For some guys, the ultimate warm-weather hairstyle looks something like the summer wedding haircut — versatile enough to go from ceremony to barbecue. Then there’s the other camp: The guys who feel that first heat wave and break out the clippers.
As long as you’re going into it with a game plan, the tennis-ball route is a hell of a lot cheaper than visiting a barber. Tony DeAngelis, master barber and co-owner of Blue and Black in Brooklyn, says the style is do-able for most guys. “I think the buzzed or bald look is great,” he says. “It’s clean, always professional, and looks good on a lot of people. For a guy who is hesitating to pull the trigger, I say just go for it.”
If you dig the cropped look, you can make this the season you avoid the barber chair. Here’s how.
DeAngelis recommends a clipper, not a trimmer, when trying a buzz cut. Barbers use clippers with strong motors to handle constant use, but for one guy, a mid-range clipper made by Wahl, Oster, or Andis works fine. Just make sure the attachment is a “3” (that’s 3/8 inch) or lower. Anything over “3” gets out of buzz territory.
A well-lit area with mirrors is a must, so do this in the bathroom. Grab an extra hand-held mirror, too, to help you see the back of your head, and pull out the vacuum for cleanup later. Make sure your hair is clean and dry before starting, and if you’re rocking a long mane, chop it down with scissors first. Note: many clippers have a lever on the side that controls blade spacing. When the lever’s closed, the shave will be closer. It’s best to start with an open lever for more wiggle room.
Begin with the sides. Locate the spot where you want your sideburn to begin (mid-ear is a good bet for most guys). Stretch the skin on your head taut to get a smooth, even surface, and move the clipper against the grain — nearly always straight up. “If you do it with the grain, you’re going to have a lot of stray hairs sticking up by the end of the cut,” DeAngelis says. Multiple passes with the clipper should alleviate this problem, but running a fine-tooth comb through freshly buzzed hair can reveal runaway hairs, too.
Follow the south-to-north pattern on both sides of the head. From the top of your forehead, buzz straight back. DeAngelis says it’s fine to buzz in long strips, lawn-mower style, but that shorter, consecutive strokes work, too. Either way, go over each spot more than once to catch any hairs that were laying down on the first go.
The back of the head is where the process gets tricky. Buzz from bottom to top, like you did on the sides, but check the direction of your hair growth. “On the top-back of the head for most guys, the hair kind of joins and does this little spiral,” DeAngelis says. “You’ll want to go around that swirl with the clippers and hit it from every angle.”
Spiral notwithstanding, nailing your neckline alone is a tough job, and this is where the hand mirror becomes your best friend. Stand facing away from the mirror, then hold up the hand mirror so you can see your natural neckline. Starting near the bottom, bring the clippers in a downward motion, slowly and with short strokes. Once all the hair is buzzed, use a safety razor to clean up any strays. Again, shave in a downward motion with the neckline instead of attempting a crisp-yet-challenging horizontal line. “Going for a straight line is just too hard for someone styling their own hair,” DeAngelis says.
A few words on your beard, if you have one: No need to make it match your hair length — dudes like Tim Howard have made the short-hair, long-beard style cool. But it’s important to blend the buzz into the sideburns. Using a size four (or higher) clipper attachment, buzz down the sideburn until you reach a spot even with your earlobe (make sure the lever is open at this point). Then turn and buzz the opposite way, slowly closing the lever as you go to blend the longer sideburn toward the cropped hair.
DeAngelis insists that when it comes to styling, sticking with one length is easiest. But the lever on the side of the clipper can add some variation. Leave it open on the top and closed on the sides for a subtle, longer-on-top look. Steer clear of fancy techniques, though. “I really wouldn’t recommend fading it yourself,” DeAngelis says. “It’s not necessarily that easy. Leave that to professionals.”