The scissors fly and the hair falls – those are the obvious basics , but there are more complexities to cutting hair, Steve “Woody” Woodham said.
“I’m a musician – it’s really all I ever wanted to do,” Woodham said. “I became a stylist so I’d be able to make a living while I was waiting for my big break in the music business. It’s been 30 years and I’m still waiting but I’ve learned a lot about cutting hair.”
Woodham has owned and operated The Haircut King, a Prescott Valley, Arizona salon for the last three years. Though Woodham has many regular customers he said he realizes that not everyone is able to make it to the shop on a regular basis.
“It’s obvious – some mothers with four, five kids aren’t going to drop $70, $80 every month,” Woodham said. A lot of people will just go to Kmart and buy some scissors and clippers. That’s why I decided to put together my video and book, ‘Cut Hair At Home Like A Pro’ - and it’s been very popular.”
Woodham said there are three basic methods to cutting hair and that all haircuts contain one of them or some combination. These methods are: trimming, layering and using clippers.
“The trim is basically cutting length off or ‘outlining’ the hair,” Woodham said. “It’s sometimes all you need with bangs or even-length straight hair. You need really sharp scissors to make sure you can get an even cut.”
Woodham suggests trying to cut a hanging piece of thread – hanging limp, not taut – to see if the scissors are sharp enough for a good trim.
“The second method is layering, where you pick up the hair in sections and cut pieces off,” Woodham said. “With the trim it’s cutting length but with layering, it’s cutting bulk.. It’s also called ‘feathering’ because if you comb the hair back you can see feather lines.”
The final method Woodham talked about involved the use of electric clippers. He said that some haircuts involve only the clippers and that some customers with buzz cuts will sometimes ask for a specific cut based on the number of the attachment they prefer.
“The secret to a good clipper cut is to go against the grain of the hair with the rake,” Woodham said, explaining that the rake is a name for the clipper attachment that helps channel the hair into the blades. “Another is to go over it continuously from a lot of different directions.”
The majority of haircuts will require some combination of those methods, Woodham reiterated. Though knowing those three methods would familiarize a would-be hair stylist with the basics of performing a haircut, Woodham said that it takes time to become truly proficient with haircutting.
“There’s definitely an art to it and that’s timeless. The styles may change over the years but these methods and tools will always be the ones you use,” Woodham said. “I like to tell people that a stylist’s job is less forgiving than a chef’s because if they mess up they can always throw another burger on. It’s not as serious as brain surgeon’s of course, at least the hair will grow back.”