It’s fair to say that, for most people, the thought of cutting your own hair, or more sensibly, trusting the task to someone else, wasn’t even an option at the beginning of the year. But desperate times – and our newfound obsession with Zoom chats – calls for desperate measures, so which is the best pair of hair clippers for your COVID Cut?
Hair clipper prices vary wildly, from £20 – £200+, and just like beard trimmers, you get what you pay for, but if you’re only buying them to use a couple of times, will any pair do? To a certain extent, the answer is, yes, but only if you’re looking to shave your head short. If you plan on ‘styling’ your locks, the power and precision found on more expensive models will make your life easier. As will a decent pair of scissors and a comb.
Quality clippers give the user confidence, and in the absence of any skill, this can make all the difference. Hairdressing, as many of us are starting to fully appreciate, is a skill that takes years to master, but with a decent YouTube tutorial and plenty of patience, you can muster a passable trim.
WIRED contacted all the leading hairdressing brands and discovered that sales of clippers have skyrocketed, and stock dwindled. As a result, we have not been able to test and compare all the products on the market but we will update this guide as stock becomes available.
What are the best hair clippers in 2020?
The best hair clippers WIRED has tested is the professional Wahl 100 Year Anniversary Clipper (£180). They boast exceptional build quality, power and precision, and if money is no object, then you won’t be disappointed.
If you can’t quite justify the cost, consider the Remington Heritage (£65), which has power, comfort and usability a-plenty. It’s the best all-rounder under £100.
The best value hair clipper is the Philips Hairclipper series 5000 (£40). Annoyingly it compromises on the convenience of battery power, but it is cheap, reliable, comes with plenty of attachments and has consistent power to tackle even the thickest mops.
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Wahl 100 Year Anniversary Clipper
WIRED Recommends: The professional choice is good enough for us
Run time: 70min | Hair length: 1 – 3.5mm (separate attachment combs, #0.5, 1.5, 1 – 8) | Accs: Blade oil, cleaning brush, polishing cloth
This pair of clippers, released to celebrate Wahl’s 100 year milestone, will almost certainly appeal to anyone who can differentiate between a high skin fade pompadour and a classic Caesar, but with 20 years on the Remington Heritage (below), is Wahl’s centurion worth the investment?
The short answer is unquestionably, yes, the Wahl 100 Year Anniversary Clippers (£180) are exemplary. Designed for professional hairdressers, and not typically available to the public, but with unprecedented pandemic demand, Wahl has made them available to all, if, that is, you’re willing to spend big.
The solid metal body feels cool in the hand and reassuringly weighty and balanced, while the powerful motor purrs calmly even when removing piles of hair. It’s the sound of being sat in barber’s chair, and it makes home cutting all the calmer as a result. All the clippers we’ve tested cut hair well, but only the Wahl gave us confidence, as both (home) barber and (home) customer.
It might look old-school, but this most traditional design boasts a 70-minute run time from just a 70-minute charge. In the 25 minutes it took to fashion a Zoom call appropriate short-back-and-sides, the battery didn’t slow, and the blades refused to clog. The wide blade head wasn’t great for doing detail, but it isn’t really designed for it – your barber would have a smaller pair of clippers. We used a beard trimmer.
They’re by far the best clippers on test, but price will put many people off, especially as they don’t come with a set of combs. These cost £33 for a set of 10, but for that you get professional grade guards made from premium plastic – no sharp points here – held securely to the blade with a metal clasp.
If you spend big on haircuts and demand the best chance of a decent at-home trim, you’ll not find better, but remember, a bad workman often blames his tools.
Pros: So much power; stylish; professional; perfectly weighted
Cons: Expensive; combs sold separately; not great for detail
The best all-round hair clippers under £100
Run time: 60min | Hair length: 1.5 – 25mm | Accs: blade, cleaning brush, oil
Launched to celebrate 80 years of electric shaving, the Remington Heritage (£65) is a grown-up pair of clippers with plenty of old-school style. Admittedly, unlike the pro-grade Wahl, the build is a mix of plastic and faux leather, but they still feel solid in the hand and look the business.
With 11 combs included, you can easily play it safe with a cautious shortish back and sides, without the need to go Full Metal Jacket, and Remington has also included two fade guards that help taper the cut at the sides, although we found it easier to work through the grades from long to short.
The li-ion battery keeps the motor cutting at speeds up to 300mm/s, which are in line with professional clippers, rather than basic home designs. The result is that the blades made light work of a thick head of hair without snagging or any real noticeable drop in power. The sound the blades made through thick hair did change as battery life started to wane but cutting quality thankfully didn’t suffer.
The guards were easy to clip on and remove, and felt reassuringly secure, but the plastic used does feel a bit thin and flimsy. The ends of the guards are also quite sharp, and if you’re not being gentle (or the appointed hairdresser has had enough of your guidance/panic) you might get spiked.
While not designed specifically for self-cuts, the handle shape, balanced design and grippy leatherette top means you can get to the awkward bits at the back without feeling like you’re going to drop them.
