Stafford Hair

How to get what you want from your hairstylist

Dear Paul and Leisa
I love changing my hair and I’m always experimenting but my real dilemma is the ‘salon speak’. The descriptions on social media platforms like Tik Tok or Instagram are different from the language hairdressers use. I’ve found that quite often when I ask or describe a technique or style to a hairdresser the result is often very different to what I had hoped for. My new go-to look is chunky beach wave lob but I’ve had so many different versions of it over the last few visits to salons that I’m not sure what it is any more. What can I ask for when I am in the salon?

This may be the best question we have received since our hair clinic opened for business, the actual terminology that we hairdressers use is a combination of science, geometry and design.

There are many principles — technical terminology is completely different from technique names or terms. For example the terms ‘layered bob’ and ‘textured bob’ have completely different meanings but often these small nuances in terminology can open a can of worms when it comes to the execution of a haircut and the expected outcome.

The rise of online hairdressing tutorials, educational videos and quick fix tips plus DIY hair experts makes the subject even more confusing and even dipping your toe in the Tik Tok hair maze can cause absolute havoc when visiting a salon. It doesn’t help that a lot of the terminology used in these forums is made up — hybrids and silly non-sensical descriptions that become catchphrases to lure in the public into believing they are something new. For example, you say you currently sport a ‘lob’ the recent online term for a long bob. You describe it as chunky which most likely means it’s a blunt cut — and the beach wave? A slight movement or wave that is softer than straight but not as strong as an actual curl. Why beach? Because this description almost sets a scene of playfulness, good times, casual, relaxed and fun — but why say all that when beach wave says everything?

Obviously we hairstylists try to keep on top of the new terminology and social media speak that we are bombarded with on a daily basis but the reality is that the classic terminology and what it actually means simply doesn’t change. The skill of cutting hair — whatever current trends are — is based on classic technique and principles learned over many years. They can be adapted, combined, updated and even sometimes reinvented but they are still firmly fixed into the hair cutting rulebook. Like any language they need translated into simplistic, easy to understand descriptions on a daily basis to help clients understand exactly what they are having done to their hair.

It is an unfortunate side effect of social media that these terms and phrases have been misused, polluted and quite often incorrectly applied to the wrong looks or styles — not only confusing clients but stylists too. This phenomenon has led to many difficult discussions in salons and hairdressers taking to their Facebook pages to vent their frustration at the damage this misinformation causes. Even I, after many years of hairdressing experience, struggle with amount of information clients now have at their disposal while not really understanding the actual technical aspect of what these terms mean or how they can be achieved.
So here is a short glossary of what our terms mean, in the most simplified way we can explain. Hopefully it helps ensure that you and your hairstylist are talking the same language.

Blunt cut

Simply a clean, blunt line through the perimeter or outline of your hair, in other words, the length of your hair, can be described in social media circles as chunky or clubby or even club-cut. This technique is best suited to fine to medium hair types but in recent times is being used on thick hair types to create a ‘chunky’ finish.


Layers or layering is the classic technique of literally creating layers of hair to fall into a specific shape or style, usually to lighten hair, create volume, face frame or enhance texture, most recently seen in the wolf cut or in Jennifer Aniston’s classic Rachel cut. Probably the most used technique in hair cutting, your stylist will have numerous layering pattern techniques; round layering decreases weight, square layering retains length and gives volume and so on. Layering patterns can be combined to suit the wearer.


A complicated one but easily the most confusing. If I had a euro for every time a client asked for a ‘graduated layer.’ Graduation is the technique where hair is cut at an angle to from short to long to create volume bulk and weight, most often used in bob shapes to create sleek chic head hugging classic styles, or elegant nape hugging short styles to accentuate elegance and sensuality.

At its best execution it is Louise Brooks or Mary Quant at its worst it’s ‘the Karen.’ The graduation should not extend over the occipital bone — the bumpy bit at the back of your head. Graduation is designed to flatter and compliment but when executed badly it can be ugly and unflattering.

We use graduation to create volume where limp or fine hair lies flat or as a way of removing bulk from areas where we want flatness in thick hair types.


When a client asks for a textured haircut, it literally can mean anything from a choppy short crop to sexy, long shag.

But your own hair texture will determine what can be done. The techniques used to create or enhance textures will really depend on your hair type.

Various methods can be used, slide cutting is where the inner blade is closed at an angle in the hair to create soft loose texture, point cutting is where the hair ends is snipped at 45% to break up blunt or strong lines, deep pointing is where the same technique is used within the hair shaft to break up density but not impacting on the actual hair integrity. Slicing is another texturising technique usually associated with face framing layers to create softness and blend.

Razor cutting

Razor cutting , though a definite technical skill, is by and large the free style artist of hair cutting. The cutter relies on visuality and feel using a cut throat razor or specialist razor tool , often used for feather cut styles with multiple textures and finishes most recently in the butterfly cut, the wolf and the shag.

One of the issues of razor cuts is repeat cuts not always having the same impact and potential over cutting leaving hair stringy and at worse weak. Explore this technique with caution — a seasoned practitioner is essential in getting a successful razor cut.


Now we are into the most controversial of all techniques. When I hear the dreaded words ‘I want it thinned’ my heart sinks.

In some ways this is the ultimate hair cop out — where technique and skill have either been ignored or failed, a dodgy pair of thinning scissors are culled from a salon drawer to remove with no real design excess weight or bulk. It’s a short term fix unless it’s at it most excessive then the hair is simply stripped of its natural form and flow, usually resulting it unmanageable, weak, broken hair strands with nowhere to go. Thinning hair for most hairdressers is a no-go area and the long term repercussions of badly thinned hair can take years to repair.

Quite often good layering and weight balancing technique can remove bulk without any upset, resulting beautifully
fitted haircuts. We rarely if ever suggest thinning hair — you have been warned.

Next week Leisa Stafford will troubleshoot the terms, techniques and conundrums of hair colour. If you have any queries or questions on what you want from your colourist, but can’t quite explain, contact us and we will help you.

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