You will need:
- Clippers with guards, which attach to the clippers and control the length of a cut.
- A mirror, plus maybe another mirror or a phone.
- A garbage bag or towel.
- A comb or hair pick, depending on your hair type.
One note: Yes, you can use whatever you have. A beard trimmer or even (clean!) dog clippers can work. If you have clippers but no guards, just know that you will have a very short cut. A beard trimmer works but will take more time.
Michael Gold, a general assignment reporter on The New York Times Metro desk covering news in the New York City region, agreed to try it at home. Desiree Marshall, a barber who works at Classic Men barbershop in Brooklyn, walked us through how to do a simple buzz cut.
Start with clean, dry hair that's free of any gel, pomade or conditioner. Cover yourself with a towel or garbage bag so you don't get hair all over yourself. If you're cutting over a sink or counter, consider putting down a rag or paper towels for easier cleanup (or to not clog your drains). Situate yourself in front of a mirror. It helps to have someone cut your hair for you, as they will have a better view of your head, but it's possible to do this alone. And if you're beginning with longer hair, it may be helpful to pull it into a ponytail and chop the excess hair off with scissors before beginning the buzz cut.
If you have straight hair, wavy hair or hair with looser curls, use a comb to brush the hair on the top of your head forward toward your forehead. Comb the back and the sides downward and comb through any knots, if you have them. If you have super curly, thick hair or an Afro, use a pick to comb the hair out as full as possible.
Ideally, you're using clippers with a guard for your preferred length.
Here is a brief guide:
- If you want a very close-to-the-scalp cut: choose no guard.
- If you still want to brush your hair but not have to do much with it: choose guard Nos. 1 to 3. (The number will vary depending on your hair texture and thickness.)
- If you want hair long enough to pull with your fingers: choose guard No. 4 or higher. (Any guard below a 4 will generally result in hair too short to brush through with your fingers.)
Turn your clippers on. Start from the forehead and buzz the hair back to the crown of your head.
You want to hold the trimmer so the blade is flat against your head. Going in small sections, slowly move the clippers from one end to the other - you will have to go over sections a few times to get an even look. If you're using a tool other than clippers, this process may take longer. Always use gentle strokes.
To do the sides, go from your sideburns back to the crown.
For cutting the back, guide the clippers from the base of the neck to the crown, going against the direction your hair grows. If you're doing the cut yourself, this is where you'll use a hand mirror to see what you're doing to the back of your head.
Look over your work in the hand mirror, checking for spots you may have missed. Be sure to fold your ear down so you don't miss cutting the area around and behind your ears. Once you feel you've achieved an even look, you're done.
- If you have no experience cutting hair, now is not the time to attempt an at-home fade or other style that requires a lot of technique. For beginners, sticking to a buzz cut is best.
- If your clippers aren't grabbing hair, switch to a lower number of guard.
- Take some "before" photos in advance, in case of disaster. "I still spent the morning stockpiling selfies for dating apps, my Instagram close friends and sentimentality's sake, just in case something went horribly wrong," Gold told us. "It's important to be prepared!"