The Heritage comes with a taper lever which should appeal to anyone interested in very close fades– the unguarded blade length can adjust from around two to six millimetre in length. It’s a widget found on professional designs, and worth considering if you plan on home cutting more than a couple of times.
We recommend anyone attempting to cut their own hair – or someone else’s for that matter – heads to YouTube for a how-to video. Under no circumstances should they use the instructions provided here. Rudimentary doesn’t quite cut it.
Pros: Stylish; powerful; taper lever; 6-year guarantee
Cons: Guards are sharp; no comb; poor instructions
Philips Hairclipper Series 5000
A good value workhorse
Run time: Corded | Hair length: Grades 1-8 (1.5 – 25mm) | Accs: cleaning brush, scissors, oil, barber’s comb
If you’re loath to spend big on something you hopefully only need to use a couple of times, this corded design from Philips has plenty to offer. Handily the Hairclipper Series 5000 (£40) comes with both a comb and pair of hair scissors – neither of which WIRED previously had to hand – which meant a neater finish and no more hacking away with the regular scissors.
Well built, with a reassuring thumb grip, they look the part and feel comfortable, even when cutting your own hair, and the motor runs surprisingly quiet, which isn’t always the case. The stainless steel blades have a taper lever, which means you can tweak the length of the cut from 0.5 – 3mm, and with all eight grade lengths available you can practise your Peaky Blinder fade, go full Jason Statham, or stick to a short back and sides.
WIRED found the clippers powerful enough to give a professional looking buzz cut, but the big issue is the cord, that, even with a generous 2.8m length, gets in the way as you work, and limits where you can cut your hair. Battery power is better, but to ensure there’s enough power to get through thick hair, you’ll need to spend at least double the cost of the Philips. With battery powered clippers, you do get what you pay for.
The full suite of attachments and guard lengths is a real bonus, but without a carry bag or some way of organising all the bits of plastic, we’re imagining bits will go missing quickly, and clutter up even the most capacious bathroom cabinet.
Pros: Even cut; useful extras; generous attachments; good value
Cons: Corded; no carry bag; not as powerful as Wahl
Babyliss PRO Forfex FX Classic Scissor
The best option for a neat trim
Run time: n/a | Hair length: n/a | Accs: Removable finger inserts, plastic case, scissor oil
In the period between first home haircut and last WIRED learned two very important lessons; firstly, not all YouTube tutorials are created equally and secondly, kitchen scissors will leave your hair looking, well, rather like they’ve been cut with kitchen scissors. Save them for the bacon.
Unless you’re opting for a very close crop or buzz-cut or have long hair just in need of a trim, we strongly recommend investing in a decent pair of hair dressing scissors like the Babyliss PRO Forfex FX (£26). Also, ask a partner or cohabitator for help (if you’re lucky enough to have one) as self-scissoring anything more than a fringe is a recipe for disaster.
The Japanese micro-serrated blades are exceptionally sharp and the scissor motion nice and smooth, with a reassuringly professional snipping sound. You can also adjust the tension of the hinge if you prefer a looser or more secure (you’ll want security) feel. The 5-inch scissor we tested is not the longest blade available, but the advantage of keeping it short is that snipping around the ears is easier, and when cutting a fringe or trimming length on top you can keep track of where you’ve cut already.
If you’ve got sausage fingers you may struggle with these scissors, but for a quick tidy, they are comfortable and effective. You can easily pay five times as much for a pair of hair cutting scissors, but unless lockdown barbering has given you a talent for tonsuring, we don’t think it’s worth spending any more than this.
Pros: Cuts hair cleanly, make a professional snipping sound
Cons: Not ideal for big fingers; face it, you don’t know what you’re doing
Remington Quick Cut
Best for quick buzz cuts
Run time: 40min | Hair length: 1.5-15mm (Grade 1-5) | Accs: Guard combs, cleaning brush, carry pouch
Designed for swift solo barbering, the palm-sized Remington Quick Cut (£30) is aimed at those who like to keep things short and uncomplicated on top. It comes supplied with nine length combs, but unlike most clippers, this only covers grades 1-5, so maximum cut length is just 15mm.
The main selling point here is the extra-wide curved blade that promises to better follow the contours of your head and get the job done quicker. This worked well on a non-plussed five-year-old as the wide blade did the bulk of the job in just a few passes, but when tested solo – by a buzz-cut veteran – the added width lacked the precision found on a standard pair of clippers.
When used without the guard (1.5mm, with no taper lever) the finish wasn’t as smooth as we would expect and nowhere near close cut enough, especially if you were looking to emulate Patrick Stewart. The blade also wasn’t the most comfortable against the scalp, but, if you’re a dedicated self-stylist, rather than someone looking for a quick Covid Crop, we’d imagine, and strongly recommend, you spend more than £30.
The Quick Cut is well built, feels comfortable in the palm of your hand, and we appreciate being able to rinse it under the tap after use. The combs, like so many we’ve tested, are quite flimsy, but they will get the job done, and the 40min battery life is more than good enough to get the whole family shorn, just don’t expect to be knocking out Geordie Shore level skin fades.
Pros: Good value; washable; fast; great for short hair
Cons: Lacks precision; no guard uncomfortable