Question: Haircuts?

A reader asks…

How do you handle getting haircuts, if you prefer styles that don’t match your biological sex? Have you had any trouble finding stylists who are cool about giving you what you want? I’ve wanted a male haircut for a while, but I’ve been getting a short female cut instead. I’m worried that this doesn’t achieve the effect I’m going for.

Please post your response in the comments below.

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Posted by on January 30th, 2010 at 08:00 am

Category: questions 40 comments »

40 Responses to “Question: Haircuts?”

  1. BamBam

    I’ve had trouble with this too. I present as rather butch/male, but once the stylist hears my voice, they want to give me a more feminine cut. I never know where all the cool dykes go to get their hair cut either, and I end up in very heteronormative salons.

    I’ve found that bringing along pictures of a specific style I want is rather helpful. I like short hair, particularly styles that are generally worn by men, so I brought along pictures of a man with the style I wanted. It’s not the stylist’s place to judge, I’m paying him for the cut!

    Another way is to go to a men’s barber shop. There are a few barber shops around that are all-inclusive, but be wary of those who turn females away, no matter how they present. Usually the barbers are used to cutting male styles, so you can just give them an idea of what you want, and they’ll do the rest. Look up male-specific styles on the internet, such as short back and sides, or the Caesar cut, and also indicate what you’d like your hairline to be (square or tapered), and what to do about your sideburns.

    There are plenty of alternative hairstyle salons around as well, or queer-owned and staffed salons.

    Never be afraid to ask for the hairstyle you want. It is just hair, and it grows back. Consult with the stylist about what styles suit your face, as well, but insist on a male style.


  2. Hamsters

    It really depends on the stylist, This one hairdresser who I’d been going to since I was little charged different rates for men and women, so I figured, once I started getting male haircuts, I would get the male rate. Wrong. I still ended up paying double for the exact same cuts the guy next to me was getting. Because I was still, technically “female”.

    These days I just cut my own hair. More cost effective.


  3. Jørgen

    Pfff, tell me about it. I’d love to get a more feminine haircut. Or rather androgynous, but I suppose a feminine cut will cancel out my maleness better.
    But it just doesn’t happen. I can take pictures with me all that I want, I’ll have the ‘decent boy look’ back as soon as I leave the shop.
    Well, you can’t realy blame the barber for it. They’re just doing the best that they can and doing otherwise would probably go against all their feelings of what is right. Besides, manly cuts and girly cuts are also somewhat dependent on the male and female hairlines. And as forked as we may be a barber can’t do much about those.
    Bambam, are queerbarbers indeed such a good alternative? I’m always a bit afraid that genderqueer is sometimes even queer to the queers and that they would still try to give me a boycut.


  4. Roxanne

    Look, YOU are paying THEM to cut your hair, not the other way around. Tell them that you want your hair cut like a boy’s, not like a girl’s, and if you are not satisfied don’t pay them. You don’t owe them any kind of explanation whatsoever. It’s that simple.


  5. Anonymous



  6. genderkid

    Now I found a barber who sees me as male, but back when people insisted on giving me “girl” cuts, I learned to trim those cuts myself to suit my preference. (Although my hair is very forgiving: it’s curly, so you can’t tell if it’s been cut haphazardly.)

    I guess I could have done the extra step and learned how to cut my own hair. Or you could find a friend who will do it for you. If you end up with a really bad haircut, you can always go to a hairdresser to try to fix it.


  7. Billie

    I go get my hair cut by whoever’s working at JCPenney at the time. We are suffering from a serious lack of independent hair stylists, and all the barbers are a serious boy’s club. I’m afraid to go in there, because I’m not trying to present as a guy, and I have no clue what they’d make of me. So I go to JCPenney, but so far, I’ve always gotten a very understanding person. I had to tell the first lady exactly what I wanted. I made it clear that when I left, I wanted my hair to look like this guy’s in the picture. If she seems reluctant (if she gives you that look “maybe you don’t know what you want, but your hairstylist does”), tell her it was your boyfriend’s idea or something. As degrading as it is, she’ll be more likely to listen to you. Once you’ve got the cut you want once, or even if it’s just a boy’s cut, but you don’t particularly like it, next time you go back, tell them you’ve bot a boy cut and just want a haircut, no extra styling. Every stylist I’ve had was happy to comply, especially if they know you know what you’ll look like because you’ve had it before.


