Am I crazy to try cutting my own hair?
May 2, 2012 1:16 PM   Subscribe

My haircut is always short and simple. I saw this on Amazon and started wondering "Why don't I cut it myself?" Are you a guy with short hair who cuts it yourself? What would I need to know?

The last few times I went for a haircut, the same guy did it the exact same way. I remember him saying "#2 on the sides and #3 on top." How hard would it be for me to do it myself using clippers (and scissors for a bit of touch-up on the front if needed)? I prefer to keep my hair cut short

Would that Wahl do the job, or should I be looking for something else?

What do I need to know before buying and trying this?
posted by Mr Ected to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (36 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
I have a different model Wahl, and it is easy to do short cuts well with it. I'm mostly a #3, #4, #5 type myself, and I think that length (especially the transitions) can be tricker, but when I was at #2, #3 it was dead easy.
posted by zippy at 1:20 PM on May 2, 2012

I'm a guy who does his own hair and it's dead easy.

Apart from the fact that doing my neck seems curiously difficult to do thoroughly.

Just go for it.
posted by MuffinMan at 1:20 PM on May 2, 2012

Especially the first few times, as you get to know the bumps and currents of your head, take a shower and get someone to check for missed/partially gotten spots. I've gone out of the house looking slightly mangy more than once.
posted by cmoj at 1:22 PM on May 2, 2012 [9 favorites]

I have no skills and cut my husband's hair each month with something way simpler than that kit. He's done it himself when I wasn't around, too. Super easy.
posted by something something at 1:23 PM on May 2, 2012

My husband does his own hair with electric clippers. Only issues he has are getting his neck close enough and that one unruly cowlick on his crown - I always have to go back and touch those spots up for him.
posted by rhapsodie at 1:25 PM on May 2, 2012

Best answer: After years of paying for haircuts, I bought a similar set about 8 months ago and have done my own* 5 or 6 times. It's pretty easy.

(*My lovely wife cleans up my neck for me sometimes.)

Some tips:

-I have a tri-fold mirror on my medicine cabinet, which helps me to see the sides and back easily.

-Take your time.

-Start with a longer cut than you think you want. I went too short on top once, and although it wasn't the end of the world, my wife giggled at me for a couple weeks, saying she didn't know she married a marine.

-The tapered "over the ear" guides actually work great for blending from the short sides to the longer top.
posted by The Deej at 1:29 PM on May 2, 2012

I bought a pair of electric Wahl clippers for $34.99 at Honest Ed's at the corner of Bathurst and Bloor in Toronto. In 1995.

I haven't paid for a haircut since then.

I've also upgraded to full-bore head-shaving since then, too – the Headblade is fantastic – but if you've got some tolerance for occasionally sporting a reeeeal close crew cut, go for it. The worst that can happen is that you get #2 all over instead of #2 all over and #3 on top, right?
posted by Shepherd at 1:31 PM on May 2, 2012

Yeah i would say the "fade" might be the hardest part, especially in the back. Why not go all #2 or all #3. Also check out the Oster Classic '76, yes its expensive but thats the one the pro's use and it will last you the rest of your life.
posted by Busmick at 1:40 PM on May 2, 2012

Best answer: Oh also it gets messy...I stand in the tub (or shower and obviously dry) and cut my hair. Then vacuum up. Otherwise its not rocket science.
posted by Busmick at 1:43 PM on May 2, 2012

I have that kit on Amazon, and it's great. No more paying for haircuts.
posted by santaliqueur at 1:49 PM on May 2, 2012

Response by poster: Busmick, believe it or not, practical tips like that are quite helpful. Thanks!

The place I normally get my hair cut at boosted their prices to $23 this month. Plus the tip leaves me spending close to $30. Every month, that adds up. I know, I know, I'd probably just spend the $30 on something frivolous like beer anyway, but I'd rather spend the $30 on something frivolous (and TASTY) like beer.
posted by Mr Ected at 1:53 PM on May 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

I use my dogs' clippers--more heavy-duty version of the same thing, usually outside while shaving dogs. I'm #2 all over.
posted by tippiedog at 2:15 PM on May 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

Yep, nthing that its no big deal. I usually need help with the back of the neck stuff and a once over too. Also, I've never understood how to use the around the ear trimmers, so someone to trim the stray hairs around your ears are is nice too.
posted by jourman2 at 2:16 PM on May 2, 2012

I have a Wahl, though not 100% sure it's the same model. I do get my roommate to help make sure the back looks ok from time to time, but I totally agree, it's not hard, it eliminates the barrier between wanting and getting a haircut, and it has more than paid for itself.

