Tennessee Barber Expo 2021

Tennessee Barber Expo 2021

Tennessee Barber Expo 2021

After attending the Premiere Hair Show in Orlando, I went to the Tennessee Barber Expo for an event which focused on Barbers and our needs.

While it was a smaller show (pretty much every show is a smaller than Premiere), in many ways, it was more valuable for me. The classes offered were more focused towards barbering, instead of the hair industry as a whole.

This was the second expo, coordinated by Tyler Trotter, the owner of Clean Cut Grooming in Knoxville, TN at the World’s Fair Convention Center. From the moment I met him, I was impressed by his high energy level and personal attention to making everything run perfectly.

I know what is involved with Terminus Legion putting together a tailgate for a couple hundred Atlanta United soccer fans… it takes our group about 20-30 people to make it happen… Getting an event ready with over 1000 attendees in classes, Barber battles, and vendors from throughout the southeast with just a handful of people is really impressive.

Tyler’s personal story is a fantastic story of recovery and redemption that the barbering industry offers. He tells his story on his YouTube channel, and what he has done, and as many barbers as his actions have affected, is nothing short of a great story.

Part Seminar, Part Trade Show

One of the challenges I have had with hair shows in the past is that I had to pare down the number of classes and workshops in order to have enough time on the floor visiting vendors and bringing new equipment and products to my station.

I didn’t have that problem at the Tennessee Barber Expo. Classes were done for attendees in the morning, and the show’s vendor floor and barber battles took place in the afternoon and evening. So in one visit, I was able to attend classes with new innovations and barbering techniques, and get brought up to speed with some of the latest technical and digital marketing.

The Seminar and Classes

Tyler brought in some of the most highly regarded instructors in the industry, including LeBron James’ barber, Marcus Harvey, and Chris Bossio with Headlines Barbershops and Tomb 45 barbering equipment, who in one hour broke down marketing concepts to such basic levels that I am reconsidering my entire brand!

Jason Patridge of Olde World Barber Shoppe did the most thorough walkthrough lesson centering around cutting with shears that I can remember seeing. Shears are often overlooked by barbers, especially the newer ones. One of my favorite videos on YouTube includes a scene with a barber preparing to cut a business person’s hair with a pair of shears, trembling in fear until he finally faints!

The other cutting demonstration was presented by Wahl’s instructors, Trevor Moots and and John “Titan Barber” Carmona, who discussed the theory behind haircuts, or the “why” we take the steps we take and use the techniques we use when we use them.

“The Floor”

The main feature on the sales floor was a large stage set up for about a dozen barbers to compete in various “barber battles” and style competitions. Barbers showcased their skills in design, speed fade-cutting, and other events.

The competitions ranged through the entire event. It was one of a very few times I have seen that many barbers at one time cutting in various styles. I am a big fan of seeing others cut, just as I was a huge fan of hearing other musicians play back when I was playing the saxophone.

Various companies also had items for sale. I picked up a couple of handy items, including a space-saving wireless stand for one of my clipper sets. I know, it seems like a minor purchase, but I have been looking for one for a long time, and could not find a charging stand for this particular set. You never know what you are going to find at these shows.

Most of my time was spent at the Tomb 45 booth interacting with their barbers as they cut throughout the day. I’ve been cutting for three years, and having the chance to ask questions and get see the way their barbers approached haircuts was very enlightening.

One of my favorite guys also had a booth. Youssef the Barber, is widely known as The Dread-Butcher because of his work removing locks which have been growing for years. Cutting off locks which have grown for so long can be a tricky endeavor, and is easy to mess up.

He brought in his OnePlug charger which replaces the maze of power cords that many barbers accumulate as they add clippers to their stations (I have seen as many as twelve!).

Next Year…

I am really looking forward to next year’s show. I don’t get to Knoxville very often, and if my impression of Tyler is any indication of what to expect, next year’s expo should be even bigger and better!

Why do I charge more for children’s haircuts?

Why do I charge more for children’s haircuts?

Why do I charge more for children’s haircuts?

“A legitimate question, young man, deserving a legitimate answer…”
— Wile E. Coyote

Growing up, the Bugs Bunny and Roadrunner Show was a never-miss on Saturday mornings (Tom and Jerry was our favorite on weekdays).

But I digress…

At first glance, charging more for a child’s haircut seems to be completely backward, especially when there are major chains which charge less to cut a child’s hair. After all… the smaller the head, right? Don’t most restaurants also have a kids’ menu?

Much of this post applies to children between 1 and 7 years of age. Usually by eight, they have grown out of behaving in ways which affect the haircut and/or where a parent needs to get involved

This post developed into being a long read… yet if we’re talking about your child. it is completely worth it.

The almost too short version:

  • I’ve cut a lot of children’s hair… There’s very little that makes me smile behind the chair like a child’s face when they love their haircut!
  • If the child is sitting relatively still and allows the haircut to happen, then I only charge $20.
  • If they create safety concerns or if their actions cause the haircut take significantly more time than a regular haircut should, I’m charging more for it.
  • I’ll break it down below…

A haircut is not a normal part of a child’s daily routine

Until they have gotten used to it, when a child is brought for a haircut, they are in an unfamiliar environment. This creates either a sense of excitement, or of nervousness… sometimes both.

