Chapter 1 – Client Consultation and Analysis

1.1 The Design Consultation

A thorough design consultation and assessment is the basis for a successful barbering service. It is the stylist’s responsibility to assess the client’s individual physical and personal attributes to suggest a suitable hairstyle and facial hair design.

So what makes for a good consultation?

Your assessment should include:

  • Face shape
  • Head shape
  • Growth patterns

Face Shape

During the consultation phase of the barbering service, it is important for the barber/stylist to have the ability to recognize and determine the client’s facial shape. Face shape is an important component of any haircut or facial hair design. This is because the shape of the final look can highlight or detract from certain facial features. Be sure to take the client’s preferences into account, and use tact when suggesting a certain style.

The most common face shapes are as follows:

Man with oval face shape  

The oval face is considered to have the most ideal proportions. This shape has balanced symmetry, and those with an oval face shape can easily wear most hair styles and beard designs. Keep in mind, however, that an overgrown beard that is either very wide or very long will detract from the oval’s natural symmetry.


The round face has a fairly equal length-to-width proportion, with a softer jawline and shorter chin.

Haircuts and styles that provide height on the top of the head, width above the temple, or angular shapes will help the lengthen the round face shape.

When shaping facial hair on a round face, the goal is to create an illusion of angles or length. Keep the sides closely cropped to avoid adding width, and instead put focus on lengthening the chin area to create a more oval appearance. Add angles by cleaning up and shaping the upper outline of the beard into a straighter line. A goatee is also a great option for the round face, as it creates the illusion of length at the chin. 

Man with round face shape
Man with square face shape  

Similar to the round face shape, the square shape has a fairly equal length-to-width ratio, but is discernible by its strong angles at the hairline and chin.

A more rounded haircut with soft edges towards the temples will help to soften the strong corners of the square face shape.

When suggesting a beard style, you’ll want to avoid adding emphasis to the angular jaw. As with the round face, keep the sides closely cropped and add length at the chin to slim the face and create the illusion of a more oval shape. In this case, keep the silhouette of the beard more rounded. A circle beard is a good option here.


The oblong is the most elongated face shape, with a strong jaw and higher hairline.

Side-swept hairstyles that move over the temples soften the appearance of the hairline, and create the appearance of a shorter face.

When shaping the facial hair on an oblong face, avoid suggesting a style that will add more length. Instead, keep the beard closely cropped or opt for a moustache to break up the elongated proportions.

Man with oblong face shape
Triangle/Heart Shape
Man with triangular face shape  

The triangular face shape has prominent cheekbones with a narrow jawline and a pointed chin. The heart-shaped face carries the same features, but with a peak at the centre of the front hairline.

Haircuts that maintain length and/or add fullness at the nape as well as the jawline will create balance on the triangular face shape.

For the facial hair design, avoid adding more width at the temples, and instead opt to suggest a beard style that is fuller at the chin so as to create balance with the cheekbones and soften the sharp angles.


The pear facial shape is recognizable by a narrow forehead with width at the jaw.

To create balance, haircuts that add fullness to the sides, temples, and the top of the head are recommended.

For this face shape, suggest facial hair designs that provide a slimming effect at the chin, such as a goatee or a closely cropped beard so as to avoid adding additional width or bulk at the jawline.

Man with pear face shape
Man with diamond face shape  

The diamond face shape has an elongated appearance, with high cheekbones, a narrow forehead, and a pointed chin.

Textured hairstyles that add width at the temples and chin are ideal to create a more oval appearance.

For this client, avoid adding additional length at the chin, and instead suggest a beard style that adds some fullness and width to the cheeks and chin to create balance with the prominent cheekbones.

How Face Shape and Facial Features Influence Moustache Design

Typically, the length and width of a moustache should be designed in relation to the size of the client’s facial features. For example, strong/heavy features require a larger moustache design for a balanced appearance, while fine/slight features require a smaller moustache design. Take into consideration the size of the nose, the upper lip shape, the width of the mouth, and the width of the chin, jaw, and cheeks. As a barber, you have the ability to enhance or detract from the client’s prominent facial features with the chosen style of moustache. Use the same principles as you would with hair styles for facial and beard design.

