I lengthen my hair to be gathered to a ponytail when the time comes.

I started that process about 3 months ago from starting point, that is, after totally shaving my head.

My problem

My problem is that I went to a barber that did for me the following crappy job:

I have asked the barber to only shave my hair in the crescent around each ear in which my hair is somewhat more curly for some reason and in the lowest part of hair of the nape, where my hair is also somewhat more curly for some reason. I recall I also pointed on the areas "exactly" (quote marks because this is interpretable, of course).

Instead, the barber trimmed some of the hair covering my ear also, thus somewhat (~25%) destroying the balance I had for 3 months and thus lengthening the process from about 6 months to 7 months approximately.

Interim notes

1) I live in the country in which I met this barber as an expat and me and him didn't speak the same mother tongue, but a similar problem happened to me in my far past with other barbers which did share my mother tongue, yet didn't understand that by "around the ear" and "in the end of the nape" (or similar terms and with pointing directly) I meant only to the curly lines and not to the regular head hair that covers them.

2) Interestingly enough, another barber in front of that barber did understand me but she already closed the shop when I went to that barber.

My question

How to cover hair for a barber to prevent cutting that particular hair?

That is to ask;
What kind of flexible (rubber stripe) or hat or whatever I could use to "mecanically" cover the main parts of the hair (such as hair covering the ear or covering the lowest part of hair of the nape) so it would be clear, even without lingual explanations, that I want only the aforementioned curly parts to be trimmed?

Yes, I know "some barbers are better than others" but I need an "hacky" way to prevent this problem that happened to me too many times already.

Why I believe I was wrongly accused in XY problem

XY problem is a general rule that can have exceptions; following it fanatically does more harm than good and anyway I have started with a problem and not with a question, in this case, so XY is totally interpretive.

  • 2
    I can't help but think that the root (pun not intended) problem here is that your barber doesn't understand you, and the simplest remedy would be to find one that does
    – Caius Jard
    Commented Feb 23, 2020 at 9:35
  • 1
    Do they speak a different language natively to you?
    – Caius Jard
    Commented Feb 23, 2020 at 19:29
  • 1
    Why didn't you return to 2) the barber who understood your requirement, on another day, instead of letting barbers who do not understand, cut your hair? Commented Feb 23, 2020 at 20:13
  • 1
    @JohnDoea it does - the actual problem is cutting the hair correctly . My Lifehack (in the form of a question) was to be more selective about who cuts your hair. Go to the person who understood. Asking how to mask the hair you don't want cutting is bizarre - just use masking tape, or mark the limit with felt pen. As for the back - you'll have to ask someone you trust. Commented Feb 23, 2020 at 21:34
  • 3
    @JohnDoea please see What is the XY problem? Commented Feb 23, 2020 at 21:48

3 Answers 3


If you need a device to get your haircut,
… get/buy a rubber mens/women's swimming cap.

swimming cap

Instructions for use:

  1. Pull it over your head.
    It s-t-r-e-t-c-h-e-s to cover all the hair on your head.

  2. Cover all the hair you don't want cut.
    Expose only what hair you want removed.

  3. Done.
    Sit down in the barber's chair.

Good luck.

  • This particular cap is silicone rubber and can cover your below your ears, from the forehead right to the nape of your neck. You may find that trimming with a scissors helps you tailor the cap to fit the exact requirements for your particular application which is beyond the original design application for nautical use.
    – Stan
    Commented Feb 24, 2020 at 0:10
  • Hello Stan ; I just came back from Dechtalon with 3 different types of such caps to calmly try over time (yes, I know it might seem exaggerated but I am really sick and tired of this problem). Thanks for telling me this is sollicone rubber (perhaps good to update). Also, I wish I could upvote your answer...
    – user30701
    Commented Feb 24, 2020 at 14:41
  • But sadly - I miss 4 rep points...
    – user30701
    Commented Feb 24, 2020 at 14:41

I suggest a different approach to covering or tying your hair before going to have it cut.
You shouldn't have to go to that extreme.

Don't rely on a description to be understood the same way you intend.
Doing that is not reliable as you've discovered.

I suggest that you use a diagram. A picture is worth a thousand words.
- Find an image of the hair style you want in a magazine or online.
- Print it and take it with you to your hair stylist/barber.
- If you don't have or can't find an image of the hair style you want,
- make, or get a front, side, and rear view of your own head
- draw what you want directly on the picture(s).
You can get prints from a photo booth.
Enlarge them in a photocopier if you want for clarity.

After you show the marked-up pictures to your barber, there should be no misunderstanding. Most creative people I have met find descriptions are not so explicit as a photo or diagram. If you use your own head as the example, that's even less chance for misunderstanding or miscalculations.

Good luck.

  • I live in a small apartment without a telefaxprinter ; I am also quite afraid people might wrongly interpret the picture ; I also don't know how to use image manipulation tools generally and I can't imagine how to create a photo like this in which I am see with full balanced hair and writing "here not to cut" or "what covers the ear or the nape - not to cut". I might find something in Google, keep it in my email and than print it in large quality but I admit I feel I need a more radical solution because again, someone can misinterpret the picture or have a cognitive bias that some covering →
    – user30701
    Commented Feb 23, 2020 at 4:04
  • Will most likely totally prevent; well, if it is a good covering.
    – user30701
    Commented Feb 23, 2020 at 4:05
  • @JohnDoea you don't need a printer. Just search for images of "shaved ponytail hairstyle" on your smartphone and show the appropriate one to the barber, stroking your hair with a finger in the places you want it shaved. If they don't understand that, then a barber is not the right place to go. You say that another barber did understand you but closed shop. If you can tell you were not understood before the cutting - don't proceed! If you have enough hair to gather into a ponytail or a topknot, do that first so it is more obvious. Commented Feb 23, 2020 at 18:29
  • @WeatherVane I just saw some images ; every image seemed to me very different than what I intended; the cutting I mean to is way more minimal, it's the most minimal can be (I assume just up to 5 millimeters height in crescent and nape. About not returning to a barber who did me damage --- of course.
    – user30701
    Commented Feb 23, 2020 at 21:08

By far the easiest method to get the ponytail that's your goal is to simply stay away from all barbers for a year or more.

"But I'll have shaggy hair over my ears and collar!"

There are home trimming tools that cost (in the USA) only about twice as much as a barber haircut (they're often marketed for beards, but they work equally well for head hair). You can use one of these to trim the area above your ears yourself, and either use two mirrors or ask a trusted friend to trim the part above your collar.

Every time you do this, you'll save the cost of a barber visit, and you'll get exactly the trim you want (at least on the ears, and it's likely your friend will understand you better than the barber does for the neck trim).

  • Hello ; I have tried several such trimmers but always got a lousy outcome ; a barber that does it good was always way better for me.
    – user30701
    Commented Feb 23, 2020 at 5:41

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