Hair clipper guard sizes often sound like a secret language that barbers invented to keep us confused. Luckily, it’s not a hard language to decode, so let’s demystify clipper guards.
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What Are Hair Clipper Guards?
Hair clipper guards look like combs that you can attach to your hair clippers. They help you cut your hair to a specific length – you could say, they guard you from accidentally cutting your hair too short.
The mechanics are super simple. Once you attach a clipper guard, it holds the blade away from your head. The larger the guard, the further away it will hold the clipper blade.
You can look at your user manual to see how long each guard is (and we’ll go over the standard guard sizes below).
For example, if your clipper guard is ¾ of an inch long, then it holds your hair clipper blades ¾ of an inch away from your head, so when you’re done cutting, you’ll have ¾ of an inch of hair left.
Guards are the perfect hair clipper accessory for getting a haircut with different lengths. The classic taper fade haircuts that plenty of guys like are created by using different guard sizes to taper your hair from long-on-top to short-on-the-bottom.
If you cut your own hair or anyone else’s hair, you should start getting familiar with guard sizes. But if you regularly visit the barber, I recommend bringing a photo of the haircut you want rather than getting technical with what guard sizes you want him to use. That’s my disclaimer for you up front.
Hair Clipper Guard Sizes (Explained)
There are 8 standard clipper guard sizes, and they’re named by number. They each work their way up in ⅛ of an inch increments, like this:
Clipper Guard #1 = ⅛ of an inch
Clipper Guard #2 = ¼ of an inch
Clipper Guard #3 = ⅜ of an inch
Clipper Guard #4 = ½ of an inch
Clipper Guard #5 = ⅝ of an inch
Clipper Guard #6 = ¾ of an inch
Clipper Guard #7 = ⅞ of an inch
Clipper Guard #8 = 1 inch
So for example, if you want your barber to give you an even, ½ inch buzz cut all over your head, you would say, “Will you please give me a number 4 buzz cut?”
Even if you say, “Can I please have a buzz cut, and will you leave ½ an inch of hair on my head?” your barber should know what you’re talking about, and he’ll choose the right clipper guard. So YOU DON’T NEED TO MEMORIZE CLIPPER GUARD SIZES unless you’re a barber.
If you hear the phrase “zero guard,” that means your barber is not using a clipper guard. Depending on the clippers, this will either give you a clean cut, or leave less than 1/16 of an inch of hair on your head.
If this feels like a lot of information, don’t stress yourself out. As long as you’re descriptive about how long you want your hair, or if you bring a picture of some sort, your barber will choose the right guard sizes for you.
How To Use Hair Clipper Guard Sizes
You can use clipper guard sizes to tell your barber exactly how you want him to do your haircut, or you can use clipper guards to give yourself a haircut.
I had an old roommate who used his clippers to give himself one of two haircuts. Either he’d slap on a #6 guard and buzz his whole head short, or he’d use a #4 guard on the sides and back of his head, and a #8 guard on the top for a simple crew cut.
If you don’t cut your own hair, you can use clipper guard sizes to direct your barber when he’s giving you a skin fade or a bald fade. Let him know how much hair you want on the top and sides based on the clipper guard number you tell him.
How Do I Know What Clipper Guard To Use?
If you’re cutting your own hair, choose your clipper guard based on the length that you want your hair.
For example, if you want your hair a ¾ of an inch long, then work backwards and ask yourself, which clipper guard will leave ¾ of an inch of hair on my head? That’s the #6 guard!
Don’t worry if you need to pull up a clipper guard size table every time you get a haircut. That’s normal. Memorizing the guard sizes is pointless unless you’re a barber.
Or, if you’re feeling fancy, you can use an equation to convert between clipper guard sizes and the length of the clipper guard:
(Clipper Guard #) ✕ (⅛) = (Length of the Clipper Guard)
For example, if you don’t know how long the #2 Guard is, then plug in the number like this:
2 ✕ ⅛ = ?
2 ✕ ⅛ = 2/8
Simplify the fraction:
2 ✕ ⅛ = ¼
So the #6 Guard leaves your hair ¼ of an inch long!
OR you can work in reverse, if you know how long you want your hair, but you don’t know your clipper guard size:
8 ✕ (Length of the Clipper Guard) = (Clipper Guard #)
For example, if you want to clip your hair to ½ an inch long, plug in the numbers like this:
8 ✕ ½ = ?
8 ✕ ½ = 8/2
Simplify the fraction:
8 ✕ ½ = 4
So you should use the #4 guard if you want to cut your hair down to ½ an inch long.
But, really, you don’t need to memorize the clipper guard sizes or any of these equations. Just refer to your user manual, or look up the standard size guide whenever you use clippers.
Types Of Hair Clipper Guards
Lots of hair clippers come with a standard pack of guards. There should be 8 guards in your kit – if you have more or less, you might not have the standard guard sizes.
It’s best to read your user’s manual to see what kind of hair clipper guards you have. Some common variations on the standard sizes:
Extra Hair Clipper Guards
Some clippers come with a few extra guard sizes. The two add-ons you might see:
Clipper Guard #10 = 1 ¼ inches
Clipper Guard #12 = 1 ½ inches
And then other brands get funky. You might see a Clipper Guard #1.5, #2.5, #3.5… That means the guard sizes are going up in 1/16 of an inch increments. Read your user’s manual if your clippers don’t use the standard guard sizes.
Rainbow Hair Clipper Guards
Rather than naming guards by number, some kits give you rainbow guards and name them by color. Don’t let that throw you off – you should still have all the standard sizes, and maybe some add-ons. Read the user manual to verify which colors correspond to each size.
Super Long Hair Clipper Guards
Once in a while, you’ll see clipper guards that are over 1.5 inches long. I don’t recommend you purchase or use them. Once you get past the 1.5 inch mark, you should use scissors to cut your hair. Clipper guards won’t give you a reliable long-hair cut.
How To Make Clipper Guard Sizes Longer
You can use the taper level on the side of your clippers to make your clippers and guard slightly longer (it usually adds a small fraction of an inch, depending on your model).
But keep in mind, the longer your clipper guard, the less reliable it becomes. If your hair bends or if the blade doesn’t reach it properly, you won’t get an even, clean cut. That’s why most clipper guards don’t go beyond 1-1.5 inches.
If you really want hair that’s longer than an inch, you should visit the barber so that he can use a pair of scissors to give you a haircut with more length.
Clippers and clipper guards are designed to give you a great, short haircut.