Brush Up On Geometry: Hair Etching

 Ladies and Gentlemen, start your T-liners

Ladies and Gentlemen, start your T-liners

Dust off your compasses and protractors from high school geometry, oil up your edgers, because undercuts have a new twist.  The art of barber-style detailing is moving mainstream.  Ish.  Detailing and Etching is not a foreign concept to the alt client.  More and more conservative lifestyle types are dipping their toes...ok, heads...into the waters of not just buzzing the area below the occipital bone but etching geometric lines into it as well.

Step one: place the undercut.  The Skrillex is less common than five years ago; the nape area has been revived from its heyday in the early 90s.  

Step two: grab a bright colored eyeliner if you need to sketch the design on the freshly buzzed area; head straight for the t-liner if freehand is more your thing.  

Step three: breathe.  Destroy the Hairdresser's words of support for stylists working with Etching is as thus: it's just hair.  It will grow back.  At the same time, consider that this is creating a two dimensional and geometric designs on a three dimensional canvas.  Placement for a really good etching MATTERS.  

Meg Harpe from #harpehair advises to consider the texture and density of the hair.  Fine hair might not allow a specific indentation with the t-liners, so some designs on fine or light hair might not be appropriate. The key to success with etching, Meg says, is making the design look intentional.   Placing a straight line and actually achieving a straight line on a curved area are two different things.  

 Damn you trapezius muscle!

Damn you trapezius muscle!

Step four: WATCH OUT FOR THE OCCIPITAL BONE! Vertical lines placed on or close to that area disappear.  (via #harpehair) Don't defeat yourself before the etching even begins by not taking into account the hairline at the nape and where the undercut should stop.  

Iana Wi of Hearts and Robots Studio in Austin, Texas came out of the womb Etching hair.  She also has over a decade and a half of experience as an artist on a multitude of mediums. Grasping where to place lines, the use of negative and positive space when creating a design, and the proper angle of tools are her keys to Etching success.  

 Commandment #12: know thy difference between parallel and perpendicular.

Commandment #12: know thy difference between parallel and perpendicular.

Meg and Iana prefer a T-blade trimmer for Etching.  In addition, the use of straight tooth combs, traditional barbering combs and clipper (T-blade) over comb techniques to work the hair against the grain in vertical, diagonal or horizontal sweeps to ensure an even undercut and design fading on an area of the head that has more hills and valleys than Napa.  When it comes to Etching, both agree that designs with vertical lines don't translate very well to a human head. 


Step Four and a Half: consider the momentum of the service.  The traditional cycle of shampoo, then cut, then dry, then GTFO may not apply here.  Multiple rinses may be required to re-establish growth patterns out of whack from that yoga bun that's been in for 3 days straight.  Work smart AND hard.

Step Five: Charge more.   

Have you seen a rise in requests for detailed undercuts?  Send us your work at #destroythehairdresser and what you love about this technique for a chance to be featured by DtH.