As a barber who's made many mistakes by assuming what people want I now ask a lot of questions. Some people are awkward and don't like to talk but I don't care. I carefully and respectfully ask them questions to figure out what they want. Most men aren't picky. Some men are. Some have no idea what they want. Its my job to guide them in the right direction. I cut a lot of walk in customers and have narrowed down the questions to just a few. Here's an example of how it usually goes.
Barber: So what are we doing for you today?
Client: Uhh just a trim please.
Barber: Okay. Would you like clippers on the sides and back or do you prefer scissors only?
Client: I'm not sure actually.
Barber: Okay. Do you want the hair off of your ear or touching your ear?
Client: I like it off my ears please.
Barber: Okay. How often do you get your haircut?
(I ask this because it gives me an idea of how often they get it cut and how short I can take it without them freaking out)
Client: Usually around once a month.
Barber: Okay. I see you like to keep it short on the sides and longer up top. If I use the clippers do you want to see skin on the sides and back? Or do you prefer it longer?
Client: No skin please. A little longer than that.
Barber: Okay you got it.
(Now I know that I can use a number 2 or 3 on the sides and back and it'll be just the right length for them. Also, since the client didn't know what he wanted initially I know I don't have to do anything fancy like a skin fade or anything too "modern" since it was never mentioned and there was no picture.
As I'm cutting I'm looking for any crazy cowlicks or issues I might run into when I get to the top of their head. Now since I've only used a 2 or 3 on the sides I can safely assume that the top will be just as simple. I always let them decide how much I should take off. I show them what an inch looks like and we can go from there. I do this as politely as possible while making small talk. Having done this for so long I know when people want to chat or when they prefer to be a little quieter. But initially I NEED to ask questions and figure out what they want. Men are both loyal and easy to please. If I cut their hair right once, they'll be back. If I cut their hair and it's not exactly how they want it, but they liked me or the conversation we had, they'll come back and will now have an idea of what they want. If I cut their hair and jack it all up, they'll find somewhere else and possibly bad mouth me.
These cuts are my advertisements so I take it seriously. If you don't know what you want, allow the stylists to help you and ask questions. Pictures are a huge plus if you can't verbally explain. Ask questions yourself. Hope this helps someone. I know finding the right barber/stylist can be tough. Communication is key. Build a relationship with them so it's more comfortable to talk about what you want. It takes time. If they mess up a little once, have them cut it again and let them know until they get it right.
….and bring them coffee. Lol