(Bonus: workplace allowing, you can also give yourself a mohawk pretty easily if you ever get bored.)
posted by en forme de poire at 2:22 PM on May 2, 2012

Response by poster: Hmmm... I hate that they make a ton of different versions that are all the same-sh.
posted by Mr Ected at 2:46 PM on May 2, 2012

I cut my hair for a year and a half. Just stopped. It was a pain to keep finding people to help me with the back, and I'm on the job market right now so I didn't want to take any risks.

But for the most part it worked pretty well. The best tip was one from my roommate: when trying to look at the back of your head, look in the small mirror at the big mirror (instead of looking in the big one at the small one). I felt really dumb when I realized how much better that worked.
posted by ropeladder at 2:49 PM on May 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I do my hair with a set of clippers about once a fortnight. It's really easy once you get the hang of it.

I generally do it with my eyes closed. I've tried to do it looking in a mirror, but I just end up trying to cut my reflection's hair rather than my own. Closing my eyes means I have to do it by touch, which is much easier when you get the hang of it. I can "feel" where I've been on my scalp, then run my fingers thorough to feel for longer bits.

Doing it once a fortnight means that if I do miss a few hairs, it doesn't stand out as much.
posted by Solomon at 3:09 PM on May 2, 2012

One thing I found that helps make it look good is to attack the hair from a slightly oblique angle. Instead of running it just up the grain, I twist the clippers so they are a few degrees offset from the grain and move the clippers straight up the grain. This lets the comb portion of the blade lift the hair straight up. I find that I get a much more consistent cut that way.

I use a #2 all over, and I do find that it doesn't do a great job on the neck scruff. If I don't clean it up once a week, it gets ugly. I don't really have a better solution for this, unless you can find a helper to clean up your neck for you.
posted by gjc at 3:10 PM on May 2, 2012

What I do to keep hair from going everywhere is spread a newspaper on the ground and kneel over it, with my head angled down. Then the cut hairs come straight off my head and fall onto the newspaper, not onto my chest, back, neck, and shoulders. Then I just roll up the newspaper and toss it out. No cleaning up a tub or sink full of hairs. I also have trouble getting my neck to look nice because the hair there is wispy and can go in any direction, so I sometimes just shave it into a nice line with a safety razor. And don't forget to do behind your ears, which is easy if you just fold your ear down.
I have Wahl clippers, basically like the ones you linked to and they've been going just fine for about ten years.
posted by starfishprime at 5:08 PM on May 2, 2012

Just as a voice of opposition - Mr. Arnicae got his hair done for years at SuperCuts/FantasticSams/$10+Tip places. He doesn't like it when his hair grows out (hair prickling his ears, neck, etc.) and looks goofy when his hair is super short.

I talked him into going to my stylist two years ago, who charges him $45. He loves his hair, is able to tolerate longer periods (like, 4 weeks rather than 2 weeks) between haircuts, and never, ever comes home from the salon looking like, well, like he cut his hair himself.

YMMV, but I'd try it and take pictures of the $23 haircut aftermath and one or two (or even three, if this takes practice) attempts to DIY. Solicit input from partner/family/friends and ask for candid input. Though it is certainly a luxury, I think the money my partner spends annually on haircuts is well worth it for the professional (and attractive) look that results.
posted by arnicae at 5:08 PM on May 2, 2012

My number one rule about buying hair cutting equipment is that it must be power-able from a cord. That is, it's pretty bad when some battery-powered trimmer runs out of juice half way through a job.

