guide to haircut numbers

A Simple Guide to Men's Hair Grades & Haircut Numbers

Written by: Piers Le Moignan



Time to read 8 min

If you want to make your barber's job easier and get the haircut you had in mind, start by learning what the different men's haircut numbers and hair length grades mean.

Not only will your barber appreciate your knowledge, but you'll also be doing yourself a favour by understanding what kind of haircut you want. No more miscommunications or dodgy trims that you end up hating.

You've probably heard the terminology and numbers bounce around while you're sitting in the chair, but what do the different haircut grades actually mean?

Let us break it down for you.

Understanding Haircut Numbers & Hair Length Grades

Haircut numbers and grades are used to differentiate between different lengths of hair on men. In very short terms... the higher the number, the longer the length of hair.

Haircut grades range from 0 to 8, with 0 being the shortest cut and 8 being the longest. Some barbers may use a different numbering system, so it's always best to communicate with your barber, but this is generally the universal standard.

The number refers to the clipper guard sizes, with each guard representing a different length of hair. A small guard number means less hair is left on the head, while a larger guard number means more hair will be left.

A clipper guard is the plastic attachment that goes on the head of the clipper.

So, for example, if you get a number 1 buzz cut, that means your barber will use a hair clipper with a number 1 guard attached to it. This will leave your hair at a length of about 1/8 inch or 3mm. On the other hand, a number 8 guard will leave your hair at a length of about 1 inch or 25mm.

Barber giving a buzz cut to a client
Image by Luis Quintero from Pexels from

Haircut Numbers Chart

The chart below breaks down haircut numbers from 0 to 8 and the length of hair they leave on the scalp. Keep in mind that these numbers may vary slightly depending on the brand of clippers your barber uses.

Haircut Number/Clipper Grade
Length of Hair in mm
Length of Hair in inches




























man getting haircut with clippers
Image by nattrass from Getty Images Signature from

What Do Different Haircut Numbers Mean?

The clipper grade your barber uses will differ depending on the haircut or style you've requested. This is where knowing the haircut numbers and corresponding lengths can come in handy, so you can communicate clearly with your barber. 

It might feel a bit like ordering off the menu down at your local kebab, but it's important to know what you're asking for.

  • Zero haircut – This is the shortest guard length, usually 1/16 of an inch or less. It’ll give you a buzz cut and can be used to create a skin-tight fade.
  • Number 1 haircut – This guard length is slightly longer than the zero, usually ⅛ of an inch. It’ll give you a very short and clean cut, great for those who prefer a low-maintenance hairstyle.
  • Number 2 haircut – This guard length is ¼ of an inch, giving you a slightly longer cut than the number 1. It’s great for leaving a bit more hair on top but still with a neat and clean look.
  • Number 3 haircut – This guard length is ⅜ of an inch and will give you a short but still noticeable amount of hair on top. It’s perfect for those who want a bit more volume and texture.
  • Number 4 haircut – If you're looking for a medium-length cut, the number 4 guard length is the way to go. It measures at ½ an inch and is a popular choice for those who want a little more hair to work with.
  • Number 5 haircut – This guard length measures ⅝ of an inch, giving you a longer cut that falls just above the ears. It is great for those who want a longer, more styled look.
  • Number 6 haircut – If you prefer longer hair, the number 6 guard length is perfect. Measuring at ¾ of an inch, it’ll give you an easy-to-maintain medium-length style.
  • Number 7 haircut – The number 7 guard length is perfect for those who want a longer, more textured cut. Measuring at ⅞ of an inch, it falls just above the forehead and allows for more versatility in styling.
  • Number 8 haircut – This guard length measures 1 inch, giving you a longer cut that can be styled in various ways. It is perfect for those who want a fuller look with more volume.

Your barber may not always use the exact guard number you request. They may go slightly shorter or longer depending on their technique and the texture of your hair.

If you have particularly thick or coarse hair, they may use a guard that is one size larger to ensure an even cut, but this is down to their professional judgement.

Your barber may also use a combination of different guard sizes to create a more blended and natural look. This is common when getting a fade haircut, where the hair gradually transitions from shorter to longer.

