There are essentially two main ways in which a gentleman’s neckline can be cut. One is squared or blocked off and the other is the taper haircut. When a neckline is squared off their is an obvious line which separates the hair and the skin. This blocking can either be a straight line or with rounded edges. It has been used frequently in the past few decades in part because it is easy for the stylist to cut as compared to the taper haircut.
The taper haircut is a cut where any line between skin and hair is invisible. In other words, there is no blocking or squaring off of the hair. There is just a very gradual increase in length from skin tight to gradually longer as the barber moves up the back of the head. The taper haircut has been referred to as the gold standard in men’s haircuts for a very long time. The taper requires more skill and training and is therefore not the choice for beginners and novices.
Unfortunately, there has been a big drop off–both in Salt Lake City and nationally–in recent decades of the training and ability to perform a professional taper haircut. In the day of the unisex salons and the quick clips… there is little, if any, emphasis given to mastering the taper haircut which very few stylists or even barbers can do without the use of crutches like guards and clips. This is one reason there has been such a demand in recent years for a return to the traditional barbershops where men can get real haircuts again.
Barbering is an art form that requires skill and an understanding of the principles behind each cut. Guards and attachments are meant to compensate for lack of skill. Every amateur uses guards. Real traditional barbers should have been taught professional, free-hand techniques without the use of guards. These skills of the trade separate the professional from the amateur and are highly sought after by customers and shop owners.
At the the back of the neck you can choose between a tapered , blocked, and rounded neck. With rounded edges rather than square corners, the rounded neck is similar to the blocked nape. Unlike the straight across block, the softer rounded nape is a good option for thicker necks. Always make sure to take a look at the back of your hair. Two mistakes can occur – the neck can cut too high or the neckline may be too rounded, resulting in an undesirable feminine look. Similar to the blocked neck, hair growth below the cut line is noticeable so visit your barber every few weeks for a trim or shave. Whether you choose the taper haircut, squared or rounded neck hairline, remember that it is your choice and not anyone else’s.
I always take the attitude that the customer is always right! But I also feel it is my duty to discuss possible options with those who are interested in the barber-client consultation before every haircut.
You won’t be able to get a real taper haircut from a salon or a quick clips. You will need to find a real traditional barber shop where they are trained in the traditional skills. The good news is that you are not locked into any haircut style you choose. You can try out different looks and see how you, and others in your life, like them. When you find just the right look that you personally enjoy…then you can work with your barber to get that exact look every time you get a haircut.