Some men’s hair is just made for a flat top. My husband is one of those men. His hair is very thick, and the various styles he tried over the years either took too much grooming time or just didn’t look right on him. Then he tried a flat top haircut, and he’s never gone back since. The style requires no effort on his part, and it suits him.
However, a flat top haircut does require a lot of “upkeep” in order for it to remain precise. For my husband, this meant a trip to the salon every two to three weeks, proving to be expensive in the long run. When he first asked me if I would do his flat top instead, I balked at the idea because I was afraid it would result in disaster.
When I finally gave in, I was surprised at how easy it actually was to do a flat top haircut. We were both pleased with the results, and I have regularly done my husband’s hair ever since. If you follow these simple steps, you can easily do a flat top, too.
The first step is to do a little observation. Go along to the next appointment or two and watch the stylist. Pay attention to the type of tools used, how they are held, and the steps that are followed to complete the haircut.
Next, visit a beauty supply store for your own equipment. Keep in mind that the initial purchase may seem expensive, but the money you save in the long run makes it worthwhile.
The most important tool is called a flat topper comb. About six inches wide with a handle, it looks a lot like a detangling comb but has teeth that are long and very flat. The top of the comb contains a bubble level, which is the secret to getting a straight, even flat top haircut.
Next, pick out good clippers with various-size guards to allow for different hair lengths. The size doesn’t really matter as long as the motor is strong enough to handle the job. It is important to keep the blades oiled so the clippers can work properly.
Another useful tool is a hair-cutting shear. I use a small one for clipping the inevitable stray long hairs that somehow escape the blade.
Finally, you may want to buy a cape to help catch all the clippings and keep them from annoying the “clipped”. You can also just use a sheet or towel, but they don’t fit as well and are harder to clean.
The actual haircut
The first step in achieving the perfect flat top haircut is to remove the lower portion of the hair with clippers. Chose a guard that creates the desired length – they are numbered, and smaller numbers allow hair to be clipped closer to the head. The larger the number, the longer the hair. In my husband’s case, a number 2 guard works well.
Start at the base of the hair and use the clippers in a slow, upward motion. Remove the hair only up to the area around the temple, leaving a circle of long hair all the way around the top of the head.
It is important to move slowly to avoid pulling, and it is a good idea to go over the area twice to be sure there are no stray long hairs or missed patches. Be careful not to go up too far with the clippers, or you will end up with a regular crew cut rather than a nice flat top.
The next step is using the flat topper comb along the sides and back of the top part of the head. You should remove the guard from the clippers at this point, but be careful to avoid touching it to the hair without using the comb as a guide. Slide the comb into the hair to be cut, tipping it to create the desired angle (at this point, you don’t need to worry about the level).
The angle is really a matter of personal preference–some people prefer a straighter look, while others prefer a bit of a taper. Use the clippers to remove the hair sticking out of the top of the comb. This is done by moving the clippers along the comb “against the grain” of the hair.
Continue moving all the way around both sides and the back of the head. The most important part of this process is making sure that the angles on both sides of the head match. It may be necessary to do some touch-up work here after the top of the hair is done.
Next, use the flat topper on the very top of the head. This is where it is important to use the bubble level on the comb. This ensures that the top is actually flat rather than angled to one side. First, be sure the person is holding his head straight, then slide the comb through the top of the hair at a right angle. Balance the comb on the top of the head, be sure it is level, and remove the hair with the clippers.
At this point, it is time to inspect your work. Check to be sure the top of the hair is level and that the sides are even and contain the desired amount of taper. Look closely for long hairs or missed areas, touching up with scissors when necessary.
The final step involves using the clippers (without the guard) to trim up the base of the hair, and the area around the ears, and to shave the neck.
At first, it may take a long time to complete the process, but with some practice, the steps become routine. Eventually, you may get so good at it that you start taking in customers!