When I am cutting a child’s hair, I focus on their experience and our safety more than I focus on the haircut. Many kids aren’t used to having someone running a vibrating machine up against their head, getting tickled (or thinking they’re being hurt), and being told to hold still, all at the same time.

I want them to have a good time and I don’t want to create a traumatic experience for them, even if I have to stop the haircut altogether and have them come back to finish it.

I’d rather perform the service for as long as the child will “let” me and then have them be brought back at another time to finish the job, than a parent forcefully hold them still while I work my clippers onto their heads with them jerking around and crying their eyes out.

Ticklish and/or nervous children

Many children pull their necks away and try to prevent me from touching them with the clippers. When a child is ticklish, it is very hard for them to stay still when there’s a buzzing and tickling machine at their neck.,.. especially with today’s fades and other styles that more kids are sporting.

I have a couple of tricks I use to overcome this, but the child has to have the desire to cooperate to make them work.

Scared children

When a child is scared, they can be very unpredictable… it doesn’t matter if I am using either clippers or scissors. They jerk their head at random, maybe start waving their arms and trying to knock the tools away, or worse.

I have had a child try to grab the blades of my shears… that would not have gone well for them.

Many of the times I have cut myself involved a child’s sudden movements.

At some point, we can’t force the child to allow a hair cut… and that they will only let us go so far before losing their temper or putting themselves into a dangerous situation, sometimes needing me to stop the haircut.

In these cases, the parent pays for the service and can bring the child back at another time (at no charge) to see if they will let us finish the cut.

How a parent can help

I’ve cut a lot of children’s hair, and I’ve seen a lot of parents try to help, and the effect on the child’s experience and behavior. The most successful approaches I have seen are when a parent works to make the child more comfortable, or are giving the child a sense of accomplishment.

Helping the child to be more comfortable

There are times when a parent’s presence puts the child more at ease. Sometimes I will involve the parent, and other times, the parent is a good distraction for what is happening. The parents who help the child have some fun and see the haircut as a positive thing have the best success.

Some parents have held their children in their laps as I cut their hair. This has had varying levels of success… when it works well, it works very well. When it doesn’t, it can become super awkward really quick, and the haircut will not be complete.

Pro tip for ladies: Wear a bra or some other top underneath your shirt. Little ones can and do pull shirts down.

Encouraging a child’s sense of accomplishment

Positively encouraging children and telling them what a good job they are doing by sitting still has been the most effective thing I have seen done. Even a little high-five in front of their shoulder works well.

Here’s the trick… it’s gotta be genuine. Children can sense BS. Parents can direct kids by talking about how brave they are and that they know they can do it, and how awesome it’s going to look after the cut.

Doing the things that you know work with your child

Nobody knows a kid better than the parents! You know the tricks, the bribes, the phrases, even the songs that get children focused (even if it’s for just five seconds). Once you are invited to join us at the chair, feel free to participate and make their experience as “normal” as possible for them 

Where parental involvement with the haircut goes wrong

Sometimes, well-meaning parents make tense situations worse, or even create bad situations before they even start.

Give the child some space

When I cut a child’s hair, the parent sits in a chair across the room from us. I’ll invite the parent to join us at the chair when appropriate, such as when having conversations about the haircut. Sometimes, I’ll invite the parent over to give the child some comfort, assist, and/or participate. I am open to suggestions, feedback, and questions… as long as it doesn’t create a “helicopter parent” situation.

Crossing the line from encouraging into frustration

It’s a haircut… and if it’s not a great time for the child, it can wait… and if it is being a bad time for the parent, then it really should wait. I don’t know how to explain it, but when the parent is on edge, the child is on edge. I have had to ask parents to go take a walk while I cut their child’s hair.

Forcefully holding the child in place

It’s common for kids to sit on their parents’ laps while getting their hair cut. It give a lot of opportunities for play, bonding, distraction, hugs and kisses…

…and yes, it allows the parent to gently hold their head in place for me to cut.

Where it goes wrong is when it pushes the child into any sort of tantrum state and now the parent is having to use their “vice-grip strength” to force their child to stop hiding their head.

This can turn into a traumatic situation for the child, a frustrating experience for the parent, and a potentially dangerous setting with sharp objects and kids making sudden forceful moves. The haircut ends when I see this (see “Three Safety Strikes” below. Your child’s safety, your safety, and my safety, are more important than any haircut.

A child’s haircut typically takes longer to complete

Kids can be curious and/or nervous by nature… and their movements can cause steps to have to be repeated multiple times

Here’s one of the most common I see: I’m holding their hair, measured for the next cut… and then the child turns their head quickly and the hair slips out from between the fingers and I have to comb and measure again… often two or more times.

Many times, they’re just looking around or wanting to talk to a parent, or to show a parent what’s going on. Yet when each cut needs three attempts, it triples the amount of time needed to complete the haircut.

This is where the higher price comes from.

Yet when a child is calm and gets their haircut without an unreasonable amount of fuss, I only charge $20 instead of the regular $45.

Three “safety strikes” and the haircut ends

I love playing games with the kids in my chair. When they are even somewhat into what is going on, they are some of the most fun haircuts I ever do. I literally get to channel my inner 6 or 12-year old when I’m cutting their hair!

When safety becomes an issue, however, I am very strict about it, and I make the parent aware.

I like to guide children through haircuts, and the look on their faces is magic.