Also, as you've read earlier, the hard part is the neck. I gave up doing this because I never had a good neck solution.
posted by ifandonlyif at 5:19 PM on May 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

My husband does his own hair, but gets me to check it afterwards, and there is ALWAYS a place he has missed. You might be able to get around this if you have several mirrors and can angle them so you can get a good view of your whole head, but otherwise I think you'll need to be able to check in with someone.
posted by lollusc at 5:27 PM on May 2, 2012

I let my hair grow out and get it cut in a shop in the Winter, cut it short myself with clippers at home in Summer. It’s really easy if you go with one length. I haven’t attempted a different lengths. The shorter you go, the easier it is to get it to look right at one length, but the shorter it is the more you have to make sure you’ve got it even all around. I get my wife to trim around the ears, the only part I have to have help with.
posted by bongo_x at 6:45 PM on May 2, 2012

I have been cutting my own hair for probably twenty plus years now with the same clipper set. I got away with an all over 3/16" or 1/2" buzz cut but that doesnt look so good on me now that I am a little older. My last cut I tried something new and it wound up looking great.
My hair had grown to about 3" in length and I wanted to clean it up but leave it looking curly on top. I parted a line all the way around my hair about halfway between the tops of my ears and where my head begins to curve way to the top. I hairsprayed the hair above the part to keep it out of the way. Everything below got a straight 3/8" buzz.
I held my hand and fingers along the part as a guide for the clippers and to prevent trimming into the longer top. A layered cut but only two lengths. The longer shaggy hair hangs down over the transition and hides any mistakes getting the line perfect.
I have had more compliments on this haircut than any I have ever self inflicted before.
Go for it dude!
posted by No Shmoobles at 8:00 PM on May 2, 2012

I cut my hair myself with a #2 all over. Like everyone else, I can't get the neckline, so my wife cleans that up for me. In order to make sure I don't miss anything, I run the clippers over every part of my head in all four directions. Seems to make for a nice even cut.
posted by Jacob G at 8:18 PM on May 2, 2012

Response by poster: I've decided to go for it, so I bought the clippers on Amazon. I'll give it a shot and see how alternating between giving myself a haircut one time and going for a cut the next goes. With a camera, it'll be easy to take pictures after each to see if there's really a difference. If I only skip two haircuts this year at the shop I go to, this will have been a free experiment. And if it works out long term, then that's great!

A #3 all over might do the trick, but I may try a #2 sometime this summer when it's hot. Worst case scenario, I cut it too short and, oh well, it'll grow back.
posted by Mr Ected at 9:00 PM on May 2, 2012

I have a similar kit. Beware of the thing that I think is called the "ear guard" - not the left and right angled tapers but the blade guard that has a pointy thing on each side. I'm not sure what it's supposed to do, but trying to use it in the manner shown in the booklet that came with my kit led to strange-looking bald-ish spots above my ears.
posted by needs more cowbell at 9:13 PM on May 2, 2012

I did this for years but have since started paying for haircuts again.

It's easier if you just go for one length all over because you can just sort of run your hand lightly over your head to feel the bits which you've missed. My best solution for mess was to do it on a varnished wooden floor (where the mirror luckily was) and then sweep/hoover up immediately afterwards. You do really need another person to do the neck and I found round the ears to be a bit difficult too.

Basically, you can totally do it and it will save tons of money but it won't look quite as good as having your hair cut by a professional.
posted by neilb449 at 11:38 PM on May 2, 2012

Girl here. I'm a lesbian who sports a short cut most of the time and I've had a trimmer kit since about 1995. I found myself in LA for a work thing a couple years ago and realized how shaggy I was. I stopped into a Santa Monica salon and had an amazing cut. Made me realize there really was a difference.

Fast forward two months and I'm back home in Denver and I'm looking for a salon to get a trim. I even have a good pic of the cut. No dice. Horrible experience. I give it one more shot a couple months later. Almost ok, but not quite.

I've been doing my hair again since and I'm pretty happy with it.

Hope you have as much success.
posted by FlamingBore at 11:47 PM on May 2, 2012

FlamingBore and others hit on something I discovered after clipping my own hair for about a year - a pro haircut at a barber/salon just lasts longer. They taper the edges, give the werewolf sections of the back of my neck a thorough clip with the Peanut (or better yet, hot lather shave!), and make sure the sideburns are even and a proper length.

(Plus I have a bumpy skull that seems to invite missed spots on a DIY cut, but that's me.)

