I was recently asked by a cosmetology student to help him with a subject that he found very
confusing when he talked with others about cutting hair: Elevation and angles. He wasn’t alone. I’d been asked similar questions by lots
of different people who were cutting hair either as amateurs cutting family member’s hair, or new students who seemed confused by things
that they had read.
So, in an effort to clear things up, I thought I would take the time to explain some of the
basic terms of hair cutting and how cosmetologists use these terms to ensure that we can all know precisely what is done in order to
duplicate a given hair cut. Elevation and Angle are keystones in the techniques and methods used for cutting hair.
This is what they mean and how they work:
With everything in our world, gravity has its pull. If you hold a piece of string it will hang
down, the end pointing in the direction of the ground. Even if you hold the string so that it emerges from between your fingers and
starts pointing upward, the length and weight of the string will cause the end to point down. Hair behaves the same way - more or less.
Depending on the texture, length and wave pattern of the hair it will ultimately find its way to having the ends point downward. For
some hair types, particularly coarse and kinky hair types, this might require a great deal more length than the hair can achieve.
It is because of this gravitational pull that we use elevation as a facet of cutting hair. The
degrees of elevation are constant, regardless of the position of the hair on the head. The Elevation points are simple: Zero degrees of
elevation is hanging so that the ends point to the floor; ninety degree of elevation means the hair is held so that ends are pointing
to the side, parallel to the floor; and 180-degree elevation means the hair is held straight up pointing toward the ceiling.
So, a hair, whether it is growing on the center of the top of your head or on the side of your
head in front of the ear, when allowed to hang down so that its end points to the floor, is considered to be at zero elevation.
Subsequently, anytime the hair is combed out and held to point to the sides, parallel to the floor, it is said to be held at ninety
degrees of elevation, and any hair that is held so that the ends point straight up overhead, regardless of its point of origin, is said to be held at 180-degree elevation.
The other facet of haircutting that many people get confused over is Angle, and when a stylist
speaks about angle in haircutting, he or she is referring to the position of the scissors in his or her hand in relationship to something
else, usually the floor. For some people these concepts come naturally. They can look at a haircut and “see” the positioning, angles,
and elevations needed to create the cut. For others, it takes more time to learn the way these different positions interact and affect the outcome of the cut.