Clipper Cuts

Man getting his hair cut with clippers
Clipper cutting hair - Photo: Laurent Renault/Shutterstock
Q: My hairdresser suggests a "number 2" haircut. What does that mean? Does it mean he will shave my whole head?
A: Well, yes and no. The term "Number 2 haircut" refers to a clipper cut given using the #2 length guard on the clippers. This cuts the hair to a uniform 1/4-inch length. So, while your hairdresser would cut your hair very short - perhaps shorter than you might have expected - your head wouldn't be truly shaved, nor be as short as some clipper cuts can be.
Barbering clippers usually have adjustable length settings on the permanent blade guard, and have removable "length guards" that allow the user to cut the hair to a uniform short length quickly and easily. This speed and convenience is what allows most barbers to charge less for a haircut than most salon stylists who use scissors.
These length guards are numbered and the numeric designation correlates to a specific length. There is slight variation in the exact length of a guard from one maker to the next, but they are generally standardized. This makes it possible for a person who usually keeps his or her hair very short to go to a barber in a new town and say "I want a #2 (or whichever) cut" and come away with something at least very close to what he or she normally wears.
Here are the general lengths specified by the different numbered length guards:
 •   #1 - one-eighth of an inch
 •   #2 - one-quarter of an inch
 •   #3 - three-eighths of an inch
 •   #4 - one-half of an inch
 •   #7 - seven-eighths of an inch
 •   #8 - one inch
The #5 and #6 length guards are special tapered guards designed for tapering the hair in an area of the head. One end of the guard is generally longer while the other is much shorter and the lengths graduate in between the two.
Supershort buzz cuts are becoming increasingly popular again. Many men and women enjoy the convenience of being able to simply come out of a shower, rub a towel over their heads and be "styled". There's also the fact that for people with thinning hair, these super-short cuts are very flattering.
See also:
Men's hairstyles
Clipper cutting techniques
The shaven head look for men
Do women like baldheaded men?