However, when the child isn’t into what is happening and they start the defensive behaviors,  I have to pay much closer attention to what they are doing and how it affects our safety.

After reasonable coaching (when feasible), if the child puts themselves or me into a dangerous position, I will call a “safety strike” and explain to the child and to the parent what the danger is, the cause, and try to offer a way to help keep it from happening again.

A second “safety strike” raises the price to $30.

Once I call a third “safety strike,” the haircut ends. I charge $45, and the child may come back a second time (at no additional charge) to see if they’ll let me finish the haircut.

The parent is the boss, and can stop the haircut at any time

Before I call that third “safety strike,” if the parent realizes that the child is not going to cooperate in this visit, they can stop the haircut.

I will only charge $20 ($30 if a second “safety strike” has been called), and they can still come back to get the cut completed without being charged a second time.

So why does it have to be so complicated?

Kids are fantastic… and I want their experience with me to be a great and fun one.

I’ve seen too many children put through a traumatic experience because the parent wants the hair cut, and it is going to get done, come hell or high water. I’ve seen parents put their kids in a vice-grip type of hold against their body and force them to get their hair cut. I’ve seen kids screaming and crying louder and harder than my 2 year-old granddaughter’s tantrums.

Parents know their kids better than anyone else does, and the parent is more in tune with how the child behaves and their facial expressions and body language. The rising price structure is really there to incentivize the parent to stop the cut if they think their child is being put through too much that they don’t want to do.

…and if they believe we can complete the cut, I want to get it done for them…

While it breaks my heart when I play a role in making a child cry (it affects me… I don’t like being that guy),  there’s no feeling like seeing a child’s swagger and smile when they love how they look!

Feel free to contact me if you have any questions or if I can help clarify anything.

Why did I bring Reuzel products onto my station?

Why did I bring Reuzel products onto my station?

Why did I bring Reuzel products onto my station?

Before deciding to bring hair products onto my station, I hadn’t seen them as being much more than an “upsell” to customers. After all, the folks in the hair business like to talk about getting that extra 10% or so by selling products.

It kinda made me think of that guy trying to sell you an air filter during your oil change…

…and for what? So I can make an extra two or three bucks when a customer buys?

Then I started seeing for myself how some products help someone’s hair in certain situations… like using a detangler on long hair, especially fine hair. Watching a fresh haircut transform into the intended style by adding some pomade after washing.

I started using all sorts of products in my own hair just to see what it would do with it. Some had a nice effect, some just made my hair waxy or greasy, and one (American Crew’s Grooming Cream) took my hair’s curls in front and made them turn in ways I had never seen them turn before! Not necessarily for me, but if I ever have someone in my chair wanting a 50’s greaser look, I know what to turn them on to.

So why Reuzel?

We barbers talk about all kinds of things, including products. A lot of the time, we’re talking about products that we are using on our customers, such as Got 2b Glued or Liquid Razor, during our services.

Yet when I talk to barbers about products they are sending their clients home with, Reuzel tops the list.

These barbers aren’t all that interested in the couple of extra bucks they get from the sale of a product. They are more interested in making sure that their clients look as good every day as they do when they leave the shop.

Reuzel products provide many ways to make it happen.

Their line of pomades goes from the shiniest and wettest look to flat matte for all the style and none of the shine. The hair tonics are lightweight stylers which work well with being blown dry. They have a line of beard care for those of us whose ladies prefer the look and feel of facial hair. and every one of their products I have smelled so far smell great!

Come try it out

I have limited shelf space at my station, and I want to make sure that I put products on it that do the job. If you want to check them out, come out to the salon and I can put some in your hair so you can see and feel how it works for you.

So how was the Premiere Orlando 2021 Hair Show?

So how was the Premiere Orlando 2021 Hair Show?

So how was the Premiere Orlando 2021 Hair Show?

The 2021 Premiere Hair Show in Orlando has come and gone, and it had all the dramatic looks and styles that one would expect from a gathering with some of the top names in the industry.

The Upsides

The entire reason for attending these shows is getting tools, learning about the latest in the hair industry, and learning new techniques and processes. There was so much that I wanted to do there, that I really wish I could have had a few clones!

New Tools

The tools of the trade are always getting better, and sometimes a cutter simply “outgrows” what they are using. I went in with a shopping list and found almost everything I was looking for (see The Downsides below).

I also nearly got caught up in a few “OMG, I gotta have this!” impulse buys, but fortunately, I have several friends who talked some sense into me before I drained my wallet.

New Techniques and Skills

Hundreds of classes were offered, highlighting all sorts of new and different ways to cut hair. I focused on fixing jacked-up haircuts (which I see often) and hair design theory.

In one of my favorite classes, Hattori Hanzo Shears showed a way to fix improperly cut layers in long hair which made complete sense when coupled with hair design theory.

The highlight of the classes was a razor haircutting workshop. I already know how to shave and use a straight razor on skin, but cutting hair with a razor is new to me.

The workshop was a half-day hands-on session taught by the internationally reknown Nick Arrojo. I was one of eight students and learned how to cut hair with a razor, as opposed to (or in addition to) shears.

How often do you get a chance to learn from one of the world’s best and have them walk you through the steps of what they are doing?

The different guards used for these razors create a pretty cool variety of effects. I look forward to offering this to clients.

New Products Being Added to My Barber Station

I am often asked about products – usually in conjunction with someone who doesn’t like the way gel feels in their head. One of my main goals at the show was adding a men’s hair care line to my station.

