Understanding Clipper Guards for Perfect 360 Waves


Hey there, it’s your boy Jay Lew, and I’m excited to welcome you to this comprehensive guide on achieving flawless 360 waves by understanding clipper guards before cutting your hair or getting it cut by a barber. As someone who recently transitioned from having locs and going back to the world of 360 waves, I want to share my journey and insights with you all. In this guide, we will jump into the nitty-gritty of hair-cutting techniques, clipper guards, curl types, and more. Let’s dive right in!

Ultimate Guide for Understanding Clipper Guards

Clipper guards are your trusty tools when it comes to achieving the ideal hair length. These small yet vital tools attach to your clippers and determine how much hair is left after a trim. Think of them as customizable safeguards for your hair length.

In simple terms, what this means is that clipper guards will not allow the clippers to cut your hair shorter than the guard you have placed on them. When choosing your guards, you will often encounter numbers like 1, 2, 3, and so on. These numbers indicate the length of hair left behind in units of 1/8 of an inch.

If your barber asks you “Do you want me to cut a 2 all even?” What they are asking is do you want your hair to be 2/8 of an in or more commonly stated 1//4 of an inch. However, the length of the cut can also be affected by what state the clippers are in prior to cutting, which we will discuss next.

What Does Open and Closed Guard Mean on Clippers

Before we proceed, let’s clarify the concept of open and closed clippers.

What Does Open Clippers Mean

When the lever on your clippers is fully pushed back or away from the clippers, it is in the “open” position, allowing for more of your hair length left after the cut. Below are the images that show clippers “open” so that you better understand what we mean:

Open Guard BaBylissPRO GoldFX Front View
Front View of BaByLissPRO GoldFX Clippers in “Open” State
Open Guard BaBylissPRO GoldFX Side View
Side View of BaByLissPRO GoldFX Clippers in “Open” State

What Does Closed Clippers Mean

On the other hand, when the lever is pushed forward or closer to the clippers, it’s “closed,” allowing for less of your hair length left after the cut. Below are some images showing what clippers that are “closed” look like so that you better understand what we mean:

Closed Guard BaBylissPRO GoldFX Front View
Front View of BaByLissPRO GoldFX Clippers in “Closed” State
Closed Guard BaBylissPRO GoldFX Side View
Side View of BaByLissPRO GoldFX Clippers in “Closed” State

Understanding this simple mechanism of the lever arm on the clippers is essential for achieving the perfect length. Your barber will know this information, but if you know it as well then you know exactly what length you would want your hair to be cut preventing the headache of leaving the chair with a cut that your barber THINKS looks good on you.

However, this is just the beginning of knowing things that your barber already knows in order to obtain the ideal haircut length. The next thing we need to discuss is one that wavers typically get scared about and that is which haircut technique should be used to cut their waves.

The Difference Between With The Grain and Against The Grain Haircuts

When it comes to cutting your hair, there are two techniques that can be utilized to achieve the perfect wave pattern: cutting with the grain and cutting against the grain.

What Does Cutting with the Grain Mean for Haircuts

Cutting with the grain involves trimming your hair in the direction it naturally grows.

Clipper Guards: Cutting With The Grain

What Does Cutting against the Grain Mean for Haircuts

On the other hand, cutting against the grain entails trimming your hair against its natural growth direction.

Clipper Guards: Cutting With The Grain


Why Cut against the Grain

Many wavers tend to not want to get their hair cut against the grain because they have been told by so many people who do not know about cutting hair that it will ruin your waves. I have had people try to argue with me for years that cutting against the grain will mess them up, but here’s the scoop: cutting against the grain is actually better for you!

Now, I know wavers love smooth-looking cuts whenever they leave the chair and some believe that when we cut against the grain, it can make our waves less defined and mess up the cool pattern we have been working on, but cutting with the grain may result in you getting a shorter cut than you prefer, while cutting against the grain guarantees that you will get the haircut length you desire.

One argument for cutting with the grain is that it follows the flow of our waves, but let me tell you that if the flow of your waves gets “messed up” by cutting against the grain…


For precision cuts and defined waves, cutting against the grain should be your go-to technique. Now I know you may be asking, “Well you do not have the type of hair that I have, so why do you think you can tell me what is best for me?” Let me ask this, “Does your barber have the same type of hair as you?”

Many times wavers try to take my advice and spin in by saying that my hair is looser; however, just like your barber is trained to cut different types of hair, I have studied different types of hair in order to tell you what is best. Most barbers go through barber college just to get it done with, but I have studied a lot simply because I have a passion for hair so who are you going to believe: your barber or the Don?

Selecting the Right Clipper Guard for Your Curl Type

Now, let’s talk about the correlation between clipper guards and your curl type. I simplify how I classify Curl Types as either wavy, curly, coily, or kinky. Think of them as our hair’s personality. Each one has its own style and needs. The unique characteristics of your curl type will influence which guards to use for optimal results.

  • Wavy Hair: If you have wavy hair, you’ll typically use guards ranging from 6 to 8. Starting with a higher guard is recommended to avoid cutting your waves too short. Experiment with different lengths within this range to find your perfect match.
  • Curly Hair: Individuals with curly hair should focus on guards around 4 to 6. These guards will help you maintain definition and structure in your waves while preventing overly short haircuts.
  • Coily Hair: Individuals with coily hair will want to lean more on the 2 to 5-guard sizes. Coily hair is the ideal curl type for getting waves so people with this curl type have more range to choose from when cutting.
  • Kinky Hair: Those with kinky hair should opt for guards between 1 and 3. Since kinky hair tends to be tighter and more compact, these guards will allow for precise cuts without sacrificing your wave pattern.
Understanding Clipper Guards for Kinky Hair

So, remember, your curl type is your guide to picking the right clipper guard. Just like picking the right emoji for your text, choosing the right guard helps you get the coolest haircut for your unique style. Isn’t that awesome? Keep rockin’ your hair type with the perfect guard, and you’ll be the hair hero of your crew!

Cut with the Grain or against Guard Length Comparison

Experimentation: Finding Your Sweet Spot

One of the keys to mastering your haircut is experimentation. Trying different guard sizes and techniques will help you discover what works best for your unique hair type and desired wave pattern. It’s advisable to keep a record of your haircuts, including photos of how your waves look at different lengths.

360 Waves Collage to find the right haircut length

This documentation will serve as your roadmap to the perfect cut, whether you’re handling the clippers yourself or seeking help from a barber.

Maintaining Your Wave Definition

When it comes to maintaining the definition of your waves, a clever strategy is to cut your hair slightly longer than you would for a fresh, close-cut appearance. This way, after you wash your hair, your waves won’t lose their structure due to excessive shortness. As a rule of thumb, cutting your hair slightly higher on the guard spectrum will ensure that your waves remain intact even after a wash.


Embarking on the journey to achieve the perfect waves requires more than just clippers and guards—it demands a deep understanding of your hair type, a willingness to experiment, and a passion for precision. By following the techniques and insights discussed in this guide, you’ll be well-equipped to conquer the world of wave creation. Remember, it’s all about finding your sweet spot, documenting your progress, and fine-tuning your approach. Here’s to a future filled with enviable waves that are uniquely yours!

Watch the Video Below:

360 Waves: Understanding Clipper Guards for Beginners (BabylissPRO GoldFX)