  8. ellis

    cheapest options: get a friend to cut it. learn to cut it yourself.
    more expensive option: find a barber who will cut it the way you want it.


  9. Mak

    I ALWAYS have to argue with the hairstylist. Apparently I have “beautiful” hair and it would be a “shame” to cut it short. Urgh.

    Two days ago I grabbed a pair of scissors and hacked most of it off. It was amazingly fun. Looks pretty decent too, because like genderkid, my hair is really curly.

    Seriously though, I think everyone should give themselves a dramatic haircut once in their life. It’s so freeing. And look, we’re in good company! Frida Kahlo rocks.


  10. Blair

    I originally started cutting my own hair because I hated how all hairdressers gave me ‘feminine’ ones instead of the ‘masculine’ ones I asked for, because they felt they knew best.

    So I learned on my own how to cut my hair, and now I feel I’m the only one who can get what I want done ahahaa.


    scooter replied:

    Ha ha! I’ve been cutting the pointy sideburns off my mom’s pixie cuts since I was about 10, she hates the little ‘femme-y” points. :) She’s not gender-weird like me, but I love my mom.


  11. Corbyn

    You are paying them. They are in a career based on making money by making people happy either don’t pay them till you get what you want or give your money to someone else.

    Most barbers I have found will cut your hair into a boy look if you want a “boy” haircut whatever that is to you.


  12. nick

    I just ask them very specificly for a masculine haircut, not feminized. I tend to get what I ask for. It does help to choose a haircutter that is somewhat openminded. Someone working in a punk hairsalon in the middle of a student-city might be more likely to give you whatever you want then an avon-lady in the suburbs.


  13. nick

    another idea: shave or trim. it’s cheap and awesome.


  14. Skyler

    If you want a more masculine look, try telling them that you’re playing a boy in a play, and want to really look the part, if they’re less open-minded, that generally does the trick. Or, like Roxanne, said, tell them you don’t want it to be feminine or you won’t pay.

    I personally cut my own hair, and I kind of have a “scene guy” type of hair cut(which most non-alternative hairstylists suck at doing anyways), which helps me pass pretty well. Since those hairstyles are usually associated with more feminine guys, some feminine body feature get a bit more overlooked. Being a pre-everything FTM, I find it helps A LOT, and my friends all(though some jokingly) say I’m one of the hottest guys they know =D


  15. Rhube

    I suppose it is difficult… For the past few years, though, my step-father has been doing my hair.
    He’s quick to get the razor out, and taper the edges like a “Fancy gentleman” hairstyle. ;D
    Luckily, he’s also good at doing what I want with the long haired half of my head, as well.
    I generally don’t touch it, but when I need a trim in the back, he does it for me.

    When it comes to salons, though… I don’t know, personally.
    I do, however, know a person who is going to school right now (To learn to cut hair,) and she plans to open a barber shop for lady-types who want manly-type haircuts. She is aware of the struggle for that in salons, when females just want a tapered edge, short style, but the stylist isn’t so hot on it. (Or when females go to barbers, and get turned down because they only do men’s hair.)
    So I think that’s pretty cool.

    Maybe, one day, everywhere will have a place like that…


  16. Meike

    Rhube: That would be SO awesome, I would definitely go to your friend’s barber shop!

    Since I started getting my hair cut short again, I’ve had so many problems getting the stylists–usually female–to get my hair to be as short as I want it to. The bring-your-own-picture idea is a good one, but I’ve had problems finding the style I want even in a picture…so if that’s the case, I’d suggest going in the shop and being VERY specific with your hairdresser. I’ve found that explaining how my hair is naturally and how I want to style it helps a lot. Also, if you don’t want it to be masculinized/feminized, TELL THEM so. One lady was so concerned with making my short hair look feminine, and after seeing the result I decided to never ask for “feminine” short hair again….