We barbers talk, and the brand I have heard the most good comments about is the line made by Reuzel out of Holland. They have a wide selection of hair products, each as unique as each client’s hair and style.

I’ve brought on the Reuzel line of products, bringing home a selection of all of their pomades and tonics, along with a few other items. I’m also talking with them about bringing on the entire line.

The Downsides

With all of the great things about the show, there were a couple of things which were disappointing.

The Biggest Disappointment

This is not necessarily the show’s fault, but that of the vendors… I’ve been holding off on some major equipment purchases based on the shows offering better prices than I can get elsewhere. These shows have typically had brand specialists available to discuss questions and concerns about the brands.

One of the handiest lessons I learned from my father was having a backup for everything. This way, if something happened, I would still be able to do everything I need to be able to do.

So I wanted to buy a second set of all of my tools, particularly my Andis Supra ZRII and Babyliss Silver FX sets of clippers. However, the prices were considerably higher than what I had seen elsewhere leading up to the show. I may as well have gone ahead and gotten the equipment from my local spot instead of waiting for the show.

I also had questions about a couple pieces of my equipment. I was ready to buy whatever what recommended, but they didn’t have anyone there to talk with, so I’ll need to reach out through phone and email instead of putting the tool directly into their hand.

Little Variety in Offerings

I’m sure that this is going to be sacrilegious to some.

I’ve been to Bronner Bros. shows which had a wide variety of offerings to us. With everything I had heard about Premiere – especially with Covid – I was expecting to see much more.

However, the wide variety that I saw was several companies offering virtually the same product. There were several hair cares, haircolor companies, and tool sellers. But what I saw missing was the variety within the products.

For example, I was looking for a left-handed set of “chunking” shears, which can do some really cool things with hair. In past shows, I could find a cheap set for around $50, to see if I would actually use them and justify getting a better set. However, at this show, the only one I found was offered as part of a set of four shears, or I could buy just the one for $400 (not counting the Hatori Hanzo folks… they had everything).

If I’m going to spend that much on one set of shears, I’m buying a set of Hatori Hanzo shears. The set of Hanzos I have is the best set I have ever used, and is as sharp today as they were about 3,000 haircuts ago.

Only Two Days

Covid is partially to blame, I’m sure. However, only two days created a compression of classes which really limited my choices, especially when I also needed time on the floor.

Class Descriptions

This was the part which had me most concerned before the show. There’s only so much which can be covered in 60-90 minutes, and while I got something very valuable in each of them, it was only a part of what had been described.

That having been said, the two classes which were as described were completely on point, and I have already started putting what I learned from them to work.

4 1/2 Stars

With a show this big, it would be unreasonable to expect perfection exactly to my expectations. So while there were some disappointments, the show was fantastic, and I will be attending again when it comes back around.

I got some new tools which I was looking for and added a great line of men’s products for my clients. I also added a couple new skills to my bag of tricks.

Overall, the show was a very successful first part of a 10-day business trip/vacation with my family. Part Two comes next week at the TN Barber Expo in Knoxville.

Finally! I found the answer about detachable blades!

Finally! I found the answer about detachable blades!

Finally! I think I found the answer I was looking for…

The question was “why do detachable blades seem to cut more closely than adjustable blades with guards?”

This came up while I was writing a post about what it means when a barber (or a client) says to give them or to use a certain number on their head. It went into detail about what the numbers meant, and also the difference between using plastic guards/combs and using detachable blades when cutting hair.

Long story short: the blades cut sleeker and the cut appears to be shorter than the guards.

But it brought up a question in my mind… Why? What makes this happen?

Cutting with shears vs cutting with clippers

The difference between cutting with shears and cutting with clippers is a pretty simple… shears leave an flat or tilted angle at the tip of the hair, and the hair leans in the direction of the angle and lays down.

Clippers cut from two directions, resulting in a chiseled point at the tip of the hair, and the hair tends to stand up. When the hair grows to where it is long end heavy enough, it starts standing up and then bends down to lay down toward the end.

But what about detachable blades vs guards?

Searching for the answer

I wasn’t able to find much information about the difference between clippers with detachable blades and clippers using plastic guards. As of this writing, I’m waiting for feedback from the manufacturers.

I eventually found one video which explained a possible reason (the first and last five minutes are sales pitches to barbers to buy his materials and products).

It went into how the two gathered the hair, mentioning that the increased number of teeth in detachable blades resulted in better straightening of the hair before the cut occurred. It discussed how the blades held more hair straight up in the cut than the plastic guards did before reaching the cutting blade.

However, that explains why detachable blades cut hair more efficiently and with fewer passes. It didn’t explain why the cuts laid down better… at least not that I understood.

However, it did pique my curiosity…

A close comparison of both types of cutting

I took a detailed look at the two types of cutting… and I may have found the answer.

I compared how my two sets of clippers did the actual cutting.

My BabylissPro Silver FX is a set of adjustable clippers which uses plastic guards to cut different lengths.

The other set is the Andis Supra ZR II, which uses detachable blades.

I looked at them with the #2 guard and the #2 blade, and what I found is that when the clippers are used the way they are meant to be used, the blades cut at different angles, so the hair will naturally lay down or stand up differently.

