All men love a trip to the barber. Okay, most men. The exceptions are probably bald guys and people with tonsurephobia (that’s the fear of getting a haircut – see, you learn stuff when you come here). For everyone else, there’s nothing better than a fresh trim to get you feeling your best, but sadly, in this rocky financial climate, the weekly ritual is something many of have to, er, fade out.
Yes, unless you’re an Oligarch, or a Premier League footballer, chances are a weekly £30 touch-up is more than a tad over budget. But by investing money in your own set of hair clippers, you can keep your lid in check – especially if you rock a short hairstyle – without so much as leaving the house, or even putting your trousers on.
And for guys who are receding and have decided to do what Statham does and shave their heads, buy a good set of clippers and you’ll never have to spend money at a barbershop again.
Cutting your own mop may seem like a bit of a daunting prospect, but then so is driving a car or filling out a tax form to someone who hasn’t done it before. Plus, you’re far less likely to cause a 10 car pile-up on the M1 while learning use a set of clippers.
That said, actually buying a set of clippers can be just about as confusing as picking out a new set of wheels.
As a first-time buyer, you’ll no doubt have countless questions: What does that little lever on the side actually do and do I really need it? What possible reason can there be for this costing £150? What the hell is a universal rotary motor?
Fear not, sit back and we’ll school you in the basics and show you barber-grade hair clippers you can use for a stylish at-home buzz cut.
Buying Hair Clippers: What To Look For
Mains vs. Battery
The choice between mains-powered clippers and cordless clippers really just comes down to personal preference. If you travel a lot and need to trim your hair on the move, cordless is without a doubt the best way to go.
However, if you need maximum power and expect to have your clippers running for long periods of time, it’s worth thinking about a mains-powered option.
For the most part, the cutting blades on hair clippers are made from stainless steel, which is absolutely fine for casual use. A lot of professional barbers prefer ceramic blades, as they don’t heat up as much during continued sessions, but as long as you’re just planning to give yourself a trim every week or so, and you don’t have thick, wiry hair all over your body, that won’t be an issue.
Unless you’re deliberately aiming for that same-length-all-over, tennis ball vibe, you’re going to need some guards (some call them combs) to vary your cutting length. Luckily, the vast majority of clippers will come with a set included.
“[Guards] work as an attachment for clippers that you fix on top of the cutters in order to achieve different lengths on a designated area of hair,” explains Murdock Covent Garden’s senior barber, Joe Pomper.
These clip-on combs are numbered and each number equates to a different cutting length. The lowest numbers will leave the least amount hair and the highest numbers leave the most. Cutting lengths generally range between 0.5 mm up to 25 mm, which equates roughly to a grade 0 – grade 8.
“Make sure the combs have some kind of securing clip so they don’t fall off,” suggests Joe Mills, founder of Joe & Co barber shop. “The last thing you need when trimming is for the comb to come away and you carve a nice bald line through your hair.”
“A sharp overall look can be achieved using clippers at a set measurement (i.e. a one grade all over),” adds Pomper, “but to achieve a more complex fade, you need to graduate the clipper grading in order to create a natural looking graduation rising from the neck.”
Some – but not all – hair clippers are equipped with a lever to the side of the cutting blades. This allows you to vary the length even further.
“It lets you go from a zero to a half,” explains Mills, “which allows you to create fade haircuts, and prevents it from catching the skin when trimming delicate areas, too.”
It also means that if you don’t want a huge amount of variation in the overall length of your hair, you can do the whole thing without having to keep swapping guards.
What To Spend On Your Hair Clippers
Okay, you’ve hopefully figured out what you want to look for in your hair clippers by this point, so let’s have a look at what you should be expecting to spend for your desired features.
“When you are looking to buy a pair of clippers, you should always take into consideration what their use is going to be,” explains Chris Beastall, founder of grooming blog Ape To Gentleman. “For example, if you are going to just be using them at home for personal use – a one grade all over – then typically you should be looking at $35-$65. This will include the clippers, clipper guards going from #1 – #4, clipper oil and cleaning brush.”
Mid-range options double up as beard trimmers and manscapers, while high-end clippers can reach $200, depending on how they’re made and how many accessories they come with. That’s a pretty broad spectrum, so to make this a little easier, here are three key price brackets and what you can expect from each.
$10 – $30
At the affordable end you’ll traditionally find mains-powered clippers, with magnetic motors. Understandably, $10 clippers aren’t going to be the strongest or most durable, but when you start getting to around the $25 mark, you’ll find some solid options, with accessories and features that include adjustable taper levers and higher cutting power.
$30 – $100
In this mid-range price bracket, you’re going to start to see more rechargeable cordless options, superior quality accessories, Lithium-ion batteries, lightweight builds and various other premium features. If you’re looking for something that won’t bankrupt you, but won’t let you down after a couple of cuts, this is where you really ought to be looking.
So, you want to play with the big boys? Splash the cash and you’ll be met with lavish vintage styling, multi-speed rotary motors, detachable blades and break-resistant housing.
