Nearly every single one of us has it, it grows every day and needs to be cut regularly. Today we talk about the hair on the top of your head. In this English language listening podcast we talk through all the vocabulary and English phrases you might encounter in a UK barber or hairdresser shop.
For many of us, hair is a very touchy subject. Get a hair cut wrong and you have to live with the results for weeks, often visibly, until it grows out. So asking for the correct hair cut in a second language might be fraught with risk.
Today we talk you through a variety of hairstyles with explaining what they are, how you might hear them being asked for in just about any hair dressers or barber shop in the UK.
I always feel good after I change my hair. You get a haircut and feel positive and ready to take on the day.
⭐ Kirstin Maldonado, Musician
Hair dressers typically handle more complex hairstyles for females, although they will often state that they are “Unisex” meaning they will happily style hair for anyone. While boys and men probably use barbers’ shops the most, partly because they specialise in shorter hair and beards.
Even if you know what you're asking for, getting your hair cut requires some specialist vocabulary, and Adept English is here to help. Enjoy.
Hairdressers Barbers’ Shave Tint Permanent Dye Fringe Taper Quiff
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Hi and welcome to this latest podcast from Adept English. We help you learn how to speak English, through listening, the natural way to acquire a language. If you want to know how to speak English well, then there are a number of parts to that.
One of them is having a good vocabulary, a good knowledge of words. Let’s do some work today to increase your vocabulary in spoken English – how to learn English step by step? Building your vocabulary is part of this.
Today let’s look at words that you might meet at the hairdresser, at the barber. That vocabulary first of all – ‘hairdresser’, HAIRDRESSER. That is a compound word – it’s ‘hair’, HAIR – that stuff which grows on your head! And ‘dresser’, DRESSER meaning someone who ‘dresses’, who does your hair. And ‘barber’ is BARBER.
A barber is a men’s hairdresser – ‘une barbe’ in France is a beard – and so the word references the idea that men’s hairdresser’s don’t just attend to your hair. They also do beards, facial hair – and they may even trim stray hairs from your ears, your nose or your eyebrows!
A barber will just smarten you up generally. They will even give you a shave – that’s SHAVE. And usually this means that they will remove your facial hair – leaving your face all smooth! Let’s talk about women’s hair first, at the hairdresser’s and then men’s hair, at the barber’s afterwards.
So what sorts of words and expressions will you come across at the hairdresser’s? We might also call it a hairdresser’s shop or a ‘salon’, SALON.
The most usual request is for a ‘Cut and Blow Dry’. This means that your hair will be washed, shampooed and cut. ‘To cut’, CUT is what you do with a pair of scissors – you cut off the ends of your hair to make a new hair style. And ‘a blow dry’ is a noun.
You can use it as a verb ‘to blow dry’ or as a noun, as I say – and it basically means to use a machine called a hairdryer to blow dry your hair, to style your hair. I am an avid user of the hairdryer – when I’ve washed my hair, I wouldn’t think of letting it dry without a hairdryer – let’s just say it would look completely different! You can get a nice, smooth finish with a blow dry.
You can have your hair cut ‘in layers’ – that’s LAYERS. This means the hair is cut to different lengths according to a particular style or hair style. Or you can have ‘blunt cut’, which means that the hair is cut to look ‘all the same length’.
If you google ‘Anna Wintour’ – she’s Editor in Chief of Vogue magazine (I think she still is – she has been for a long time anyway!). And she has the same ‘blunt cut’ hairstyle – and she’s had it for many years. Her hair is all the same length, apart from her ‘fringe’, FRINGE – that’s the part that’s shorter, over her eyes. If you have a look at ‘Anna Wintour’ and you’ll see what I mean.
Sometimes this hair style, where the hair looks all the same length is called ‘a bob’, BOB.
If you’re going to the hairdresser because you’d like your hair to be coloured - or ‘dyed’ – from the verb ‘to dye’, DYE, then there’s a whole lot of vocabulary here. A ‘tint’, TINT – this usually means a colour that you put on your hair which temporarily alters the colour whereas a ‘permanent colour’ means that it can completely and permanently change the colour of your hair.
Permanent, PERMANENT is an adjective meaning ‘forever’. You may be covering up your ‘grey hair’ or you may just fancy a change.
Another thing that you can have at the hairdresser’s is highlights. That’s a compound word, ‘high’, HIGH and ‘lights’, LIGHTS. If you have ‘highlights’ at the hairdresser,’s it means that they take strands of hair, pieces of your hair and they lighten the colour.