The cutting blade on the clippers with the guard are cutting at around a 45º angle, so the hair ends up with a 45º point at the top. This makes the hair’s structure more rigid and it stands up more.

The detachable blade cuts parallel to the head, and the angle slants as the clippers get flicked during the cut. The resulting angles are similar to the angles left when using shears, so the hair acts more like it was cut with shears, rather than with clippers.

While the hair may be cut to the same length, the hair cut with the detachable blade doesn’t stand out as far from the head, so it appears shorter.

Now this is just my observation.. I could be wrong… but I’m going to go with it for now.

About Dave

I am a barber in Marietta and the Cobb County area. I graduated from the Gwinnett Barber Institute and have been cutting hair since 2019.

Atlanta has always been my home, minus eight years when I was a Navy musician in Japan and Seattle.

When I am not cutting hair, I am usually found spending time with my family or at Atlanta United matches with the Terminus Legion in the supporters section.

Is cutting women’s hair more difficult than cutting men’s hair?

Is cutting women’s hair more difficult than cutting men’s hair?

Is cutting women’s hair more difficult than men’s hair?

In a couple words: not really.

But… it is usually more complex with more detail involved. Most of the women’s haircuts I do are either “just take off the dead ends” or some sort of “pixie” cut. Both of these cuts (as most women’s cuts) are dealing with longer hair than most men’s cuts.

Most men’s cuts involve clippers set to a certain height and going from there. A small percentage of my women’s cuts involve clippers. When they do, it is usually just in the back or we are doing a unique style, such as a ladies’ mohawk or shaving one half of the head.

The rest of them have hair which is not only longer than a set of clippers will cut, but it also has different details.

When cutting women’s hair is “easier”

“Just taking off the dead ends” can be one of the easiest cuts for a barber to do… yet it can also be the most difficult, depending on the hair… 

Many ladies looking for this service don’t need much detail… Simply figure out how much to cut off, and then cut it off. The hard part comes in the details that can come along, such as really thick curly hair or long hair with some deep face framing. These add levels of detail that must be addressed. Probably the hardest version I run across in this category is really fine hair because it slips along my shear blades and can be tricky to make adjustments to… not impossible, but it can be tricky.

Layered hair can also be simpler than many men’s cuts, again, depending on the hair. I use a very simple layering method which does the job in most longer hair. In general, women coming to a barber looking for layers are looking for life in the hair, and aren’t being that picky about feathering, inversions, 180’s, etc…

When cutting women’s hair is “harder”

I don’t necessarily think of it as being harder as opposed to it being more time-consuming. Many women’s styles follow the same general principles: length, bangs, ear coverage, layers.

However, some variations automatically add time to the cut, and can be more difficult in that sense. Very thick hair can create all sorts of mental gymnastics, as can certain cuts such as stacked bobs.

When cutting any sort of shorter women’s hair, I almost always cut sideburns into points as opposed to a simple snip across at a certain point of the ear.

I also treat bangs as a very slow zone. I learned very quickly that cutting a bang too short to quickly makes the bang go BOING! (sorry for the dad joke). I can always take more hair off, but putting it back on is much more difficult.

Difficult vs time-consuming

In my experience, the main differences between cutting women’s hair and men’s hair have been in the number of things that need to be done.

Many men’s cuts are a taper or a fade blended into a certain length on top… off the collar, over the ears, and the bangs out of the eyes. Most men in my chair even joke that “it will grow back.” Sure… easy for men to say, since most of us are dealing with hair which is less than two inches long.

Women’s haircuts, however, can involve multiple cutting processes in multiple areas, which means that they take more time to do and to adjust correctly… and a lot of barbers just don’t want to deal with it.

There’s also the philosophy among barbers: “NEVER mess up a woman’s hair!” As quickly as a man will say it will grow back, a lady whose hair has been messed up will be very, very, very upset…

…and a lot of barbers just don’t want to deal with that, either!

Speaking of very, very, very upset, sit in my chair sometime… and I will tell you the story of my first “Little-ol’-lady-beehive haircut…” It happened a couple of years ago, and she still hates me!

About Dave

I am a barber in Marietta and the Cobb County area. I graduated from the Gwinnett Barber Institute and have been cutting hair since 2019.

Atlanta has always been my home, minus eight years when I was a Navy musician in Japan and Seattle.

When I am not cutting hair, I am usually found spending time with my family or at Atlanta United matches with the Terminus Legion in the supporters section.

What does a #2 do?

What does a #2 do?

What does a #2 do?

…or “what do the numbers mean?”

A set of adjustable blade clippers with guard combs which help to cut hair at the correct length.

Guards are a set of plastic combs which fit over a clipper’s cutting blades. Without a guard, the clippers will cut very close to the skin. The guards lift the blades over the skin so that they cut hair down to a specific length. 

Generally speaking (the short answer), when a barber talks about a number on a “guard” or a “comb,” it means how much hair will be left on the head after running one’s clippers through it. The number usually means how many eighths of an inch will be left. For example, a #2 guard will leave 2/8 inch or 1/4 inch.

Here’s the long, detailed answer…

Guards (or Combs)

The most common guards that get requested in my chair are:


For many men, this length is a starting point for short hairstyles. It can either be the beginning of a business or military cut, or the end of a faded cut.


