- Edition 5, Chapter 1.2 -
With these cuts, haircutter Wes Sharpton challenged himself to focus on his scissor-over-comb technique rather than rely on the barber’s go-to tool: electric clippers. Michael Gordon asked him to explain the difference in his approach and the results.
Michael Gordon: There was a huge article recently on women going to barber shops to get their hair cut. Most people associate barbering with electric clippers, but what you’ve done here seems very different; there’s a subtlety to it.
Wes Sharpton: Scissor-over-comb technique does speak to practice. I’ve gotten better and better the more I’ve done it. And the faster you are, the better – you’re your own motor. My eye can be right where the action is, whereas with the machine, I personally feel disconnected, less in control, and less fluid. Scissor-over-comb is a very detailed choice using the width and the depth of the comb, one end versus the other, and sometimes there’s no comb at all when you’re cutting very close to the skin.
MG: The best analogy in some respects is bespoke versus buying clothing off the rack.
WS: Yes. It feels different because it’s handmade. It really is in the refinement, the tailoring, the details. I’m following the head shape, but it isn’t always symmetrical, so I’m balancing it out by handcrafting the cut. Being a person who grew up in Oklahoma and wore things that didn’t fit, I remember the feeling I had the first time I wore a suit jacket that did: “This is how I look when I look good. This is made for me.”
MG: People tend to think that barbering is very mechanical, with cuts ordered off of a menu.
WS: There’s nothing wrong with flipping on clippers or relying on guards unless the conversations don’t happen – looking at clients and discussing the details of what will work or not. If all that’s heard is “#1 on the side, #2 here, and longer on top,” then, yes, it does get pretty mechanical. Details get lost; they take time. This isn’t fast food, fast clothing – or fast hair.
MG: To me, what makes a difference in a man’s haircut – or a very short one – is the edges. If they look like they’re done with a Sharpie, it’s a dead giveaway that it wasn’t careful.
WS: I have a Japanese comb that has the finest teeth I’ve ever seen. At the edges, I’m slightly graduating upwards, so it’s the tightest but the softest thing you can make at the same time.
MG: What did you learn through this challenge?
WS: I learned, especially with Xi, that when you don’t know the reaction of certain hair types, you need to be prepared to have a conversation in the beginning about going shorter. If somebody’s hair sticks out like hers did when I released all that weight, and I’ve already agreed on a length, I’ve trapped myself. You have to say, “Listen, we don’t know what’s going to happen. How comfortable are you being very, very short?” Allow enough space to respond to how the hair reacts.
MG: It takes a certain kind of woman to go short-short. Or does it?
WS: There’s no lie when you’re cutting hair that short. You’re revealing the truth. It’s about attitude, really, willingness. If you’re real comfortable in your own skin and you want to make an announcement to the world, short-short is probably going to be great. It’s about the individual and whether they’re ready to be bold in the world… and be free, too.