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This article provides a step-by-step guide on how to cut hair with clippers, resulting in a professional-looking, stylish finish.
With a little practice, you’ll be an expert at using hair clippers in no time!
The way you cut someone else’s hair with clippers is actually fairly similar to cutting your own hair.
Cutting hair with clippers is a skill that’s very much worth pursuing.
Once you become proficient you’ll save yourself a ton of money and time.
The good news is it’s not half as difficult as you might think.
In This Guide..
Tools You Need To Cut Hair With Clippers
Good Quality, Mid-Range Clippers
If you haven’t yet bought your clippers or are thinking of investing in a new pair, I recommend you read my reviews of the best hair clippers currently available.
There is a vast range to choose from depending on your skill level, budget, and what style of cut you want to achieve.
In my opinion, the best hair clippers for beginners or home use, are the Wahl Elite Pro High Performance Haircut Kit.
These clippers are ideal for beginners who want to trim hair, in the style of a buzz cut, crew cut, or textured cut.
They are robust, have self-sharpening blades, come with a set of premium-grade guide combs, and have all the accessories you need to cut hair at home with clippers.
The Magic Clip is an all-rounder that produces an excellent finish with its stagger-tooth blade technology, whereas the Wahl Senior has a more robust motor to slice through thicker more coarse hair.
If your budget allows, I’d go for the Wahl Magic Clip or the Wahl Senior.
Remember – these clippers are an investment that will pay for themselves many times over.
Get the best clippers you can afford from the start.
Don’t bother trying to cut hair with clippers using cheap models and cheap foreign imports.
They almost always will let you down, stop working, or worse – nick your head and neck.
Often the mechanical and electrical parts do not conform to our standards, and getting replacement parts is often impossible.
Stick with established brands you know and trust that have 12 months (or longer) warranties.
A good quality pair of hair clippers is an investment that will pay for itself in just a few months if you intend to cut your own hair or someone else’s.
You should definitely invest in a good pair of hair scissors.
Good quality hair scissors are a ‘must’ and are an investment you shouldn’t scrimp on.
They’ll make the whole process easier and give a far more professional finish.
These Equinox Professional Shears are the number one hair cutting scissors on Amazon right now, with over 25,000 positive reviews!
The Equinox hair scissors are razor-sharp, making cutting a breeze.
If the pros use them, they must be good, right?
You need good quality hair scissors, even if you’re only going to use them every now and again.
There’s nothing worse than trying to cut hair with blunt or poorly designed scissors.
You’ll need a comb to act as a guide and to help keep a level cut.
Believe it or not, this Kent hand-made comb has got a thousand+ positive reviews on Amazon!
Who would have thought.. just for a comb?!
Well, my friend, these aren’t just combs, no sir..
..These are hand-made, very strong, rounded teeth for comfort, KENT combs!
It’s going to last you for.. what?.. ever. (unless you lose it) So you may as well buy a decent one.
Hair Salon Cape
A salon cape or similar is a must if your cutting hair in your home.
As well as keeping hair off clothing, it also keeps it off chairs and towels etc.
It’ll last for years..so just get one!
Can’t wait for your salon cape?
Use a large garbage can liner.
Simply cut a hole at the end and place it over the head. It’s not pretty, but it works!
Before You Start
Before you learn how to cut men’s hair with clippers (or ladies, boys, girls – you get the idea), you need to start off right.
Make sure the hair is clean and washed before you start to cut.
Clean hair makes it easier and smoother to cut.
If you try and plow through hair that has a ton of product in it or cut greasy hair, the clippers can become blocked and start grabbing at the hair instead of slicing through it.
Clean hair also makes it much easier to see any areas you’ve missed.
Hair should be dry, or just slightly damp before you cut it, as wet hair lays differently to dry hair.
6 Steps For Cutting Hair With Clippers
Have everything you need before you start – clipper, comb, cape, brush, vacuum, neck shaver, and any lotions you might want to use afterward.
Have the correct attachments you’ll need for the desired length(s).
A popular clipper cut is the 3-2-1 method.
A number 3 on top, 2 at the sides, and 1 around the ears and lower neck.
I tend to go with a 4-2-1 grade haircut, just so I’ve got a little more on top to play around with.
Here are the numbers and guard sizes (lengths):
- Number 1 – 1/8th of an inch
- Number 2 – 1/4 of an inch
- Number 3 – 3/8th’s of an inch
- Number 4 – 1/2 of an inch
- Number 5 – 5/8th’s of an inch
- Number 6 – 3/4 of an inch
- Number 7 – 7-8th’s of an inch
- Number 8 – 1 inch
Remember, you can always cut shorter if at first, it’s still too long… you can’t add it back once you’ve cut it!
Ideally, the person who is receiving the cut should be sat in a comfortable chair with a towel or cape around their neck to keep clothing from getting covered in hair.
If you’re in your home you might want to put a plastic sheet down to catch the hair and then you can shake it off outside when you’re done.
A vacuum cleaner is always a good idea to have nearby.
I like to clean up as I go along with a handheld vac.
Try and position yourself so that you’re not going to be hunched over for long periods. This might mean raising the person using a pillow or a higher chair.
Ensure you have the correct comb attachment for the desired length.
Some people start with the lowest attachment and work up to the highest.
For a beginner learning how to use clippers to cut hair at home, I think it’s easier to start with the highest guard setting and work down.
My cutting preference at the moment is a no.4 on top, a 2 on the sides, and a no.1 around the ears and lower neck.
The ideal starting point to cut hair with clippers is from the base of the head, and work up towards the top.
Tilt the head forward slightly and rest the clippers on the back of the head.
Turn on the clippers and apply firm pressure and start moving up towards the top.
You should have a firm grip on the clipper – you don’t want to drop it and damage it.