This guard leaves 4/8, or 1/2 inch on the head. I use this for many business haircuts, unless they want longer hair, in which case, I pretty much use shears. When a man wants short hair, but they don’t know how short they want it, I usually start with this guard and ask them if they like that length, or if they want to go shorter, and we take it from there.

No Guard

As the name implies, there is no guard on the clippers, so they are cutting very close to the skin. I usually see these on military-styled haircuts teens, and adults who either work outdoors or have a manager’s  or an athlete’s presence.

Bonus… the half guard or #1.5 guard

Someone who requests me to one of these has usually had them used on their heads in the past and really likes the result. The dirty secret here is that these guards only cut 1/16th of an inch longer, yet at that length, the difference is noticeable, and can sometimes mean an extra week between haircuts. Most barbers, myself included, use these guards to help in faded and short tapered hairstyles, rather than a main measurement. However, I also know that when someone specifically asks for one of these guards to be used, they know exactly what they are looking for… and as a barber, that’s what I want to give them!

I said “generally speaking…” What I mean is that not all guards/combs fit the 1/8 inch metric… and sometimes, the barber is using blades instead of guards…


Detachable blade clippers with two blades which cut hair to specific lengths

When a barber talks about blades, they are talking about a system where instead of putting different combs over a clipper’s cutting blade, the barber actually takes the blades off and replaces them with another blade which is design to cut hair to a specific length.

Most blades are measured in millimeters and often have the closest inch equivalent on the blade as well. However, they don’t always match up number-by-number. For example, if someone wants a #2 haircut, I usually start off with my 3 1/2 blade and then cut shorter if the customer wants it. Part of this is because of the number system used in blades, and the other is that the blades cut differently.

In my experience, the blades cut differently… I think I have found the reason why this happens. However, what I have noticed is that the hair lays down differently…

…so while my #2 guard and my #2 blade supposedly cut hair to the same length within a millimeter, the hair cut with the blade lays down “better” and looks and feels almost like I used a #1 guard.

Let me put it this way… every time a client has asked for a certain number guard, when I used the blade instead, the customer commented on how short the hair was. So now when the client asks for a certain number, if I choose to use blades instead of guards (depending on the haircut requested and the type of hair I am cutting), I use the next size up and the customer likes what they see and feel.

The most common blades I use are:

3/4 FC

Perfect example… this blade indicates a 13mm cut. 13mm equals 0.511811 inches… just over a half inch, or a #4 guard, mathematically. However, when I cut it, it looks like a #3… shorter. So I use this blade to clear hair out of the way so I can clearly see everything when I prepare to put in a taper or a fade, and it becomes a part of blending the hair for a smooth appearance at the top.

3 1/2

This is the most common blade I use, except when I am doing an actual fade. The number is just 1/4 lower than the previous blade, but it looks the same as a #2 guard, just smoother.

0A, 000, and 00000

Whenever someone says “no guard” to me, I tell them I can get right down to the skin to where only a razor gets any closer, and ask them how close to the skin they want to go.

This almost always prompts the question “what do you mean?”, to which I always respond that I want to ask questions before I start cutting.

I choose the blade based on their answer. If they say “Just no guard,” then I use the 0A, which looks like no guard has been used, and ask if they want to go shorter and go from there.

If they say to go as close as I can, I’ll use the 000 blade (0.5mm), and ask if they want to get right down to the skin. Half of my clients say that it’s close enough, that they like the stubble there.

For the other half that wants to go closer, I use my 00000 blade (0.1mm) and they love it.

The only way I can get closer than that is with a foil shaver and/or razor. Some barbers will use trimmers for a closer cut, but I’m not a big fan of that unless I am clearing the top of a head or doing detailed work.

About Dave

I am a barber in Marietta and the Cobb County area. I graduated from the Gwinnett Barber Institute and have been cutting hair since 2019.

Atlanta has always been my home, minus eight years when I was a Navy musician in Japan and Seattle.

When I am not cutting hair, I am usually found spending time with my family or at Atlanta United matches with the Terminus Legion in the supporters section.

Why do I go to all the barber and hair shows I can?

Why do I go to all the barber and hair shows I can?

Why do I go to all the barber and hair shows I can?

Bronner Bros. Hair Show, Feb 2020 – an yes, I am always repping ATLUTD!

I have been blessed in having some of the best mentors in my life, and have had the amazing fortune to work with some of the most brilliant minds in my life. If it were completely up to me and my own devices, I’d be playing my saxophone in clubs and working some random job. However, my mentors helped, and continue to help me to grow in all aspects of life.

Having mentors taught me that there is always plenty of room to improve… to always seek knowledge and guidance, and to be open to new information or to old information being re-presented again.

My hardest mentor, and most likely the one who taught me the most as a professional and as a person, often said “If you are not getting better, you are automatically getting worse. Nobody remains stagnant.”

While having true mentors is not necessarily a fun experience (It forces you to take a cold, hard look at yourself, acknowledge your strengths, and the areas where you need to improve), the only ways to grow in one’s craft and life are with qualified, honest guidance, and practicing through that guidance… which is why I go to every show that I can, and turn my car and computer into a rolling university.

The Bronner Bros. Hair Show

As a barber, I personally feel that this particular show is not to be missed. At this show, I talk with experts in all sorts of specialized fields.

It is where I met equipment specialists like Bonnie & Gene Megowan with Bonika Shears. They are based in Loganville, just outside Atlanta, yet if I had not gone to the show, I probably would not have known about them… and it resulted in better haircuts for my clients.

