How To Choose Haircutting Scissors

Comb, scissors and cut hair
Photo: Depositphotos
Obviously, the most important tool for a hairdresser (who spends most of his or her time cutting people’s hair) is the shears (scissors) he or she will use. Many stylists spend hundreds and thousands of dollars on a single pair of shears, and if you ask ten stylists what brand of shears they like best, you’re likely to get ten different answers.
Because of all the options out there, I wanted to offer you some basic guidelines and tips to make sure that whatever your budget is, you get the scissors that will work best for you.
"Size Matters" or "The Right Shears for the Job"
You’ve probably seen haircutting shears that are really long, and many that seem really small. That's because there is a distinction between barbers' shears and regular haircutting shears. The fact is, there are two "roles" that require specific scissor types - barbering and haircutting.
I know, I know, these sound like the same thing, but the techniques used are different, and that means the tools involved are constructed with differences as well. Barbering shears generally have longer blades because they are used for cutting "shears over comb" and the blades need to be long enough to be aligned with the side of a barber comb. "Regular" haircutting shears are generally used to cut the hair in small increments as it is combed and held with the fingers. Because of this, the blades are generally in more even proportion to the handle portion of the shear.
Within these two classifications, however, there is variation in size to be found. With haircutting shears, you will see the scissors labeled with a size in half-inch increments from around 4.5 inches to 6.5 inches Longer than this and the shears are generally found only as barber shears. The reason for the variety is that the size of the hands is wildly varied, and a good fit is important.
Because the hairstylist typically cuts hair in small increments to ensure precision, the scissors they use need only to extend a couple of inches beyond the index finger (at most) when wielded. If scissors were only available in one size, many would find that the scissors were either too big for their hands or too small.
In my days in cosmetology school, I was the only male in class, and while all my classmates used shears that were 4.5 or 5 inches, mine were 6.5 inches. This allowed my scissors to fit my hand comfortably and still be easily controlled and used to cut with precision.
Small haircutting scissors
Photo: Wavebreakmedia/Getty Images via Canva
In addition to the shears being the proper length for your hand, the finger holes on the gripping end should be large enough for your fingers to slide in and out easily and the shears to be able to swing around the fingers without resistance. This helps to prevent sore spots and calluses with prolonged use.
You don't want the holes too loose, though, or you'll lose your ability to control the shears properly and you'll be more likely to drop them (on your client) which can be very dangerous, since the shears are intended to be VERY sharp.
Making Your Living on the "Edge"
Your haircutting scissors MUST BE SHARP. They should in fact be so sharp that they can cut through a half-inch thick slice of damp hair with only the barest whisper of sound, and you shouldn’t even feel the cut happening. If you feel the scissors cutting the hair, or hear the cut as an audible "snikt," then chances are good that your shears need to be sharpened.
This leads to something that most people don't think of initially. If your scissors are going to get dull and need to be sharpened, what are you going to do while they are being sharpened? A lot of stylists don't live in areas where they can get "on-demand" sharpening service. In fact, even when there's a qualified sharpening service available locally, it often takes days or weeks to get the scissors back.
Because of this, you're going to need a backup pair of scissors that you can use while your primary pair is being serviced. In fact, many stylists buy two pairs of their favorite shears and alternate their use. One pair will be used for however long it takes until they need to be sharpened, then sent for sharpening while the other pair is put into use until they need sharpening.
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