  17. Keanan

    If you look on the internet you can find a ton of pictures. What I did was went to a website for short hair for females and then picked a style from the “boy-ish” category. I then told my hairdresser that I wanted that style but a lot shorter. It seems to work because I’m passing a lot more now.


  18. tiffao

    i had the exact same problem untill i found a transgirl stylist :) she is amazing and does exactly what i want, sometimes it gets even more masculine than what i asked for. she fucking understands me, and charges for male cuts.

    i identify as a genderqueer girl, but my heart gets warmer everytime she says things like “people like you are genderless for me” and “yeah, shorter. androginy rocks”.


  19. t.

    the last time i got my hair cut was great. i’m only just starting to acknowledge my dysphoria and do something about it, and the last haircut was the first time i actually got a ‘male’ haircut. usually i take in pictures of girls with masculine haircuts and end up with lesbian hair – which is awesome, just not on me.

    this time i took in a picture i’d ripped out of the advocate, some model or something, and the stylist was like ‘so just like this guy?’


    ‘just as short? cleaned up at the back?’


    ‘exactly the same’

    ‘exactly the same’

    the difference between her and most of the other hairdressers though was that she wasn’t making sure i knew what i wanted, she was making sure SHE knew what i wanted.

    i suppose ‘girls’ wanting guys cuts isn’t the norm, but once she was sure we were clear it was no big deal, and it turned out really really well.

    i like the play idea. i’m at a point now where i don’t need to use it, but i wish i’d though of it years ago.


  20. Renyao

    Like a few commenters before me have said, I cut my own hair. I’ve always been a stubborn do-it-yourself type, and after watching a friend (one who was refreshingly “into” punk/scene hairstyles, and understood my gender identity) cut my hair for several months, I just started doing it myself. Which is a great cost-saver, because I wear my hair so short (and am so highly OCD) that I wind up trimming my own hair on a bimonthly basis.

    A couple tips that worked for me — get two freestanding mirrors (a cheap floor-length one + your own bathroom mirror should work) so you can see your head from all angles. An electric trimmer kit will usually come with scissors too, so for about $12 you’re essentially set. To do those trendy razored cuts that look so stylish on short hair (and are so forgiving, since they’re supposed to be a bit uneven), beauty shops sell a $7 “hair shaper” that’s essentially a straight razor with a comb attachment covering the blade. A bit like thinning shears and so easy to use.


  21. BamBam

    Not that I’m very knowledgeable about these things, but I read that if you cut your own hair, you should use proper hairdressing scissors, and not kitchen scissors as they are much too blunt and may damage the texture of your hair. You can even get kits with different scissors and shears and all. Getting a friend to do the back is worth it because they can see it much better.

    I’m not too sure about queer-staffed salons, but I think they’d be more forgiving if I insisted upon a certain style. I live in a place where men get men’s styles and women get women’s styles, so I’m very vocal, insistent and descriptive about what I want. The stylists give me weird looks, but who cares?

    Usually I give the stylist very clear instructions on what I want, and if they suggest a more feminine cut, I say no, I want it this way. Go to sites like and see their articles on hairstyles and what to ask the stylist for.

    If you can’t find pictures of your specific desired hairstyle, draw it! I’ve taken in pictures that I’ve drawn and discussed it with the stylist. Stylists are very visual and so perhaps pictures will work better than just verbal instructions.

    Also, there are some salons that say they’ll refund you if you’re not satisfied, or will cut your hair again for free. If you don’t like your cut, don’t be afraid to speak up and say you wanted it another way. They are providing you a service, so you should get what you want.


  22. Hollis

    I simply get a crew cut and I do it at home. Clippers are around $20 and a crew cut is easy. Sometimes my girlfriend experiments with different style crew cuts, but at least I know she won’t try to make me look more fem. :)


  23. Jack

    Now that I think of it, I found I started actually liking my hair when I started getting haircuts worn by androgynous males. The first really boy-ish hair cut I got done was at the men’s barber shop my dad frequented when I was young, but when I brought a picture of Keith Richards to a salon that had been recommended to me, the woman who cut my hair was really thrilled and commented “Well, this makes a nice change from Victoria Beckham!” I guess if it’s a fun haircut to do, that helps, heh. When I’ve gotten my hair touched up other places, I’ve either brought a reference picture of myself or the original idea and frankly, clearly explained what I want, putting emphasis on ‘masculine’ or ‘very androgynous’ to get the message across.