Head Shape

Prior to performing a haircut or facial hair design, the barber/stylist must also assess the client’s head shape. Head shape will influence what length(s) and techniques will be used to create balance, proportion, and suitability for the client.

Generally, heads are comprised of rounded areas (crown, parietal, and occipital), concave curved areas (below the occipital towards the nape), and flat areas (sides and top of head). Often, when we do a visual assessment of a client’s head shape, we will discover that not everyone fits the general description above. For example, a client that has a flat, and squared off head shape may benefit from a haircut that is more rounded in shape so as to soften the overall appearance. Other physical features such as ridges, a predominant occipital bone, flat or indented areas, or even a scar in the nape area require specific attention. They also provide warnings, telling you to consider all factors before tapering the cut as closely as you were initially thinking.

Predominant Occipital Bone

A pronounced occipital bone, which is on the lower back of the skull.

A pronounced occipital bone can affect the nape trim, namely in the way in which you will blend the nape area into the rest of the haircut. If there is a ridge in the skull, it is best to leave the areas below and above slightly longer than the hair directly over the ridge so as to detract from it, and to allow for a smoother and straighter transition. If the client wants to disguise the ridge completely, suggest a slightly longer cut and avoid tightly faded styles.

Image showing difference in balance of hair around occipital bone
Maintain length around the occipital to create a smooth transition (left). Avoid following the ridge with your clipper, as this will highlight the pronounced occipital (right).

Flat or Indented Areas

Flat or indented areas can occur anywhere on the head, including the nape. If the head is asymmetrical in shape, it is best to shorten and shape the hair on either side of the flat area first, so that you can use that hair as a guide while working over the indented area, so as to create a smooth transition and the appearance of a symmetry.

Scalp Folds or Scars

Occasionally you will have a client that has scalp folds or scarring in the nape area. If the client wishes to hide these features, opt for a slightly longer hairstyle that allows for enough length in the nape to blend the hair seamlessly over the area.

Additional Considerations

Growth Patterns in the Nape and Sideburns

Why are growth patterns important to consider before starting a service?

Growth patterns play a tremendous role in how the hair will respond to being cut. They also inform the barber/stylist as to which techniques will be used to cut the hair. Prior to performing a service, pay careful attention to the direction of the hair growth and any changes in the grain.

The grain is established by the direction in which the hair grows out of the surface of the skin. The grain changes when hair growing in one direction meets up with hair growing in the opposite or differing direction. Whorls, double crowns, and cowlicks are all visual indicators of growth patterns and the direction of grain.

During the pre-service consultation, the stylist/barber must evaluate for growth patterns and direction of grain particularly around the client’s hairline and the nape area. This is especially important when hair is to be cut or removed entirely. When shaping the nape, the general rule is to follow the client’s natural hairline, rather than creating an entirely new shape. This encourages a more natural look as the hair grows back between services. While the stylist/barber is required to make recommendations regarding the client’s hairline, they must also take into consideration the client’s preferences.

When removing excess nape hair with a razor, it is best to follow the grain of the hair growth to minimize discomfort and ingrown hairs. In some instances, if further removal or closeness is required, a procedure may be used to shave against the grain. You will find further information on this in Chapter 4.

While we see endless combinations of growth patterns on the nape and scalp, we tend to see more predictable growth patterns while performing facial hair design and shaves.

Note: In Chapter 4, you will learn about the methodical way in which a shave is performed, in terms of areas of the face and razor stroke direction. Because it is important to follow the grain while shaving, the barber/stylist may switch up the direction of the razor stroke if an atypical growth pattern is detected.

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Barbering Techniques for Hairstylists Copyright © 2021 by Arden Magtiza and Gary Franceschini is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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