Most men have their own personal hair clipper at home which they use for a general buzz cut, or for the more adventurous once out there, to actually style their own hair cut which requires a more sophisticated knowledge of the different clipper guard sizes.
The more seasoned users out there also know that they cannot just reply on the clipper guards that come with the hair clipper model. To get the perfect hair cut they need the exact guard length.
In this case they usually turn to Speed-o-guide or Wahl's own Stainless Steel Color Coded Cutting Guides which are separately bought guides that can be used on various types of clipper brands. These guides will provide you with more options when it comes to cutting lengths and therefore enable you to get the exact cut and style you want.
To start off, however, if you’re serious about cutting your own hair it is important to get to know your clippers and choose the right one for your particular needs. If you’re still in the process of buying hair clippers then maybe you should check our top 5 recommended Hair Clippers. You’ll get an explanation of the good and the bad of each clipper model.
Once you chose your clippers, the next step is to familiarise yourself with the different sized guides and how hair your clippers number guide works.
What Hair Clipper Size?
The Hair Clippers used by barbers and even the ones sold for personal home use generally come with various clipper guards that attach to the clippers to alter the length of the cut.
Each guard would have a number on it which corresponds to the hair cut sizes they produce.
Understanding the clipper guard sizes will allow you to understand which size corresponds to the hair cut you want to get and avoids unpleasant surprises.
Clippers can also be used without a comb guard attached. In this case you will shaving your head directly with the blade (also known as size 0).
Now it must be noted that whether you use a size comb attachment or not, it's important to align the blades every once in while to keep them performing at their best and not disrupt the length settings.
To do this you will need to remove the blades by loosening the screws slightly, shift the blades with your fingers and then re-tighten the screws.
Pro Tip: Use a power screwdriver drill to tighten the screws as this will get them tight and enable you to hold the blades in place with your fingers while tightening which ensures they do not get misaligned again in the process. I use my DeWalt cordless drill driver for this, which in my opinion is the best cordless drill.
Now, that is clear, let's get back to discussing clipper comb lengths.
The main clipper guard sizes that most people use will range from 1/2 to 10. In a nutshell, the larger the size number, the longer the hair that will remain on your head after your haircut, with 10 being the equivalent of one and a quarter inches.
In most cases,apart from the guard number you will also find two other length measurement units on each clipper guard. The metric unit will show you the hair cut size in mm and on the other side you will find the equivalent in the US imperial units, or in other words, length in inches.
So, for example a no. 1 size of the wahl clipper guards would show 1/8th of an inch on one side of the guard and 3 mm on the other side. In essence this means that when you use the number 1 guide for a Wahl branded clipper, your hair sticking out of your scalp after the cut would be approximately 3 mm in length.
Guard numbers usually represent, more or less, the same hair length size on various hair clipper models however there is no standard universal unit of measure in this case. Therefore each different clipper manufacturer may have slightly different measurements for the various clipper guard numbers.
When going to a new barber, it is in your interest to consult with the barber on what you need before blurting out the clipper guard number which you want them to cut your hair with.
Understanding Hair Clipper Guard Sizes
Ok! Let’s take a deeper look into the different clipper guard sizes.
The wahl clipper guards shown in the this picture can be purchased as a set from amazon.com
If you own a hair clipper at home take out all the guards that came with your model and notice how each one of them contains a number on it. The below images show you what you should be looking for.
Starting from zero and moving up the scale from low to high you will see that the lower corresponding number, the shorter the guard teeth and therefore this means that the cut is going to be tighter to the head.
Therefore when you use a lower guard number it is going to be leaving less hair on the head. On the other hand, the higher the guard number goes than the more hair is going to be left on the head at the end of that cut.
As a quick guide, the following table shows the Hair Length chart of the Oster Hair Clippers brand range,
Clipper Guide Number
Length in inches
length in mm
1 / 16
1 / 8
1 / 4
3 / 8
1 / 2
5 / 8
3 / 4
7 / 8
1 & 1/4
As already mentioned, however, each brand will have it’s own hair length chart showing its own hair clipper sizes and the length equivalent to each guard number. You should familiarise yourself with the different buzz cut lengths of your clipper brand before using them for the first time.
Using the hair clippers without a guard attached to it will result in a very close shave where the hair is cut down to the scalp.
Most Clippers are also equipped with a lever that extends the cutting blades by half a size and therefore this means that when used without guards the clipper on its own already has a choice of different variations in buzz cut cut length, albeit all very short cuts. This can come in very handy for cutting fades.
This lever, however, can also be used in conjunction with the guards attached to the clipper. When moving the lever to the higher size it will add another half a length to the measurement as stated on the clipper guards themselves. Therefore a number three clipper will turn into a 3 and a half.
Now, let’s face it; all these different length measurement is all good and dandy but can you really imagine your hair length just by looking at the figures above?
I didn’t think so. Hopefully the following graphic by Hubpages will put things into perspective!
You might also have come across guards for hair clippers of different colours. These are referred to as colour coded guards for hair clippers and each colour would represent a different length number.
In fact, most Professional barber hair clipper guards will usually be colour coded which makes it easier for the barber to identify the different sized guards just by choosing the correct colour. This obviously speeds up the whole process.
The Wahl has a particular model of hair clippers for home with color coded guides. Not surprisingly they named it the Wahl Color Pro. You can get more details here.
Getting Hold of the Exact Hair Clipper Size
If you already have a hair clipper but need to buy just the comb attachments on their own, you can easily find these since most brands will sell them separately. Online shops like Amazon will have Clipper guards manufactured directly by the same brand of the hair clippers you are using.
You might also be in a situation where the Hair Clipper Brand you are using does not cater for the exact guard length you need. In this case you can check if this size is available at Speed-o-guide.
This is a very popular product among professional barbers and home users alike. They produce hair clipper guard attachments which are universal, in that they are compatible with almost all the major brands of clippers.
Their product is known also as the ‘original red comb’.
These universal hair clipper guards come in a range of different sizes and are made of high quality ABS plastic which makes them stronger for long term use. Their complete range of sizes allows for any hair type and ensures precise cuts whatever style you want.
The best thing about Speed-o-guide is that they have such a large range of different clipper guard sizes that many barbers will buy them to fill in a gap in size which may not be produced by the clipper brand they are using.
This table shows the clipper guard sizes available from Speed-o-guide and the relevant code number should you need to order only one particular size of The Original Red Comb.
If you've read all the way to this point you should now have a very clear grasp on the different sizes and makes of hair clipper guards available, but if you'd like to know more than this detailed video will give you some deeper insights.
Hair clippers are relatively easy to use and safe even to cut children's hair, however if you’re going to try out some DIY hair trimming for the first time then the chances are you will mess up in some way or another at the start.
Don’t give up though, you will get the hang of it... eventually.
We do recommend you take the time to understand which are the right hair clipper sizes for the style you want and on you first try go for a clipper guide which is at least one length bigger than what you need. This way you will be able to adjust where necessary by going over it again with a shorter clipper guard.
Oh, and by the way, if you’re doing it for the first time we also recommend that you do not try and cut your own hair before an important event, like your wedding!
In this case maybe it’s better to leave it in the hands of professionals.
Want to find Hair Clipper Guides on Amazon. Check out our Amazon Quick Search tool below.