Do the same from the back and sides, all the way over the top of the head.
For the top of the head, start at the front of the head (the forehead) and work from the hairline backward towards the top and then back of the head.
Continue until the desired length and an even finish has been achieved.
Basically, you’re starting off by cutting all of the hair with the highest guard length.
You don’t need to worry about detail or length.
Work against the direction of the hair for a more efficient and even cut.
You can use a comb to run through the hair ensuring an even finish and check for any areas you may have missed.
You should now have a number (whatever you choose) all over.
If the hair is short enough, you could stop there.
Congratulations, you’ve just created a buzz-cut!
However, you might prefer your hair cut to be a little longer on top and shorter around the sides and ears.
This is called blending the hair.
If so, you’ll need to change your guide comb to get a shorter length at the sides and back.
Whatever length you used first go down 1 or 2 guard sizes.
It’s all about finding your preferred blend and transition from the sides to the top.
If it’s your first time, err on the side of caution and just use 1 numbered comb down from the highest comb setting you used at the start.
If that is still too long, drop-down another size.
Start at the sides or back of the neck – it really doesn’t matter.
Now you only want to cut the hair up to where the bone line sticks out slightly around the side of the head – known as the parietal ridge.
Use your fingers if you like to feel the ridge that runs along the side of the head.
That’s your guide.
With the clippers on, run them up until you hit that ridge, and then slightly use a scooping action to scoop the clippers outward and away from the head.
This action gives the haircut a better blend.
Do this around the sides and back.
You’ll need to pull the ears down to ensure you get the clipper around and behind the ears.
Keep going until you’re happy with the length and you’ve cut all the hair evenly.
You should be able to see a decent-looking haircut now.
Now to sharpen up around the ears and base of the neck.
The area just around the ears can be a little tricky, especially if you take your guide comb down to a no.1.
I like to start at my sideburns and slowly work up around the ears.
You should aim to trim about an inch up from the base of the neckline, all the way to the side of your ears.
Keep using the outward scooping motion with the clippers as you get to the finishing point.
You should now use your hair trimmer to trim the hairline as necessary i.e. forehead, neck, and sides of the ears so that the haircut looks smart, even, and symmetrical.
Clean up stray hairs on the back of the neck beyond the hairline using the clippers without an attachment. The bare edge is very sharp, so be careful and work slowly.
Now stand back and examine the whole head and comb the hair through, to ensure there aren’t any stray hairs you’ve missed, and go over them again. (Just remember what length guide comb to attach).
I would actually recommend doing this throughout the cut, especially when you’re first learning.
The more you cut hair at home with clippers, the easier and faster it becomes.
Voila! Your clipper-cut is complete, to the exact way you like it, and you’ve just saved yourself $10-$50 or so.
Here’s a good video showing you how easy it is to use clippers to cut hair:
How To Cut Men’s Hair With Clippers For Beginners
Here’s A Step By Step Men’s Haircut With Clippers:
Although this is an old video, you can see it’s pretty straightforward to do, but results in a good-looking cut/style.
Once you’ve cut hair using clippers a few times you’ll be much faster and more confident.
Afterwhich you might think about creating tighter fades for a more contemporary look.
Q. Is it better to towel dry my hair or blow dry it before cutting it with hair clippers?
A. Either option is okay, but blow drying helps give the hair volume which makes it easier to cut.
Q. Do I need to use scissors at all?
A. No, if you’re doing a basic buzz cut or a 3-2-1 cut, there’s no need for scissors. Scissors are good if you want to keep the hair longer on top and perhaps chop into it, giving it a textured or messy look.
Q. Using hair clippers for the first time. What clippers do you suggest?
A. I’m a firm believer that everyone can master the art of cutting hair with clippers. For that reason, you should invest in one of the better ones, like the clippers I’ve mentioned in this article. It won’t take you long to get the hang of them and they’ll last you a long time.
Q. Clipper lever up or down?
A. For a basic cut, leave the leaver in the fully up position which gives the closest cut. With the leaver down it acts as a half guide longer, so will cut slightly shorter. You can start experimenting with the lever when you start to become familiar with the clipper and you want to blend or fade with more precision.
Q. Can you cut wet hair with clippers?
A. Some of the powerful clippers like the Wahl Senior Cordless can handle cutting wet hair. They have heavy-duty motors that make it easy. However, you should dry your hair so it’s just slightly damp for best results, especially if you’re cutting hair as a beginner.
Q. What’s the difference between hair clippers and hair trimmers?
A. Although the two are often used in the same context, hair clippers are used to cut the bulk of the hair, whereas hair trimmers are used for more detailed work like edging, outlining, shaving, and trimming the areas around the ears and nape of the neck.
Other HairStyles You Could Try
As well as the basic one-length cut as described above, you can also use your clippers to produce more technical styles and looks.
For example, you can fade hair so that it is gradually increased or decreased.
This is achieved using the same procedure but changing the guard attachment for different lengths.
Lots of other looks can be achieved, and with a little practice, you will be competent at completing them.
Wahl has some excellent video tutorials of various men’s haircuts, all with the use of hair clippers.
The price of purchasing a good pair of professional hair clippers will be quickly outweighed by the money you will save by cutting hair at home.
With care and attention to detail, you can learn to cut hair with clippers and produce results that are every bit as good as a barber or hair salon.
The best piece of advice I can give you is to invest in the best pair of hair clippers you can afford (for the job you intend to do).
They will make it easier to cut, and give a professional finish..and they will last you for years.
If you have any questions or comments about how to cut hair with clippers, drop them below.
- Best Hair Clippers For Men
- Wahl Elite Pro High-Performance Haircut Kit Review
- Wahl Senior Cordless Review
- Wahl Magic Clip Cordless Review