FlowbeeQ: What is a Flowbee and what can you do with it?
A: The Flowbee is a haircutting machine/system that combines a specifically devised clipper device with your home vacuum cleaner. The product was invented in the late 1980s by Rick Hunt, who originally sold the products from his garage, and saw interest increase after he gave demonstrations at a County Fair and sold off all the units he had on hand. After this success, Hunt took his product to late-night television and created an infomercial which created a cult-following, and an infomercial icon.
By the year 2000 over 2 million Flowbee Haircut Systems had been sold and the company had created a web presence and was taking online orders. The original pricing of the Flowbee system has been listed as anywhere from $99.95 to $102.95 (plus shipping and handling charges) when the product first came on the scene.
These days, you can buy a Flowbee system to use with your own vacuum cleaner for as low as $59.95 (plus shipping and handling). The company is now offering a special package that includes its own vacuum for $99.95.
The principal behind the Flowbee is the use of the suction power of the vacuum to hold the hair out so that the clippers can cut the hair off evenly. The cut hairs are then sucked down the hose and don’t fall onto the person being sheared. Attachments and guides of varying lengths allow you to cut the hair to a range of lengths. (The basic “system” says that lengths can be created between ½-inch and 6 inches using the guides included, and additional guides can be purchased.)
The product, through demonstrations and testimonials is very popular and can provide serviceable haircuts in very basic styles. It is very good at creating uniform lengths (as in a traditional circle cut) and works well on coarse-to-medium textures and straight-to-curly hair types. The biggest drawback most people encounter is failure to use the device properly. The longer and thicker the hair is, the more it is necessary to “lift and place’ the Flowbee along the scalp as opposed to “gliding” the Flowbee around the head.
There are some limitations. Many reviewers cite that the Flowbee doesn’t take into consideration the shorter, curly “edge hairs” found at the nape, side and temple areas of the head. These still need to be edged in the shorter styles for a clean, precision look. They also explain that very curly hair types and fine hair types can overload the “hopper” (the guides into which the hair is suctioned for cutting) resulting in uneven results. In addition, for more dramatic shifts in length (from longer to shorter) you need to do some initial cutting by hand with scissors before using the Flowbee to even out the lengths.
The one true complaint from most reviewers is the noise. The device calls for the running of your vacuum as well as the high-pitched buzz of the clippers of the Flowbee. One reviewer explains that the resulting sound made him think of being inside an airplane hangar.
When all is said and done, however, the Flowbee can be a money-saving device for a budget-conscious family. It can give serviceable and attractive haircuts for your family at a tremendous savings. (The average haircut for a man or boy is around $15-20 in many cities, and for women the price averages $25-30.) A family of four who gets haircuts every three months at a minimum would save around $280 a year or more (provided that the Flowbee created a hairstyle that the family was happy with).