Through your time in school and working in your salon or barber shop, you might have heard a lot of mixed messages for deciding the right length shear to use. At Sensei we feel the length of your shear shouldn’t be decided by a feature of your anatomy as some people believe. Instead, we feel the length of the shear should be decided by what you’re going to use it for. Short hair cutting shears and long hair cutting shears each function best by the certain types of hair and haircuts they are used for. We recommend having both a longer and a shorter shear so you can use the best type of shear for your particular client. But even if you prefer just having one length of shear to use for every type of hair, considering the main types of haircuts you perform is a really important part of deciding what that shear should be.
Advantages to short hair cutting shears:
What we mean by short shears is a 5-6 inch shear. A great way to decide the right length for your short shear is to measure the length of the cutting blade against the second knuckle of your middle finger. This is because a shorter shear is best for palm to palm and in hand cutting. A short shear lets you work comfortably when performing a cut that requires very technical sections to work, such as graduated haircuts and bobs. It’s also good for quick point cutting layers with an overhand technique. Both these techniques are common places to cut yourself and having a shorter shear in these areas can let you work quickly and efficiently and avoid an awkward trip to the supply closet to get a band-aid. Beyond that, though a short shear is also good for most detail work and any place where you want to be up close to the work you are doing such as areas like the nape in a short women’s cut or around the ears in a men’s cut.
Advantages to a long hair cutting shear:
A long shear is any shear between 6-7 inches typically with the most popular lengths being 6.5 and 7. Your long shear is your go-to for any time your cutting with a comb, scissor over comb or cutting in-comb to set a perimeter against your client, cutting the base of a bob or layers. A long shear saves you time with these techniques by taking more hair per cut and also gives you a more precise and balanced cut because it’s easier to line up your sections by using the additional length of the shear as a guide. Longer shears are also better for cutting curves whether your doing overhand layers or the rounded perimeter of a long cut. The extra length of the blade lets you turn the shear making it easier to make soft gradual curves with the cut matching the head shape and giving a more organic look. Traditionally barbers were always the ones to use long shears because of its benefits for shear over comb and with more men willing to put time and money into their hair, it is a must for barbers to have a long shear to perform the techniques that are required for the demand.
So how to pick the right length shear for you?
Because each type of shear gives you really strong advantages over the other for most stylists we recommend that you have both if possible. Most stylists tend to have more than one cutting shear already, so they have a backup shear in case they drop their shear or it gets dull and must be sharpened. Typically their main shear and the backup shear tend to be the same length. So a great place to start is the next time you’re replacing your main shear or your back up shear, get one which is another length. Instead of having a shear which is only used in instances when you need to get the other fixed you have two shears which each can serve a purpose in making you a faster more efficient stylist. In a pinch, you can also use either the short or the long shear to do all your techniques while the other is being taken care of.
If your preference is still to have one length of shear which you use universally, look at the types of haircuts you’re doing to make sure that shear is the one which is actually best suited for you. You might have started out in school with a 5.5” shear but now you are finding you cut mostly long layers and one length bobs you should consider making the switch to a 6 or 6.5 as it will give you a better result with the types of cuts you’re doing. Or if your doing a lot of tight graduations and sometimes struggle getting the cut you want with your detail work maybe a short shear is the one for you.