Knowing Which Haircut Grade to Go For

Your barber is the best person to ask for advice when it comes to choosing the right haircut grade. Communicate the hairstyle you want to achieve, either by showing them a few reference pictures of trending haircuts or by explaining the sort of look you're going for, and they'll be able to determine what the most suitable haircut grade is to achieve that look.

Aside from the desired style, some of the other factors they'll take into consideration include...

Hair Type

We touched on this briefly earlier, but your hair type is an important factor to consider when choosing a haircut grade. Different hair types will react differently to certain grades, so it's important to take this into account.

For example, if you have thick and coarse hair, a lower grade may not be able to achieve the desired length or texture. 

Similarly, if you have fine and straight hair, a higher grade may result in too much bulk or weight. In this case, your barber might go a grade lower or higher to achieve the desired look.

Hair Texture

Just like hair type, your hair's texture will also play a role in determining the most suitable haircut grade. Hair can range from straight to wavy to curly, and each texture will behave differently when cut.

Curly men’s hair is shorter than it appears due to its natural shrinkage, so a higher grade may be needed to achieve the desired length. Again, your barber will assess your hair texture and make the necessary adjustments to get the perfect haircut.

Face Shape

Believe it or not, your face shape can also impact the grade of haircut that is most flattering for you. A general rule of thumb is to choose a haircut that balances your face shape.

For example, if you have a round face, opting for shorter haircuts and avoiding too much volume on the sides can help elongate your face. On the other hand, if you have a square face, softer and more rounded haircuts can help soften your jawline.

Preferred Maintenance

As part of your discussion with your barber, you should also mention your preferred level of maintenance. Are you someone who enjoys frequent trips to the barber for trims, or do you prefer a low-maintenance style that can go a few weeks without needing a touch-up?

This information will help your barber suggest styles that fit your lifestyle and desired level of upkeep. For example, if you want a low-maintenance style, your barber may suggest a longer haircut that can go longer between trims.

Similarly, if you enjoy visiting the barber frequently and experimenting with new styles, your barber may suggest a shorter cut with more versatility. 

Knowing your preferred level of maintenance can ensure that you and your barber are on the same page and can help avoid any miscommunications or disappointment with the end result.

man getting skin fade
Image by Изображения пользователя Yevhen from

Conclusion: Do You Need to Know Haircut Numbers?

Understanding men's haircut terminology, such as hair clipper sizes and haircut length numbers, will benefit both you and your barber. You'll be able to have an easier conversation about what it is you want, and your barber can work their magic with precision, resulting in a haircut that you've actually envisioned.

But your barber knows best, so listen to their recommendations and trust their skills. They'll recommend a clipper number or a blend of numbers that will suit your hair type and face shape while also taking into consideration your maintenance preferences.

Fancy a hairstyle switch-up? Check out these 10 low-maintenance hairstyles inspired by Hollywood's leading men.


What Grade is Considered Short Hair for Men?

Typically, a clipper size 2 or below is considered short hair for men, but it can vary depending on the individual's hair type and desired style.

What Does 1 2 3 Mean in Haircuts?

The numbers 1, 2, and 3 refer to the different length guards on hair clippers. The lower the number, the shorter the haircut will be. Number 1 is approximately 1/8 inch, number 2 is 1/4 inch, and number 3 is 3/8 inch.

What Length is a Number 3 Haircut?

A number 3 haircut is approximately 3/8 inch in length. It is a popular choice for those who want a short but not too close cut.

How Do You Ask for a Buzzcut?

Simply that – ask for a buzzcut. Or, if you have a specific length in mind, you can say something like "I would like a number 2 buzzcut" to convey the desired length.

Piers Le Moignan

Piers Le Moignan is the founder and CEO of Salt Grooming, an award-winning British luxury men’s haircare and styling brand. 

Founded in 2018, Piers has quickly grown the company into a global brand that has distributed to 43 countries and counting.

Headquartered in London, Piers leads an agile workforce of 10 employees and consultants, including the company’s formulation team which features some of the UK’s leading cosmetic scientists. Piers is responsible for overseeing logistics, supply chain, and performance marketing, and is the driving force behind Salt’s product innovation and brand/creative direction. 

Previous to foundership, Piers spent a decade at some of London’s leading creative agencies, developing global brands and communications for the likes of Adidas, Jaguar Land Rover, British Airways, and more.

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