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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Making the Cut

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???????: haircut, or the male expat ordeal

Apparently many of Moscow's male expats are having a perpetual bad hair day. They go to the barber, sit in the chair, watch their locks falls to the floor, and walk out looking like a recruit -- or worse, like a guy named Bobo with brass knuckles in his pocket and a knack for breaking kneecaps.

My Russian male informants were not very helpful. One said his sole communication with the barber consists of the word: ????????????! (Hello!). Another began to pull at his hair and said, ? ???????? ?? ??????? ? ??????: "???... ? ???... ? ???..." (I explain with my hands and say: "Like this... and this... and this"). Thank heaven their barbers' skills include clairvoyance.

When you go to a ?????????????? (barber shop) or, in these days of unisex hair salons, ????? ??????? (beauty salon), the first thing the ?????????? (barber, hair stylist) will do is lead you to the sink: ??????? ?????? ?????? (First we'll wash your hair, literally "your head"). Tell the barber when you last got a haircut, so he can figure out what the cut originally looked like. ? ????????? ???? ?????? ?????. (I got my hair cut five weeks ago). If you just want a trim, you can say: ?????? ??????????? ??????. (Just even it out). Or: ??????????, ??????????, ?? ???? ?????????. (Take off one centimeter). Men, pay attention: Here the key word is the preposition ?? (by). Don't say ?? ?????? ?????????? (down to one centimeter) unless you want an induction cut (the Bobo the Thug look).

You might say: ?????????? ?????? ?????? ?????????, ? ? ????? ????????. (Leave the hair longer on top and shorter on the sides). You can also say: ? ???? ?????? ???????/?????? (I wear my hair parted on the right/left). Or: ?????????? ????? ?????????. (Leave the bangs longer). The barber might ask: ????? ?????? ?????? ??? ?????? (Do you want the hair at the temples cut straight or at a diagonal?) -- although I gather the diagonal look is definitely out these days. Or: ??????? ???? (Do you want the hair cut around your ears, literally "to open up your ears").

If you don't want to look like a conscript, keep those ears open for the phrase ?????? ?? ???. This means tapering down to zero length with clippers. If you want tapering, but not too short, say: ???????? ????????, ?? ?? ????? ???????. (Use the clippers, but don't cut it too short). If you want some hair at the back of your head, say: ?????????? ??????, ?? ? ??????????. (Cut it shorter, but with a shaped line at the back).

If you have really thick hair (?????? ??????), you might say: ???????? ????? (literally, "take away some of the volume"). Or, if you want to impress your barber, say: ???????????, ??????????, ?????? ?????? (Thin out the top).

Apparently, names of styles are passe these days, but you might try asking for ???????????? ??????? (a classic cut, similar to what is called the businessman's cut in the United States). If you want a buzz cut, ask for ???? (literally "a hedgehog"). Or, if you want one side longer than the other, ask for ????????????? ??????? (literally "an asymmetrical cut").

After the haircut, in good salons you'll once again hear: ??????? ??? ??? ?????? ??????. (Let's wash your hair again). Then comes ????? (blow-drying) and ??????? -- (styling). For men this is usually done ?????? (by fingering it into place, literally "with my hands"), but sometimes just ????? (blow-dried). If you've managed to keep some hair, your stylist might ask: ?????????? ?????? ??? ?????? (Should I style it with mousse or gel?). If this idea makes you sick, cheerfully say: ?????! (With nothing at all!).

Then look in the mirror and say: ???????! ?????? ? ????????? ??? -- ?????????! (Looks great! Only next time -- leave it longer!).

Michele A. Berdy is a Moscow-based translator and interpreter.