Saturday, August 18, 2007

How to do a Taper Cut

This cut is mostly for the guys, but some women, my wife included, like a good short taper cut. Here is how to do it the right way (p.s. this kindof depends on you having the scissors and clippers, and clipper guards that go by the guard number system):

Before We Get Started

I am going to write a post on my top 10 tips on how to cut your own hair, and you might want to wait for that post before you cut your hair, because there is going to be some good stuff there that I won't have in this pretty specific post on how to cut a taper cut.

The Clipper Cut

Ok, first, comb all of your hair straight down. Next, get your clipper and put the #3 guard on it. The #3 will cut your hair to the length of 3/8 of an inch. Don't worry, we will taper it up! What's that? You say you might want a different length, maybe shorter? Well, here is a list of guards, and the length they (should) cut to:
  • #1 1/8in
  • #2 1/4in
  • #3 3/8in
  • #4 1/2in

I suggest you have someone else do this for you and you reciprocate the favor to them, as it is a WHOLE lot easier to have someone else do the back for you. Trade, it's worth it.

So, now that you have a partner, or a good mirror and stupendous reverse hand/eye coordination, you are going to start pulling you clippers from the neckline upwards toward the pointy part of the back of your head. Now, you aren't going to just go straight up, you will do this in a rocking motion. Start by having the guard flat on the neck, then as you get toward the pointy part on the back of your head, rock the points of the clipper guard away from your head, until your hand that is on the clipper is touching the neck. Then, while still moving upward, pull away from the head.

This rocking motion is important as it will blend the hair from really short where the #3 is flat against the head at the bottom, toward longer where you rocked out, and it will make it easier to do the clipper across comb method to get a clean transition from bottom to top.

Give the clipper a little flick to remove the hair from it and repeat the rocking motion. Work your way from the back around towards the ears.

If you have ear guards, you will want to use those around the ears, and you will definitely want to sort of criss-cross your clips from behind the ear toward the front, then from in front of the ear towards the back, so as to blend the cuts.

If you don't have ear guards, use the #3 guard, and criss-cross as mentioned before. It will require more strokes, and you will not have as nice a taper down toward the ear. Not much you can do about that, but you might try using a #2 and angling away from the top of the head to give a little taper toward the ear.

Clipper Across Comb

Next, after you have done the clipper to your satisfaction, it's time to do the clipper across comb technique on the transition to the top. Here is how:

Use your comb to roll the hair up from the bottom. Using the point on the back of the head as a guide, you will want to comb upward from the neck toward the point, keeping the comb perpendicular to the head while pulling up and toward you. The point here is to use the comb as a guard agains the head, and clip the hair off of the comb at the desired length (which goes from shorter to longer as you work your way toward the top of the head).

So, pull the comb up and out toward you, then using the clippers without any attachment, pull the clippers flat across the comb, cutting any hair that is sticking through the comb (see picture).

Do this on the back and around the head toward the front from the back.

Trim the Bangs

Now, that is pretty much it for the clippers. Next we will be working with the scissors. We will start with the bangs. Begin by combing the bangs straight down toward the eyes. Use your fingers to pull the hair from the hairline out until the amount of hair sticking out from the fingers is what you want to cut off. Use your scissors to cut across your fingers to protect from cutting too much (see the image below):

Go ahead and do that for all of the bangs, combing the hair down often, then trim freehand with the scissors after you have done this, as necessary, to ensure that the bangs are even.

Over the Top

Ok, so far, so good! Now we will go after the top, and the cleanup and be done. To cut the top, we will do pretty much what we did on the top, collect the hair between our fingers and cut across at the desired length with our scissors.

Now, comb the bang hair back toward the top of the head, as you will use it as a guide for how long you will cut the top. This time, you will end up with your hand on top of the head with your fingers pointing toward the front of the head. So basically run your fingers through the hair from the back until you get to the front of the head, with hair collected in between your fingers, including some of the bang hair for reference. Then, cut the hair that is longer than the bang hair.

Next, use that cut as reference, and move toward the back, staying in the centerline of the head. When you are done going toward the back, and have a reference cut, move back to the front and do each side. Be sure to comb out the hair before each cut, so that you get the long straglers that tend to hide otherwise.

Finishing Up

Ok, that is it for the major cutting, now we go for the finishing work. What we have left is to clean up around the ears, create a clean line on the neck, clean up stray neck hairs, and brush up.

Get your clippers back out, I guess we weren't quite done. For this part you will want to remove any accessories from the clippers, and ensure that the blade of the clippers is at it's shortest setting. How you can tell that it is is by looking at the blade, and adjusting so that the blades are as high on the metal guide as possible. There is usually an adjusting lever or switch that does this.

Now, power those suckers up and and take the pointy corner of the clippers and start working your way around the ear in a circle, basically using the clippers to draw a line like with the point of a pencil from the back to the front. Understand that there is risk here to really screw up the cut, and it won't be terrible if you don't do this part. One shake of your hand can put a gouge in the hair around the ear, and that really looks like crap (trust me :), so be careful or don't do this step.

Last bit of clipping here. First, take a look at the neckline, and determine in your mind where the hair should end. Usually it is approximately an inch below the level of the ears. Draw a mental line there. Now, take your clippers without attachments, and just touch them, lightly, flat against the neck on that imaginary line, then remove, then move down, touch and remove, from the center to either side. You should have a nice straight line.

Some people prefer to have rounded corners at either side on the neck, now is the time to do that. Easiest way is to go diagonal with the clippers and touch the corner at each side.

That's it. All you have left to do is stare in amazement at all the piles of hair on the ground :) So, take the provided brush, brush off the neck and the cape before you remove it. Go admire yourself in a mirror, you stud or studette!


Kristi said...

My wife loves her taper cut but she is going to go shorter for the summer

S. said...

Fun reading and useful tips, thanks :)! Will try it tomorrow on my hubby ;).

lup said...

Thanks for the tips - I'll try this on my 3 boys and husband.