Hairdresser vs Barber: Top 10 Differences

This article was written for the September 2018 edition of the Images magazine.

Why The Difference Is Important

Over 30 years ago, I trained to become a hairdresser in London. Early in my career, I worked in a shop which focused mainly on short women’s haircuts. This experience, with so many short hair designs and techniques, had me intrigued by the idea of barbering. I was very passionate about my career and was always looking for a new challenge which led me to exploring the idea further.

Fast-forward several years and I began to invest more of my attention to men’s haircuts and styling. Ultimately, I took several short courses to upskill my barbering technique. For me, the transition, from hairdresser to barber, was a gradual process. But as I became more focused on this smaller niche, I began to appreciate the history and tradition of my new direction. I gave it everything I had and eventually, came to love every aspect of barbering.

In the very busy, populated world we live in, it makes good business sense to focus in on one area or niche. My niche, is modern-traditional mens styles. I love styles from the 30’s-50’s and mixing them up with a good dose of modern fading and texturising technique is my happy place! What’s your niche? What makes you most happy in your job? If you don’t know yet, expanding your horizons, such as taking short courses of interest, will help to guide you.

This said, I thought it would be a great opportunity to share with you, what I believe, are the top 10 differences between Hairdresser vs Barber. Many of which, ultimately led me to making the switch.

Barber Face Shave
1 Beards & Shaving

The obvious one first! Barbers provide services, mostly, for men. Men have facial hair that can be kept or removed in a multitude of ways. With the popularity of growing beards, barbers need to know how to trim and shape them as well as what products can be used for different effect.

On the flip side, face shaving is another important skill for a barber to have. A barber should be able to provide a luxury face shave service and have knowledge about facial skin, products, tools, and the health and safety requirements of such a process.

2 Products & Tools

Hair products that a barber would use, have the necessary hold and texture for short styles and, equally as important, a suitable masculine scent! There are also numerous products involved with the shaving process, and various oils and balms for beards and freshly shaved faces.

The tools differ too, with barbers using both large and small clippers. Large clippers, to remove hair in bulk and small clippers for detailing work around the hairline and nape. Some clippers can be adjusted to the smallest degree to achieve those popular tight shapes. For beards and moustaches, a barber will use 5.5” scissors. To shave the back of the neck, a professional barber will equip his or her straight razor and install disposable blades. If you would classify it as a tool, the barber chair is significantly different to a salon chair as it must be able to recline and support the back of the head. Not to mention, they look really cool!

3 No Appointments vs Appointments – you choose!

Most barber shops are walk-in, first-in, first-served. It is an easy way to quickly build rapport and grow a loyal client base. New clients come in, sit down and wait for the next barber to be available. Then they can decide if that barber is worth waiting for next time.

More and more barbershops are choosing to take appointments. The best practice for appointments in the barbershop, is for them to be kept kept 30 minutes long. This may be a bit of a stretch for some, which is where a short, advanced techniques barbering course can help you to hone in your skills.Barber Tools

4 Time Spent with Clients

A barber should be able to complete most of their services within 30 minutes. Most barber shops don’t offer colouring which means all of our clients are in and out, keeping a fun, fast-paced environment, where we get to chat with all different types of people in a day.

5 Specialising

With nearly all clients requiring short styles, beard trims, and a bit of shaving (nape or face), barbers have a clear specialisation. A knowledge of other disciplines within the industry, like colouring, is useful in any career. However, with little to no colouring involved in barbering, we can focus our time on cuts and shaves and avoid the smelly peroxide!

6 Pay

Pay is similar, barbers are usually commission based. But where it differs is, a barber can service many more clients in a day than a hairdresser. Hairdressing often involves long, drawn out procedures where a colour client will sit in a chair for over 4 hours! A barber could service upto eight clients in the same amount of time.

7 Costs to Run

There are significantly less costs involved with operating a barber shop. Excluding expensive colour, hair washing and generally less wastage, making a profit is a lot simpler. A barber generally doesn’t have to wait six or more weeks for their client to return. Instead, three weeks is the usual time between visits.

8 The People

Barbers are typically much more laid back than hairdressers. We are more diverse in terms of our backgrounds, likes and dislikes and the way we look. Hairdressers are generally expected to look and act a particular way. This can make it hard to break out of the mould and do something truly revolutionary; think Vidal Sassoon – my absolute idol, he was a visionary!

Hairdresser vs barber9 Community

The barbering community is smaller than that of hairdressing. It is less competitive and more inclusive. Barbering culture is one that’s quickly moving forward towards a future that’s uncharted. In today’s barbering community, you can be anyone you want to be and do anything you want to do. There are few expectations. We march to the beat of our own drum.

10 Training

Training to be a barber is just as involved as hairdressing. Many barbers take courses or do apprenticeships. Barber courses, however, can be a lot shorter, saving a lot of time and money. Without the need to learn about colouring, perming, chemical straightening, hair extensions etc, the courses can be dedicated to cutting, cutting and more cutting!

The Full Time Course I have developed for my school is four weeks long. Each course has a maximum of three students to allow for them to have plenty of attention from our educators. Most importantly, every day, from day one, each student is cutting around the clock! Approximately 10% of our course is book work, the rest, PRACTICAL!


So, there are my Top 10 Differences Hairdresser vs Barber. Hairdressing is a wonderful profession, it’s where I began, it’s where I got my roots. I just like barbering better!

We offer advanced barber Workshops to hairdressers who wish to learn barbering techniques and services.

If you have any barbering related questions we would love to answer them.

Contact us here!



Paul Bartolo