man in a barbershop getting his hair cut

Barbershop talk decoded: A guide to men’s haircuts 

If you’re looking for a guide to help you understand men’s haircuts and barbershop talk, then you’ve come to the right place. We’ve put together this handy guide to help you understand what to ask for and what those haircut numbers mean. Read on to find out the right terms for the style you want.


Barbershop basics



men's haircuts: man holding hair clippers
Source: Adobe Stock

Barbers and hairstylists use electric razors called clippers to shave your hair. Clippers are the best tool in a barbershop to use to achieve a buzz cut look. They also create women and men’s hairstyles with fades and tapers, and give the hairline that crisp finish.


Clipper Guards

close-up shot of hair clippers and clipper guards
Source: Adobe Stock

Clipper guards are attachments that clip onto the clippers and help determine the length of your cut. There are different sizes of clipper guards which usually only have about a millimetre between them.

Most clipper brands start at a number 0 (almost bald with a bit of fuzz) and go up to a number 8 (25mm) men’s haircut.

It is important to note that the numbers of some brands of clipper guards might vary slightly to these listed below. However, most are the same lengths as others.


Number zero men’s haircut

This guard is for those bold buzz cut looks! A number 0 men’s haircut means clipper guard number 0 is put onto the hair clippers. A cut with this clipper guard number means your hair is closely shaved, leaving about 1.5mm of length behind.


What is a number 1?

man with very short, shaved hair
Source: Adobe Stock

Is a number 0 a bit too short for the look you’re going for? Clipper guard number 1, also known as a number 1 men’s hairstyle, is close to a buzz cut but leaves you with a little more length. An ‘all-round number 1’ gives you a neat shave with roughly 3mm of length.


Is a men’s number 2 for you?

If you’re looking for a clean, close men’s haircut, we recommend you ask for a number 2. This clipper guard will give you a shaved look with 6mm of hair.


Understanding a number 3

man in a barbershop getting his hair cut
Source: Adobe Stock

The number 3 clipper guard is the last of the clipper attachments used to create super short haircuts. A number 3 men’s haircut means short strands with only 10mm of length.


Is a number 4 what you’re looking for?

Looking for a wake-up-and-go haircut? Then ask for a number 4. Guard number 4 gives you a tidy close cut with a little length. An all-over number 4 men’s hairstyle means you’ll have 13mm of hair on your head. It’s not enough hair to style, but that just means less fuss.


What is a number 5 men’s haircut?

A number 5 men’s cut is a longer buzz cut hairstyle. The cut is a close one, but not as close as the cuts mentioned above. Once finished, this shave leaves you with 16mm of hair.


About a number 6

The number 6 is a great option if you’re going for a neat and professional look with a bit of length. Clipper guard number 6 leaves you with about 19mm of hair, making it the perfect men’s haircut for those who want a bit of length to style.

Editor’s Tip: Give your number 6 cut some texture with a good styling product. We recommend the TONI&GUY Men’s Moulding Clay to help you shape your look and create texture. Simply rub the clay between your palms to warm it up, then work the product through dry hair and create a signature hairdo.


Here’s what you need to know about number 7

If you walk into a barbershop (or salon) and ask for a number 7, you’ll get a shave with about 22mm of length, making it a definite go-to if you’re looking for a cut that’s not too short.


Get to know a number 8

Last but certainly not least is the number 8 clipper guard. The number 8 men’s haircut allows for the most length as the guard size is the biggest option for most hair clipper brands. The guard leaves 25mm of hair for you to style.


Men’s haircuts decoded

Men’s fade haircut

male with very short hair and faded sides
Source: Unsplash

Usually fade haircuts mean your hairstylist shaves your sides with a number 3 clipper guard. This shaving technique creates contrast, height and texture.

Thinking of trying a classic faded men’s hairstyle? A classic fade means shaving your hair down to your skin at your hairline. This method creates a style that gradually ‘fades’ from longer to shorter hair, leaving no hard lines.


Men’s textured haircut

men's haircuts: man with a texturised hairstyle; short sides and long top
Source: Unsplash

Stepping into a barber and asking for texture may sound like the right thing to do, but you need to be a bit more specific. There are many different types of texture and different ways of creating texture in a men’s haircut. Here are 4 types of texture explained:

  1. Choppy texture for thin hair:
    This type of texture is great for those with thinner hair because this way of cutting the hair creates height, lift and volume.
  2. Razored texture for thick or curly hair:
    A straight razor is an ideal tool for this texture because it helps thin down thick bulky hair and helps your tresses lay flat.
  3. Layered texture for thinning hair:
    Want fuller-looking, textured hair? Add layers! This method layers longer hair and shorter hair to create the appearance of volume and dimension.
  4. Thinning texture for thick hair:
    Create a textured look with thinning shears. Thinning shears are similar looking to scissors, but they have teeth-like blades which cut some strands while leaving others. These shears help thin out very thick manes and make them more manageable.

Don’t like to be restricted to one look throughout the day? Use a re-workable product like the VO5 Extreme Style Rework Putty. This product will give you long-lasting, but flexible hold, so you have the freedom to switch up your style during the day. This works particularly well for layered or texturised hair.


Men’s taper haircut

faded tapered haircut
Source: Adobe Stock

To taper a haircut is to gradually change the length of the hair from the top of your head and down the back of your neck. Obviously, the length of a taper varies depending on the look you want.
Going for a sharp and defined look? We suggest a ‘V’ taper. Looking for something a little more subtle? Ask for a ‘U’ taper.


Sides and sideburns

men's haircuts: man with a fresh haircut; short sides and sideburns, with a straigh, long top
Source: Unsplash

When we say sideburns we don’t mean huge fluffy sides like Wolverine from the X-men or Elvis. We’re talking about neat, clean sideburns that add to your look and frame your face.


Don’t be afraid to mix ‘n match

edgy male's haircut, tapered back
Source: Unsplash

Now that you know what you’re asking for in a barbershop (or salon) don’t be afraid to mix and match styles and create a unique look. Try a crew cut which is a men’s hairstyle that combines a fade, taper and texture. Or, pair a number 6 cut with a fade and a ‘V’ taper — the options are endless.


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