scalp Therapy. Atkin has cut some famous hair in her day – George Clooney, Josh Hartnett, Kid Rock even – and was kind enough to give this author a cut. She also rather cautiously outlined a strategy for tackling the do-it-yourself haircut. Not surprisingly, she has strong reservations about us men cutting our own hair – "You don't want to do major damage right in front of your face," she says" – but we believe in it. The idea here is not to replace haircuts altogether; it's to keep a good cut looking fresh without going to the barber or salon.
A few weeks after the appointment with Jen, on a trip his native New Hampshire, far away from the fancy barbers and stylists of New York City, this correspondent steadied his hand and followed the steps below – and, damn, he looks pretty good. Go out and do likewise, gents.
Cut into the comb.
"Pull your hair [on the sides] out with the comb and take your little scissors and nip at it," she says. "You don't want to cut a straight line, a blunt cut. You want to cut into it (again, scissors perpendicular to the comb)." This takes away length and weight without risking too much damage. "Cut a lot," Atkin says. "As long as the comb is pulled out away so you're not cutting right at the scalp. That comb is your stopper."
Credit: Photograph by Jeremy Berger