So they make some pieces of your hair lighter. So on the price list at the hairdresser’s, on the ‘menu’ if you like, you’ll usually see something like ‘half head highlights’ or ‘full head highlights’ and different prices. If you have ‘half head highlights’, it means they apply highlights to the top half of your head – and they leave the underneath the same. And of course, ‘full head highlights’ means what it says.
There are various ways of having your hair coloured. You can have ‘balayage’, BALAYAGE – this means that the hairdresser paints the colour on by hand, to your hair.
This means that they use their judgement about where you need the highlights, where lighter hair would look nice. So ‘balayage’ might be applied around your face or at the ends of your hair.
‘Ombré’ is another word – OMBRE – and this is when a hairdresser does shading of one colour into another – so the top of your hair might be dark and it gradually shades to a much light colour at the bottom.
The last couple for women’s hair and then we’ll come to men’s hair. A hair treatment that is less popular at the moment – ‘a perm’, PERM or to give its full name ‘a permanent wave’.
This is when you change your hair’s texture – and the treatment makes it curly, wavy. And that word ‘permanent’ again – meaning ‘forever’. So if you have this done, it won’t change. It will stay curly until your hair grows out.
The opposite to a perm is ‘hair straightening’. If you have curly or wavy hair already and you want the hairdresser to straighten it, that’s the verb ‘to straighten’, STRAIGHTEN, then you might have what’s known as a Brazilian Blow Dry.
This is a special treatment to make your hair straighter. I don’t know what that’s called in Brazil – but maybe someone can email me and let me know!
For men, there are various hair styles – usually achieved with hairdresser’s scissors – and clippers or a trimmer. Both ‘clippers’, or ‘a trimmer’ are electric devices which can be used to shave the hair. So ‘to shave’ means to completely remove it.
Or ‘to clipper’ means to use the device to cut the hair to a length – usually short. In fact you can request different lengths to have your hair trimmed to and numbers are used to communicate this. So if you asked for a ‘number one’ – this would mean the barber clips your hair to one eighth of an inch (1/8”).
A photograph of a man getting a stylish haircut in UK barbershop. English phrases for the hairdresser and barber shop.
If you went for ‘a number 3’, the barber would clip your hair to three eighths of an inch (3/8”). And ‘a number 4’, the barber would clip your hair to half an inch and so on, right up to ‘number 8’ where they’d be clipping your hair to be an inch long.
If you have your hair clippered all the same length, all over your head, that’s called a ‘buzz cut’, BUZZ. That’s from the verb ‘to buzz’, which is of course the sound that the hair clippers make – ZZZZZZ! Whereas if you have the same thing, but with the hair slightly longer on the top – that’s a ‘crew cut’, that’s CREW.
This is the typically military haircut – it’s what you get if you go into the army. Very smart!
There are lots men’s hairstyles like this – the top can be really quite long, while the sides are clippered. You might also meet the terms ‘fade’ and ‘taper’.
A ‘fade’, FADE is where your hair is graduated from nearly bald, nearly shaved at the bottom and as you go further up the head, the hair is gradually longer. And a ‘taper’, TAPER in this context means almost the same – except you’re not starting off with shaven or bald.
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You might have say a number 2 at the bottom of your hair, near your ears and then go through all the numbers and by time you get to the top of your head it’s a number 8 – an inch long. That would be a ‘taper’!
Other words for men’s hair? Well a quiff, QUIFF – that’s a long piece of hair at the front. Think Elvis Presley or James Deane. You can also have a centre parting – that means that the line which divides your hair is placed in the middle, along the centre. Or you can have a ‘side parting’ – this means that the line is at the side of your head. Your choice!
If you would like to work on your English conversation – and practise your English with Adept English with two people speaking, then don’t forget our course, Course One, Activate your Listening – will help you with this.
There are lots and lots of parts to this course. Some of them are me discussing or describing something, then there are vocabulary tutorials And there are parts where you get to practise your pronunciation – and there are a number of conversations in English between two people and the course gives you help understanding these. You can buy this course on our website today at adeptenglish.com.
Well, there is some interesting vocabulary in this podcast. This will help you learn how to speak English if you need a haircut in an English speaking country. It will hopefully help you negotiate in the hairdresser’s or the barber’s. Or maybe you are a hairdresser or a barber and this will help you to speak English professionally.
Listen to this podcast a number of times, first of all so that you can increase your understanding. You’ll understand more of the words each time you listen. And then if you listen a few more times, this will help you remember any words which are new to you.
Enough for now. Have a lovely day. Speak to you again soon. Goodbye.