If you keep up with it frequently, you can take care of these things yourself. But a #2 clip by a pro with good attention to detail lasts a week or two longer than a #2 home job.

So but then a few months ago I found a good old-skool barber shop - all dudes, barber pole out front, clearly NOT a salon - with good colorful banter, a hot-lather straight-razor neck and sideburn trim, and a massage from that vibratey thing they strap to the back of their hand. Best $20 I spend on myself all month.
posted by OHSnap at 12:33 AM on May 3, 2012

Male. I've been cutting my own medium length hair with common scissors for a number of years. The length of my hair is too long for clippers and Wahl-type machines. The first time was a real learning experience and it took me over a half hour, but it came out OK. Now it takes me about 15 minutes. I usually do a follow up trim over the next couple of days which just takes a minute. It's very satisfying to cut my own hair!
posted by rmmcclay at 1:19 AM on May 3, 2012

I have been doing this for years with hair of varying lengths and I have this to add: I neaten up the front and around the ears with scissors and I use the clippers without an attachment and the other way around (so the blades are perpendicular to the skin) to keep the hairline at the back neat. and ropeladder is very right about mirrors and the back of one's head. I, too, wish I had figured that out sooner.
posted by spindle at 11:41 AM on May 3, 2012

Response by poster: The comment about needing to keep up with it frequently really hits home here. I tend to put off getting a haircut because it costs close to $30 after the tip, plus the 20 minute to half hour wait. I put it off. I find myself thinking "I can put it off for a few more days, right? And I do. The haircut I got a few days ago - the one that inspired this question - was my first in 7 weeks. I SHOULDN'T LET IT GO THAT LONG!

I'm happier with short hair, especially since I'm in my late 30s but have a babyface. With short hair, I look so much younger. And I like that. If it weren't for the waste of money, I'd get a haircut every three weeks.

If this works, I'll probably get into the habit of doing it myself every 2 to 3 weeks.
posted by Mr Ected at 1:59 PM on May 3, 2012

Been cutting my own hair for about 15 years. I use a 9mm clipper attachment for the whole head, then I go around the edges, ears, and front with a 6mm, then again around the very edge of that with a 3mm--then finish the neck with no attachment at all (my wife helps with that last part these days, but I did okay by myself before).

I do it in front of a mirror and vacuum up afterwards. I look like a hundred dollars.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 11:56 PM on May 3, 2012

also, neck fuzz is a problem to be reckoned with. I've taken to shaving the back of my neck when I am shaving my face to keep neck fuzz under control. but I also don't cut my hair at all regularly. keep an eye on the back of your neck and remember to do something about that too.
posted by spindle at 8:54 AM on May 8, 2012

Response by poster: It's time to post a follow up with lessons learned after trying this for the first time today.

I should have gone for one last haircut before trying it myself so that I could have taken a billion pictures afterward. It would be easier to see how I did (especially with the back) if I had something to compare it to.

The Deej said: "Start with a longer cut than you think you want."

YES! I knew going into it that I've been happy getting a #3 on top, #2 on the sides. I almost began with a #3 since I figured I knew what I wanted. Well, I'm glad I started with a #4. It ended up being shorter than I expected, but that's fine.

Busmick said: "Oh also it gets messy..."

YOU'RE NOT KIDDING!!! Yes, it sure did!

Solomon said: "I generally do it with my eyes closed. I've tried to do it looking in a mirror, but I just end up trying to cut my reflection's hair rather than my own. Closing my eyes means I have to do it by touch, which is much easier when you get the hang of it. I can "feel" where I've been on my scalp, then run my fingers thorough to feel for longer bits."

THIS! Ohmygod, this. Best piece of advice. When I first read that, I thought "Really?" Well, let me tell you, Solomon is 100% right. I was really struggling with the clippers and getting very frustrated. Finally, I said "Oh, to hell with it." I remembered his piece of advice, so, I closed my eyes and started following the curves of my head. Things quickly (and I do mean quickly) improved. Obviously, the mirror is needed for touchups, but for most of the haircut, I ignored the mirror and just felt the clippers going over my whole head.
posted by Mr Ected at 2:54 PM on May 13, 2012 [4 favorites]

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