    But if you’re concerned about the way you present, OP, I found the androgynous male card a very good one to play. The first male haircut I tried was quite short and blatantly male, yet backfired into making me look outright butch, and I disliked the somewhat cutesy, softly feminine feel to many short female haircuts, so I started looking at the male musicians whose androgyny I admired – David Bowie, the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, George Harrison, etc. – and picked a haircut I thought might suit me, which turned out to be a messy shoulder-length shag cut. Too long to be obviously masculine, but a man apparently could really rock it, so I gave it a try and still really love it. The same, I suppose, could be true with female cuts – too short to be effeminate, but suiting a face just so to suggest a more feminine kind of androgyny. Perhaps those sorts of cuts are most downright androgynous on the opposite-sexed people of the gender that the length suggests, to add another layer of gender-weirdness? In the year-and-some-months I’ve been wearing my Keith cut, I’ve been mistaken for various genders and have heard the word ‘androgynous’ associated with me more than I have all my life, so it’s working pretty well for me.

    Good luck with whatever you decide!


  24. Jørgen

    Wow Jack, that sounds realy cool. It’s amazing how much hair can do to a person (and how much frustration it brings when you just can’t get it the way you want). And those were some nice tips.


  25. Anonymous

    I used to have problems with this, but I’ve found out that taking in a picture of a guy with the haircut that I want and assuring the stylist that I know how to wear a masculine haircut gets me the result I want nine times out of ten.


  26. Salamander

    I’m after an androgynous cut too. THere are lots of girl’s styles that are androgynous, but very few male. I really want something to star sending out a few mixed signals as I’m a slight, short male who likes to present as female when I can. Obviously a totally girly cut wouldn’t work, but something in between. I have some possibilities i’ve downloaded I’m taking to my hairdresser tomorrow. The pixie cut, and a few other “male” styles would work. I think that’s the best solution though, taking a picture of a style you like to them


  27. Anonymous

    I cut my own, too, now. Most hairdressers know how to do boy cuts and girl cuts but for something in between, I find it easier to do my own.


  28. Cat

    I cut it myself. I started doing so a few months ago. And I will never, ever go to anyone else again.

    I had long hair for years because everyone said “it’s so pretty” and it would be “such a waste to cut it short.”

    Every time I went to get my hair cut, they wouldn’t listen to me, and I wound up looking awful.

    So, one day, I got sick of it and cut off all my hair. I have an androgynous kind of cut. I left longer parts in the front that can easily be pinned under to make it look more boy-ish.

    And you know, I actually did a fairly good job. It’s not perfect, but it looks good. I have yet to give myself a bad haircut. All you gotta do is focus.

    It is exactly how I want it, and have wanted it for years, but could never get a stylist to do for me.

    I am never paying someone else to tell me what I should want again.


  29. Claudius Maximus

    I am outto my hairdresser and it helps that her girlfriend has short hair like me . From the beggining she understood that I did not want a ” girly ” cut. I go to her once a month since my hair grows fast and once it starts to cover my ears I go a little nuts. All I got to do is sit in her hair and she know what to do. She charges me the male price and we always have great conversations.

    I guess my suggestion is to find someone that you can trust and understands what you want and continue to go to the same person. Being openand honest about my needs works for me.


  30. Taylor Trash

    I think my last journal post was exactly about this topic. I’ve always had difficulty getting haircuts I like. I think I was happiest shaving my head!

    You might consider bringing in a photo of the cut you like and ask your hair stylist to make it EXACTLY as it is in the picture. Also, look for hair stylists who are a bit more avant garde, they’re more likely to take chances and cut hair outside the box.

    Good luck!