Other than my Hanzo shears, their shears are the only ones I will carry with me. Their shears are very good quality and they stand behind their lifetime guarantee, but that’s not why I carry them… Bonnie is an absolute master in sharpening shears. She custom ground my Bonikas so that they hold hair better during cutting (especially fine hair!).

I also met Youssef Barber at Diamond Cuts in south Atlanta. Since then, I have seen him cut, teach, and just be an all-around great person (and the master of cutting dreads off when someone decides to make that choice). He taught me that one can be both laid back and have an edge, always giving great positive energy… “Your smile is your logo, your personality is your business card, how you leave others feeling after an experience with you becomes your trademark.”

The classes offered at the Bronner Bros. Hair Show are always timely… whether it is Patric Bradley’s lessons breaking down haircolor theory or guiding beard growth with Brian Keith out of Chicago. Each class I take at each of these shows either adds a new skill set or sharpens an existing one.

Premiere Show

All the barbers and cosmetologists who know my cutting style tell me that the Premiere Show in Orlando is one that I need to be sure to go to. At the time of this writing, I will be attending my first one in the middle of October (about five weeks away). Maybe I’ll go to the Orlando City v Montreal soccer match… I wonder how well my Atlanta United jersey will go over there.

Mr. Smith of Gwinnett Barber Institute and GBI Barbershop tells me that with all the straight hair I cut, I will find the Premiere Show even more beneficial than the Bronner Bros. show, especially since I cut women’s hair, too..

If that’s true, I can’t wait to see how it goes!

Regional Shows

There are a large number of regional barber and hair shows that I try to attend (the travel bills do add up!), such as the Tennessee Barber Expo and the CT Barber Expo. Tese shows are more valuable for networking with other barbers and collaborating on techniques, hair products, and overall barbering knowledge.

About Dave

I am a barber in Marietta and the Cobb County area. I graduated from the Gwinnett Barber Institute and have been cutting hair since 2019.

Atlanta has always been my home, minus eight years when I was a Navy musician in Japan and Seattle.

When I am not cutting hair, I am usually found spending time with my family or at Atlanta United matches with the Terminus Legion in the supporters section.

Why do barbers have so many sets of clippers

Why do barbers have so many sets of clippers

Why do barbers have so many sets of clippers?

If you have ever been to a barber shop, you can be surprised at how many sets of clippers that we can have at our stations. You can also find barbers with just one or two sets. I participate in several barber groups on social media and talk with the guys in my area, and I have found that we generally fall into three mindsets.

The latest and greatest

Every year, folks buy up the latest cellphones, fashions, and other toys. Barbers fall into the same mindset.

The market for clippers is always expanding. It seems like not a week goes by without some new model of clippers or trimmers comes out. I often see barbers asking about others’ experience with a particular set of clippers.

I see various new colors come out, and one of the latest trends I am seeing is the “skeleton” model of trimmers. It’s based on a modification that many people make to their equipment.

Trimmers are used for the detail work around the ears, the neck, and often when prepping a lineup on the forehead – either before or after the razor in many cases. Several barbers have used a dremel or other tool to cut away the top parts of the cases so that they can clearly se what they are about to cut. Cutting the top lets them see just the hair and the blade, so they know exactly where the trimmer is about to cut the hair.

Manufacturers are now making versions of trimers with the blade sticking above the rest of the trimmer, and many barbers are buying them to make their detail work easier.

There are custom cases, different colors, and other variations that barbers get to express their creativity and personality. I have seen clippers with sports team logos, slogans, and other covers… One guy I know has all of his clippers and trimmers wrapped with the Louis Vuitton pattern.

Different clippers for different jobs

Clippers are being made with different types of blades now. Some blades are regular cutters and others are designed for fading and blending.

I use two sets of clippers: One for thinner and longer hair, and the other one is my “lawnmower”.

Some of the busier barbers also have two of each clipper on their station so that one can be recharging while they are using the other one. This also keeps the clippers in good condition longer, cutting the wear and tear on each clipper in half.

The minimalist

There’s also the folks who say that any barber can use any clipper to make any cut. I usually hear this from barbers who work primarily on straight or wavy hair.

There’s a lot of truth to this, because at the end of the day, all clippers cut hair. At the same time, it is true that some clippers are designed to cut much more closely to the skin than most clippers.

The minimalist overcomes this by using a combination of the clippers and different techniques, trimmers (which cut closer than many clippers), shavers, and razors.

Where do I fit into this?

I am somewhere between the “minimalist” and the “different clippers for different jobs” categories.

I usually keep two sets of clippers and one set of trimmers at my station.

Adjustable clippers

I typically use a set of adjustable clippers for longer hair, mostly anything longer than a buzz-cut. The upside is that I can cut hair that stays longer on the head. They are also adjustable on the fly. I can cut a little longer or a little shorter as I go, allowing me to make changes as needed. They are very handy for tapered haircuts which get shorter as the go from the top to the bottom of the head.

The downside, however, is that the hair’s final length is dependent on guard combs which fit over the cutting blade. Longer hair tends to work around the comb and evade the cutting blades, resulting in multiple passes and/or shear work above to catch any hairs that got away.

