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Hair Cut Numbers: Where to Start?

Angelika Young

As you read this article, somewhere across the land, there will be a man leaving a barbershop disappointed. It’s a rite of passage that most men will have experienced at one time or another. After all, the barber has followed the instructions and given the grade that was asked for, and yet the results are often more extreme than intended. To not fully understand the numbering system of clippers is a recipe for disaster. So, where did it go wrong?

Let’s start at the beginning!

Clippers are used in barbers or at home to trim hair. Typically, they come with eight clipper guards that are numbered 1 through to 8. The number on the guard represents the length of hair that will remain – with 1/8 of an inch or 0.3 cm difference between each guard. This doesn’t sound a huge amount of length difference, but it can make a significant impact on how you can style your hair, create and maintain the look. This variation is crucial for barbers to be able to give you a quality fade or buzz cut.

Grading Numbers

The greater the number, the longer the length of hair, so as each number increases an additional 1/8 of an inch or 0.3 cm is left. The number used represents the number of the guard to be used. The numbers go up to number 8, which leaves an inch or 2.5 cm of hair.

Number 0 cut:

Essentially a bare shaved or bald fade look, with only a 1/16 or 0.15 cm of hair remaining.

Numbers 1 and 2 cut:

Your hair will only just be visible, and these are the barber's go-to grades for buzz cuts and exercising their fading skills.

Be warned: if you ask for a number 1, your scalp will be visible; with number 2, your scalp will be covered.

Number 3 cut:

This is the highest number a barber will use for a fade or buzz cut. Scalp coverage is good, and yet it still remains low maintenance. It works well for both thick and thin hair.

Number 4 cut:

A number 4 cut can be used for conservative hairstyles and cuts. There is a little room for styling, but hair remains low maintenance.

Number 5 cut:

If you ask for a number 5, your hair will require styling and brushing. It’s the typical length for a tapered style, and so products will be needed to define and add texture to your cut.

Check out this amazing video on how to add more texture to your hair by Ben Arthur.

Number 6 cut:

Like 5, the number 6 is used for tapered sides, but now you are entering the realms of a crew cut if you have this grade all over.

Number 7 cut:

This number gives your hair a length of 7/8 of an inch. While short, this length can give you variety as to how you style your hair. A French crop that can be styled for spikes, parting or just by adding texture and grip.

Number 8 cut:

Barbers use this grade to equally trim the longer hair on your head – the glory on top of faded sides. With an inch of hair to play with, you can start to experiment with your style, add volume and define your look further.

There is nothing that can be done for an overzealous haircut. The only thing you can do is get clued up about the grading system, so that next time you can ask for what you wanted. 

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