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Barber shops used to be bastions of the good ol’ days when dialogue was civil (if lively), and a weekly shave was how a man became a man. Likewise, salons used to be the domain of women. Today, however, barber shops and salons have changed so much that sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference between the two.

Will you get funny looks if you try to book an appointment at a salon? Can you get a great haircut at a barber shop? Thankfully we’re here to clue you in to the barber shop vs salon conundrum.

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WHY DOES MY BARBERSHOP LOOK LIKE A SALON?

Sure, hair can be complicated, but what’s even more complicated is trying to define a rapidly changing landscape. Tucked squarely in the burgeoning health and beauty retail sector (sorry, men), barber shops and fresh salon concepts are popping up everywhere, including newly gentrified neighborhoods, and growing in popularity.

Traditionally, the difference between barber shops vs salons has been the people behind the chair. Barbers used clippers and had a high familiarity with men’s hair. They could give a great shave with a straight razor, but didn’t provide much else. Typically male-only, and often in ethnic or minority neighborhoods, barber shops didn’t offer much in the way or color. If you wanted a great flattop, great. If you wanted something more complicated or wanted to grow hair out longer, you went to a salon.

Two trends have emerged to change things up, however: salons are no longer just for women and barbers can do more than just a clip and a shave. Whether it’s the hipsters and their manscaping or just the dawning realization that men can have nice hair, too, more and more salons are either offering services to men or catering exclusively to men, and men themselves are much more comfortable at salons. You might never have found your grandfather getting a pedicure, but today you can get the delightful experience without fear of losing your man card.

THE REAL SECRET

In short, the experience you’ll get (and what you’ll pay) will vary from place to place whether the sign reads “barber shop” or “salon.” More or less, however, it still boils down to what it did originally: want something longer and more Jake Gyllenhaal? Go to the salon. Want a buzz cut? Go to the barber. Keep in mind though that more often than not, now, salon stylists are comfortable (and good at) cutting men’s hair and barber shops now offer products and training on styling your hair.

Ultimately, the real secret to the barber shop vs salon debate is to find a place you like with a barber or stylist who hits that sweet “I know exactly what you want” spot.

WHY WE LOVE THE BARBER SHOP EXPERIENCE

A great hot towel experience is what sets the barber shop apart from the salon. Sure, a mani/pedi is nice, but who can compete with multiple hot towel applications, magical creams that massage your face and make it as soft as a baby’s butt, and a shave that’s much closer than you’ll get at home?

Plus, if you need to groom or trim your beard, it’s often best to leave the job to a practiced barber who can help you get the right shape based on your particular face and whiskers. Plus, it just feels great. Imagine starting or ending every other week with a hot towel shave and great cut? We’re here for that.

WHY WE LOVE THE SALON EXPERIENCE

Frankly, women are on to something — the salon and spa experience is fantastic. Particularly if you’re going to a high-end salon, you can expect to have a drink of choice offered when you arrive (we’re talking beer, wine, coffee, or tea), and a forty-plus minute escape into relaxation.

The best salons have made their services into an art form: often, they’ll include head massages or arm and hand massages with your haircut at no extra charge. Do they tend to cost more? Yes. Is it worth it? It’s hard to say no.

THREE REASONS TO VISIT YOUR LOCAL BARBER SHOP

If you’re still struggling to decide whether you should go to a barber shop vs salon, here are three reasons to persuade you that the barber shop is where it’s at:

1. IT’S WHAT MEN DO

Visiting a barber shop regularly is what men have done for years, and there’s something special about joining in on a tradition your grandfather probably enjoyed. Have a son? Take him! Plus, it might be a great opportunity to expand your horizons, engage with new people, and maybe get a taste of that civil dialogue you’ve been missing.

2. YOU HAVE A BEARD…OR YOU DON’T

It’s pretty simple: have a beard? Go to a barber shop. Trimming your mustache? Go to a barber shop. Getting rid of your beard? Barber shop. Never had a beard in your life? Hot towel shave at a barber shop. Facial hair and barber shops go together like Michael Jackson and his white glove.

3. YOU WANT TO PAY LESS

Now, to be honest, there are some barber shops that cost more than some salons. On average, though, you’ll pay a lot less at a barber shop vs salon.

THREE REASONS TO VISIT A SALON

Now that you’ve decided a barber shop sounds incredible, let’s talk about three reasons you’d want to visit a salon for your haircut, instead:

1. YOU WANT COLOR

Barber shops do color, but the experts who make your new color look — say it with us — natural and can cover up that new grey without making your hair do weird things are usually at the salons. Pro tip? You don’t have to get your hair cut and colored at the same place.

2. YOU WANT EXTRA SERVICES

Need help with your eyebrows? Need your back waxed? Girlfriend complaining that you need a pedicure? You won’t find these extras at your local barber shop.

3. YOU NEED BETTER PRODUCTS

If your hair is particularly difficult to style or you don’t want to be limited to the small number of hair products that are specifically labeled for men, you’ll fine that your salon stylist has more products — and more knowledge of how to use them — at her disposal.

Who knows how things will look in ten years (we might be going to salons for beard trims and barber shops for color) but for now, the basics of the barber shop vs salon debate are fairly simple: find a place you like, and enjoy it. After all, you deserve a great experience that suits you perfectly no matter what you pick.