  31. Gene

    It took a while before I knew how to ask for what I wanted from barbers. If they read you as female, they tend to give you pointed sideburns instead of flat or straight across the ear. It’s a more feminine style. I used to just cut the sideburns myself when I got home. Then I learned the language for what I wanted. “Really short back and sides, trim the top a little, leave the bangs alone, straight across the ears.” I also noticed that if I bound my breasts before going in, the barber not only cut my hair exactly how I wanted it, but charged me two dollars less.
    Now I’ve been going to the same person for a few years and I pretty much just ask for the usual. I remember how anxious I used to be about asking for a men’s haircut or buying boys’ clothes, but it’s been my experience that nobody really cares. They just want to do their job.


  32. Treach

    That’s craziness. When I had short hair, i never had a problem findin a barber to give me a guy cut. I kept my hair low and they even gave me a rather masculine line-up. Now I have dredlocs, but i’m considering going back to them to get a line-up every couple of weeks to keep my edges lookin nice. I’m not sure of the race of everyone in here, but maybe if you want a guy cut you should look into goin to a black barber; i’ve seen them give some white guys some pretty sweet haircuts/line-ups and they’ve never given me a hard time about wanting a guy cut


  33. Lilybean

    Well, before I was out to my hairdresser (a from-home hairdresser, mind, not a salon) or anybody else for that matter, I told her I wanted to play with androgyny. She already knew how unconventional I am, so…

    …and next time I get it cut will be at a salon (for unrelated reasons) so we’ll see how that goes. However, I WILL get from them what I want.


  34. Juho from Finland

    I’ve never actually had gender issues with my hair, be the style androgynous or male. My barbers have never just got the styles right anyway.

    I’m going to graduate from hairstyling school this summer, and I’ve decided many years ago that when I open my own hair salon/barber shop someday, I’m going to have a salon where people DO get what they want, be it boy hair, girl hair or androgynous hair.
    As an ftm, it’s important for me to have a hair that shows my male gender to the world, and I want other to have the same freedom of choice.

    No one else can tell you how your hair must be.
    I’m waiting for the day I can finally make my dream come true and open my GLBTIA friendly salon.

    For the now I’ll be working with peoples hair in Hiusmuotoilukoulu Aki Korpinen, the hairstyling school I’m in right now. If you happen to be in city of Jyväskylä, in Finland, do drop by.


  35. Barley

    I go through the same thing every time I go the the stylist. It took me over a year and three different hairdressers before I finally got the hair I wanted.

    I would agree with the “bring a photo of the cut you want” idea.

    Good Luck!


  36. Walker Payton

    Even the shape looks compact. but this one could shave so good in small position and curve.


  37. jamessooy

    I’ve been cutting my own for about 10 years now. I’ve never screwed it up as much as I thought I would, and over time I’ve gotten comfortable enough to do fancier doo’s. It takes me a couple hours to do what it’d take a barber 15-30 minutes, but then again, its free.


  38. Kira

    I hate mainstream salon-like places.
    Not only do the stylists do the obnoxious salon small-talk thing- “seen any good movies lately? Do you like Twilight? Do you have a boyfriend? What’s your favorite book?”- that makes me want to smack them, but I always have to convince them of things. “No, no extra layers. Yes, I’m sure I want it that short. Please just cut the damned hair already.”
    I don’t know how big of a chain it is or if it exists anywhere outside of the Seattle area, but I recently discovered a hair-cutting place (refusing to say salon. I hate that word, it makes me think of sororities and popular cliques) called Rudy’s that seems to be very oriented towards queers and goth/emo/punks. I went there at the age of twelve for my first buzzcut and my stylist didn’t even bat an eye, just told me it was cool. Among the random magazines and such that they have in the waiting area is a gay newspaper, and around the mirrors are several hundred random pictures, many of which have androgynous people (and people with really cool punk and goth outfits).
    And they don’t do the salon small-talk.
    I now refuse to get my hair cut anywhere else, I feel so comfortable there.
    Fuck off, Hairmasters.


  39. Something queer to read

    Yeah, I also cut my hair by myself little by little so nobody notices.


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