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Hairpocalypse 2020, Men’s Edition: How to Cut Your Own Hair During Lockdown

A man cutting his own hair with clippers during quarantine.

While everything else might be at a standstill (thank you, coronavirus), your hair is not. If it’s starting to reach cavemanesque lengths, you’re probably tempted to take matters (and some clippers) into your own hands.

Of course, if you can wait until you can get back to your barber, then absolutely do so. Anyone who attempts to cut his own hair always runs the risk of ending up with a lot less of it than he intended. However, if you’re not precious about your locks—and the idea of possibly going full-on Vin Diesel doesn’t appall you—happy buzzing!

On the flip side, if the thought of accidental hairlessness mortifies you, grab yourself a trusty ball cap and wait it out.

A few extra inches of hair never hurt anyone (except that one dude in Bible; just don’t drive your chariot near any low-hanging branches). And, hey, just think, when this is all over, you might be able to finally start that Winger cover band, just like you always wanted to.

What You’ll Need to Cut Your Own Hair

For the more adventurous among you who shall not be deterred, here are few things you’re going to need to cut your own hair:

  • Clippers with guards: The single most important item for men’s haircuts. Look for a set that includes the guards. This set includes a few guards and a set of trimmers. If the only clippers you have belong to Sparky the dog, well, a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do! Just make sure you thoroughly clean those suckers first!
  • Professional shears: No, you shouldn’t cut your hair with office scissors or that plastic pair your kid uses to make collages. You can get a pair of pro-shears for pretty cheap. Like everything else right now, though, you might have to wait a while to get them. However, you’re not limited to Amazon—Walmart, Sally Beauty, and Target all carry them.
  • A styling comb: If you want to leave your hair longer on top, you’ll need one of these to comb each section upward before you trim. It also helps you keep things (relatively) even.
  • A hand mirror: Unless you have an area in which you can see both the front and back of your noggin, you’ll need one of these to see what’s going on back there.
  • Trimmers: You can use these to clean up your hairline (and yes, beard trimmers work just fine).
  • A cape or towel: To protect your clothes and neck from getting covered in itchy hair.
  • A spray bottle: Most DIY haircuts are best done dry to avoid cutting off too much. However, if you prefer to cut wet, you’ll have to mist things down once in a while.

Clipper Tips

Clippers are fairly simple to use, but the following tips will help you out:

  • Start with the largest guard: Most clippers come with eight guards, each of which leaves a different length of hair on your melon. These measurements vary by brand, so just be sure to double-check yours. Generally, Number one leaves 1/8 inch, Number two 1/4 inch, and so on up to number eight, which leaves one inch of hair. The Zero guard is the permanent one attached to your clippers. If you’ve never cut your own hair before, start with the largest guard and work your way down.
  • Attach the guard securely: If it falls off while you’re cutting, you’re now bald there.
  • Cut against the direction in which the hair grows: On the sides and back of your head, the clipper teeth should always be pointing upward as you cut. To cut the hair on top, the teeth should be pointing toward the back of your head.
  • Scoop at the end of each stroke: Hold the blade as close to your head as possible, and then scoop upward as you finish each pass.
  • Using the taper lever: Some clippers have a lever on the side. This allows you to change the closeness of the cut to blend between lengths. Move the lever up for the closest cut, or down for a longer cut.

Obviously, almost all of the haircutting techniques below will be easier if you have an assistant. Choose someone with an artistic eye, if possible (unless they’re really into Picasso, then run away!).

If you’re on your own, though, this is still doable. Just take it slow, and remember, you can always take more off, but you can’t put it back on.

The Standard Gentleman’s Cut

A young man getting a traditional haircut at the barber.

Most men’s hairstyles are some form of the classic Gentleman’s Cut. It’s longer on top, shorter on the sides and back, and usually parted on the side. The only difference is the length, which can vary all over.

This first cut is for guys who prefer more length on top. You’ll need your clippers, guards, shears, and trimmers. In the video below, he’s using a Number four guard, but feel free to start with a five or six. If those are too long, you can always go back over it until you get the length you want. Again, make sure the guard is always securely in place, or you could end up with a bald spot.

After first shaving the sides and back, he trims the top with shears to keep the length. Try to comb and hold your hair straighter and with more tension than he does in the video—it will keep everything more even.

Feel free to vary this cut. If you prefer less length, you can take more off the top or use a shorter guard on the sides and back.

Afterward, you can clean up your hairline with your trimmers (be extra careful in the back, though—that’s where you’ll really need that hand mirror).


Man getting his hair faded by a barber using clippers.

Fades are a bit more complicated than a Gents Cut. With these styles, the hair is longer on top and gradually gets shorter as you move down the head. How short you want to start with and “fade” into is totally up to you.

There are many different types of fades, but, at some point, they usually “fade” to skin on the sides and in the back. The only difference is where you want that bare section to start.

The classic crew cut is a fade. If you prefer the military look, want to go ultrashort for summer, or just want something less likely to grow back before you can get to the barber again, check out the video below.

If you wanna leave a bit more fuzz on the peach, the tutorial below is probably more your speed.

Either way, when it comes to doing fades, you want to take it slow and steady. Like with all haircuts, you can take a little more off but you can’t put it back.

Buzz Cut

A man giving himself a buzz cut with a pair of clippers.

For quick and easy, you can put one of those guards on your clippers, and buzz all that hair off to one length. After all, no one’s going to be going anywhere for a while. Does it really matter if your haircut’s not the most stylish or complicated at the moment? Nope!

Over at the danz beard channel, you’ll find several haircut tutorials (and at-home workout suggestions—bonus!).

The video below gives you an idea of what it would look like if you buzzed off your hair with each of the clipper guards (he bravely demonstrates each one). Figure out which length you like best, and then buzz like a bee!

We focused on easier cuts here, but if you want to try something more complicated, the internet is your oyster! YouTube has tons of videos (with more being added daily) that will show you how to do just about any haircut you’re brave enough to attempt.

If not, one of these simpler cuts should get you through the current craziness. If the thought of what you might look like after a DIY a haircut is only giving you more anxiety, though, just let it grow. Your barber will thank you!

Are you rocking hair that’s too long to take the clippers to? We covered how to trim longer lengths in the Ladies’ Edition of Hairpocalypse 2020, so take a peek over there if you have long, luscious locks.

Amanda Gambill Amanda Gambill
Amanda is the Managing Editor for LifeSavvy. She’s been writing and editing professionally since 2004. In her spare time, Amanda reads stuff no one else does (classics and historical bios), watches documentaries that put others to sleep (ancient cookware archaeologists found under a McDonald's), and writes stories about things that go bump in the night. Read Full Bio »
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