Clippers with detachable blades

This set of clippers uses a set of blades which can be switched out for different lengths. They cut very cleanly and my clients’ hair typically lays down better when I use them (I think I found out why). They cut through thick and coarse hair with ease and with less tugging on a client’s head. Most of the blades use ceramic cutting blades which generate less heat and are more comfortable for the customer.

These clippers can cut hair to 0.2mm, so they are fantastic for skin fades. They also have one that goes to 0.1mm which I often use as a detailer for cuts that close.

There are downsides to this clipper, though. For one, while they are great for short lengths, they can get iffy when cutting hair resulting in over half an inch long. They get the job done, but I need to check the work a little more when going that long.

The other downside is that they are very unforgiving. If a barber is not precise with them, or if the client moves their head. it shows. This isn’t much of an issue with longer lengths, but when we are cutting lengths shorter than 2mm, accuracy counts.

I tell my clients not to sneeze when I have those blades on the clipper.

About Dave

I am a barber in Marietta and the Cobb County area. I graduated from the Gwinnett Barber Institute and have been cutting hair since 2019.

Atlanta has always been my home, minus eight years when I was a Navy musician in Japan and Seattle.

When I am not cutting hair, I am usually found spending time with my family or at Atlanta United matches with the Terminus Legion in the supporters section.

What is the craziest thing that has happened in your chair?

What is the craziest thing that has happened in your chair?

What is the craziest thing that has happened in your chair?

I get asked this pretty often, especially when I am cutting for someone who works in the restaurant industry… such as just a few minutes ago.

There are a couple stories which I tell, depending on who is in the chair and how the conversation is going.

Divine Approval?

There was a period earlier this year when we were having thunderstorms every day right around 5:00. During this time, I was cutting a mohawk a day for people, both male and female, from 6 years to over 60.

During one of the cuts, I did “the barber thing,” where I step back a couple of steps to look for anything I either missed or that I need to adjust.

This particular time, I saw that the right side seemed to be a little further toward the side of the head than the left was, so I turned on my clippers.

Just after I turned them on, there was a thunderclap outside.

The client’s eyes went wide open, and after a pause, he said “whatever you’re about to do, I think God approves.”

Does the bride know what you are about to do?

I ask a lot of questions throughout a haircut. I believe in making sure before I start cutting. When someone gives me “barber instructions,” I ask even more to make sure that they know what they are asking for.

So one day, a young man came in to get his haircut for his wedding the next day, and they were going to do the photos in about two hours.

He asked me for a #2 mid fade… I’ll never forget this.

The #2 refers to the length of hair at its longest in the side of the head. The number equals ⅛ of an inch, so a #2 is 2/8 of an inch, or a quarter inch. “Mid fade” usually tells the barber that the head should be bald (more or less) from the neck up to about halfway up the back and above the ears. Not always, but most of the time.

Given that he was going to do his wedding pictures after the haircut and he was getting married tomorrow, I spent a little more time on the haircut to make sure that it was perfect. The haircut ended well, and everyone was happy…


His fiancee walked in as I finished cleaning up his neck…

When you have been 29 for as many years as I have been 29, you learn a few things, such as a bride-to-be’s facial expression when something related to the wedding has gone absolutely wrong.

Evidently, he wasn’t supposed to get his hair cut that short.

As she went into a justified panic, he kept insisting “It’s fine.” “It’s fine.” “It’s fine.” – and seeing her continuing reactions was telling me that it was anything but fine.

I leaned in close to him from behind and told him that “it’s fine” was not the right answer… that a happy wife means a happy life, and to quickly switch his tune to “I’m sorry. I didn’t understand. I thought you wanted it shorter.”

I don’t know how the rest of the day turned out or if the wedding even took place… but I do know that that story gets told over and over, and I have added “does the bride know what you are about to do?” to my list of questions.

Yes, I am Jeff

One of the shops I cut in takes walk-ins all day long and we fit them in between appointments. They keep notes keeping track of each customer’s haircuts, which helps to keep the mental gymnastics down and gives them a consistent look visit-to-visit.

One day, I called out Jeff’s name and took him to my chair and started prepping for his haircut, and then asked him what we were going to do.

He said “just cut it like you did last time.”

I read the notes aloud to make sure it was what he had in mind, “#2 (leaving 1/4 inch of hair) on the sides and back, and #4 (leaving 1/2 inch of hair) on top” and he cut me off “just like last time.”

His hair was long… anything other than a buzz-cut, so I asked “are you sure? The notes are telling me that…” and he cut me off again, “just like last time. I’m in a hurry.”

He wasn’t necessarily being rude as much as he seemed to genuinely be in a hurry, so I put on the #4 guard and went straight to work…

…running the #4 down the middle.

I’ll admit… the look on his face was priceless.

He now had a strip of 1/2 inch long hair going down the middle of the long hair on his head.

Him: “What the ****???”

Me: “This is what we did last time, Jeff.”

Him: “I’m not Jeff!” (paraphrased)

Me: “So why did you answer when I called Jeff’s name?”

Morals of the story:
• Don’t jump in line
• Make sure you hear the question before telling someone to move forward

About Dave

I am a barber in Marietta and the Cobb County area. I graduated from the Gwinnett Barber Institute and have been cutting hair since 2019.

Atlanta has always been my home, minus eight years when I was a Navy musician in Japan and Seattle.

When I am not cutting hair, I am usually found spending time with my family or at Atlanta United matches with the Terminus Legion in the supporters section.