Wednesday, October 21, 2009

How to Cut Boys' Hair Like a Pro, Part Two: Clipper Cuts

As moms in need of mercy in all walks of life, when we can find ways of doing things ourselves instead of paying someone else to do them for us, we can save lots of money. Replacing a $10 haircut a month with one at home will save $120 dollars a year--and that's just for one son. How's that for inspiring!

When we talk about cutting our sons' hair ourselves, I find clippers less intimidating and more forgiving than scissors. Stick the guard on (I use a longer one for the top and front, a shorter one for the back and sides), slide it carefully through the hair, blend with scissors, voila--you have a fairly decent haircut. But since my friend Liz is the trained cosmetologist and I am just the amateur, let's go with what she says when it comes to clipper cuts!

Whereas with a scissor cut, you start with damp hair; with a clipper cut, the hair needs to be perfectly dry.
In Liz's professional opinion, using a guard higher than a number four (or a half-inch) is just about worthless. She says the clippers will miss so many hairs that you might as well just use your scissors and follow those angles that we talked about in yesterday's post.

So plug those clippers in, and let's get to work!

As you can see, Liz is starting in the back at the base of the hairline. It may look like there is no guard, but Liz is using a #4 (1/2") snap-on metal blade. This is definitely not for the faint of heart!

Look closely at this picture. You can see that she uses her finger to hold the hair down. This way you won't leave behind any stragglers. She is also "scooping" up with the clippers (like a plane pulling up for take-off) to start putting an angle on the hair for blending.

So we work around the head this way and wind up with that "dog at the groomer's" look. Wonderful, isn't it? Depending on how your son is behaving that day, you could stop there, or do the right thing and finish it. :) Making everything even is the art and science of blending, which comes later.

Once you've clippered the back, you will move on to the sides. The highly trained pro that she is, Liz continues to use a half-inch snap-on metal blade (for safety, I use the plastic guard that came with my $30 Wahl set from Walmart). Remember to tuck the ear down as you cut or clipper around it.

Ok, so we've gotten rid of a lot of hair! Now we move to the front and switch to using scissors. Here Liz is figuring out how much to take off the top so it will blend well with the back and sides. Once that's decided, you will then pull the hair straight up and cut across horizontally to your desired length. These cuts don't have to be perfect.  In a minute, you'll go back through and even everything up.

Do you see all the various hair lengths in this picture? As we talked about yesterday, you always want to include hairs from the last cut you made in the section of hair you are currently cutting so that they function as your guide. You can see that Liz is cutting the hair to match the shortest lengths (from the previous cut she made). She is also angling the hair toward the crown to compensate for my son's cowlick at his crown. Continue to work through the crown this way, using the short hairs as your guide as you pull new sections and cut parallel to the head.

The next step is to blend the sides and back by pulling the hair straight out and cutting it parallel to the shape of the head, as the pictures below illustrate.

Ready to try advanced techniques? Use your clippers to blend the haircut. You will use your comb to pull out the hair and then clipper along the comb. A key for success here is to position the blade of your clipper in the middle of the comb and work up (or over). Move your comb down to get hairs below the mid-point. Otherwise you will end up with tell-tale clipper marks in your haircut.

As the cut becomes more blended, you can see that Liz is using a 45-degree angle toward the neckline to blend the back. Depending on the length of the top, you may need a tighter angle (closer to the head) or a wider angle. Think of putting a pen vertically against the back of the occipital bone. You would want the hair to blend nicely to that line.

If you don't feel comfortable using clippers for blending (I don't!), feel free to use your scissors. Again, Liz is using the 45-degree angle to blend the back, as you can see here.

Now for a few final notes:

When boys are wiggly (when are they not?!), use a firm hold on the hair. This way, if you're holding the section you want to cut tightly enough, your little (or not-so-little) bundle of testosterone can move around like he's on a mechanical bull, and you'll still be able to make a precise cut without cutting him.

Finally, Liz said the biggest mistakes she sees in home haircuts are: 1) leaving the sides too bulky and 2) cutting straight across the neckline (and the forehead too). To remove bulk, you can use your clippers with a guard and follow the techniques we described earlier (using your comb, clippering along it). Here's a few pictures of Liz taking extra hair out of the neckline and sides:

To eliminate the straight-across look at the forehead, here's a picture of "point-cutting" (cutting small points on the ends so it breaks up the horizontal line):

Now that you're armed with hair-cutting know-how, do you feel like you're ready to get to work?

Remember, practice makes perfect! I hope you found these tutorials helpful and that you feel confident enough to give it a try. Think of what you could do with all that money you'll save. Go give it a try!

"I can do all things through Him who strengthens me" --Philippians 4:13

(A special thanks to Liz for the lessons and Laura for the opportunity to guest post at her blog, Heavenly Homemakers)


  1. We need after pics of your boys!

  2. I have to say I am very proud of my daughter, Liz. She really does have a talent at cutting hair! Thanks for sharing her talent! Sandy Keyes

    P.S. You sure have a cute little boy!

  3. Very interesting!

    I have two little boys (only one has hair at the moment! :) and have been thinking about learning how to do this very thing to help us save money later on down the line! I've been growing out my two year old's hair for a little while to get the top to grow out (otherwise it sticks up like Alfalfa's and doesn't respond to hair goop) but he is in dire need of a trim . . . I know we have a set of clippers around here somewhere!

    Thanks for the pictures, they are very informative!