To be honest, if you’re not a professional barber, buying something at this level is probably a tad OTT, but if you’ve got the money, why not?
The Best Brands For Hair Clippers
Illinois-based Wahl has been leading the way in men’s preening tech since the early 1900s. The company was the first to introduce a cordless trimmer to the market, patented the first electromagnetic hair clipper and created the vacuum trimmer, which sucks up any hair it shaves off, thus saving countless marriages worldwide.
Wahl’s clippers are widely regarded as the best on the market. Just take a look around next time you’re in a barbershop and chances are they’ll be using Wahl gear. The company’s ‘Super Taper’ clippers have long been lauded by professionals as the industry standard, and with good reason.
While Wahl may be the most popular hair clipper brand among barbers, when it comes to amateur, home-use, Philips is most definitely leading the way. The Dutch electronic goods manufacturer is known for everything from toasters to TVs, but when it comes to grooming products, it has some of the best around.
The brand is well known for its innovative designs and boundary-pushing tech, having introduced the world to laser-guided trimmers and rotating cutting heads. So, if you need something cutting edge, that will make DIY hair cuts as easy as possible, Philips has what you’re looking for.
BaByliss’s offerings may be cheap, but that doesn’t mean they scrimp on features. Since 1961, the Parisian haircare brand has been helping people keep their locks in check for less, providing all the latest grooming tech for a fraction of the price of many of its competitors.
Many of the brand’s clippers have the added bonus of being able to be used both cordlessly and with a mains plug. If you were torn on which sort to go for, this may be a safe bet.
Having made a name for itself as one of the leading names in grooming, German company Braun is a wise choice when it comes to picking up a set of clippers. With a focus on high-tech, ergonomic features and fair prices, you can expect things like waterproof housing, multi-length cutting attachments and safety locks, all at wallet-friendly prices.
Founded in Wisconsin in 1924, Oster has gone from a tiny operation ran out of a garage to a worldwide brand with a reputation for making some of the finest hair clippers money can buy. The company is known for being the first to introduce motor-driven hair clippers to the market, thereby changing the world of grooming forever.
Today, Oster clippers are a firm favourite among clued-up barbers, featuring handsome heritage styling and top-end rotary motors.
It would be impossible to think of grooming gadgets and not think of Remington. The brand has been manufacturing some of the most solid and reliable tools for primping and preening since day dot, and its hair clippers are no different.
Whether you’re after something all-singing and all-dancing, with every top-drawer feature you could possibly imagine, or simply something that will cut your hair well and not break – Remington has you covered.
Along with Wahl and Oster, Andis is one of the hair clipper originators. Having been on the scene since 1921, its founder quickly went from selling clippers door-to-door, to producing them for the mass market.
These days, Andis remains a popular brand used by traditional barbershops, many of whom swear by its clippers, which offer luxury options like ceramic blades and adjustable combs.
The Japanese electronics giant brings its considerable engineering clout to bear on your next fade cut. Its trimmers – which run the gamut from hair-specific options to those that double up as beard trimmers and manscaping tools – tend to be powerful, offering increased blade speed for smooth cutting.
Also look out for techie-pleasing touches such as precision blades specifically angled at 45 degrees to slice through your sprouting hairs.
Which Motor Should You Go For?
A good motor is the heart that drives your clippers through that unruly mane and out the other side without them so much as breaking a sweat. Well, provided you pick a good one, that is.
When it comes to selecting your motor, there are three main types you need to know about. They are as follows:
If you’re on a tight budget, you’re more than likely going to end up with something powered by one of these. That’s not necessarily a terrible thing, though. As long as it’s only getting light use, a magnetic motor is still capable of doing an ample job.
These motors use a spring and an electromagnet to move the blades from side to side. And while they might not be the most powerful option, their lack of moving parts makes them extremely reliable.
Similarly to the magnetic motor, the pivot motor works with electro magnets. The main difference is that it uses two of them, eliminating the need for the spring.
This actually results in a slower cutting speed, but creates a much higher cutting power, making it easier to use with wet hair. For this reason, pivot motors are often used by professional stylists.
At the premium end, rotary motors offer by far the most power. Their high torque makes them a popular choice for horse groomers, who need to get through a serious amount of hair without their clippers breaking down.
However, for the purpose of this article, we’re going to assume that you’re not a horse groomer, or indeed a horse, so you’ll be glad to know the rotary motor’s balanced speed and cutting power make it perfect for almost any type of trimming, whether it be man or beast. Just be warned, that level of versatility comes at a rather high cost.
Maintenance: How To Keep Your Hair Clippers Clipping
Unlike a lot of electronics these days, hair clippers are built to last, especially at the higher end. Barbers can be using them all day, so products have to withstand that kind of prolonged, professional use. But it’s not an excuse to neglect them.
In the box, you’ll probably find a few accessories to keep your clippers in barbershop condition. A small brush will remove hairs from between the blades, while a small bottle of oil keeps them lubricated and prevents them from tugging at your hair while your trim. If you’ve bought a waterproof set, then you can run it under the tap, too.
Remove stray hairs after every use and give it a deeper clean every month or so.