Knowledge is Key
Knowing how to discern a bad haircut from a good one is the first step in knowing how to avoid getting one. (It's also a great way to know if it's time to find a different barber.) There are three key areas that make up a great short haircut: shaping, blending, and finishing. If you learn the steps , you'll know how to better communicate with your barber or stylist and help spot areas where the person cutting your hair may be dropping the ball.
Shaping the Haircut
The length and shape of a haircut will help enhance your best features. A full, round haircut on a someone with a round face can really emphasize the fullness of the face. A leaner, squared up style haircut on a round face adds balance. It's important to know your facial features and shape well enough to know how to choose the right haircut for your face. Going to the salon with knowledge of what you want can help you better select a hairstyle you know will actually be right, and avoid leaving the whole thing up to someone whose skills you don't trust.
Blending the Haircut
Good blending is critical to a short haircut that looks good at all. This means it should have no visible (unintentional) lines of demarcation, so you don't see the differences between the levels hair is cut to. When viewed from the side or back, you should see no lines, or spots darker from the rest. From the front, there should be nothing sticking out and no "steps" in the haircut. On top, you should see no lines resulting from your barber or stylist picking up the hair and cutting it between their fingers—a great haircutter will always cross-check the top, from front-to-back and side-to-side.
Finishing the Haircut
How a haircut is finished is critical to achieving a great result. Great finishing can really help a mediocre haircut look better, while rough finishing can destroy an otherwise great haircut. A "properly" finished haircut will meet the following criteria:
1) The outline of the haircut will follow the natural hairline as closely as possible. A haircut that is outlined too high into the hairline (as it is in the illustration above) will look sloppy even just a few days after the cut.
2) There will be no hair sticking up at the crown. Your crown is that little swirly part at the top of your head, and it's often the place most barbers or stylists screw up. The area grows in a relatively tight spiral. If you've got little sprigs sticking up there, it's a problem. A great barber will know how to navigate this area; a bad one, not so much
3) A great haircut will look good with or without styling product. Styling product, like pomade or gel, should be used to enhance a style—not create one. If your hair looks bad without product in it, it's not properly shaped, blended, and finished.
Fixing a Bad Haircut
Bad haircuts, unfortunately, do happen. But the good news is that it's only hair, and it will always grow back. The bad news, however, is that keep from looking like a goofball, you're going to have to shell out a few bucks and get another haircut to repair the damage. Fixing a botched haircut takes skill, so don't try it yourself unless you plan on shaving your head.
If you're still in the barber's chair, you may be able to simply ask for a touch up. Only do that if you're completely confident this barber is skilled, though. But if they're skilled, you're probably not going to be asking for a touch up, so it may be best to cut your losses and find another barber.
When you go in for a touch up, let the barber or stylist determine the best options. Beware, you might end up with a much different style than you're accustomed to. However, a skilled haircutter will know what's best. On the bright side, fixing a bad haircut may force you into stepping outside your comfort zone and trying something different for a change—which isn't really a bad thing.