Imagine this. You walk into a local hair salon with confidence, a hairdresser is assigned to you, they cut your hair exactly how you want it (and they use your preferred pronouns), and they charge you a men’s* rate.
A cis reality, but, unfortunately, an unrealistic daydream for a lot of non-passing trans people.
Having faced this problem myself, I solved it in a rather unconventional way. I started cutting my own hair.
And no, that doesn’t always mean having an awful haircut. Actually, I find a lot of queer people around me seems to at least touch-up their own hair, either by dyeing it, maintaining a deadly under/side-cut, or shaping it in weird ways.
Want to join us, but don’t know where to start? Worried you’ll screw up?
To be entirely honest — you probably will screw up. You’ll screw up once, twice … but the hair grows back and before you know it, you’ll be “screwing up” on purpose! Learning the skill of cutting and creating with your own hair will give you the freedom to be who you are, and look however you want (with some, very few, limitations). All this basically for free.
Here’s what you’ll need to get started.
*NOTE: This article is written by a trans-masc person with trans-masculine identities in mind. This is also why it talks about short hair as it’s typically seen as masculine.
For short hair, you’ll need hair clippers. These are pretty much a must-have as they’ll allow you to create a decent cut without much fuss.
There are different types; if you want a simple uniform-length buzzcut, you can really help yourself by getting these. You can also stop reading here because you don’t need a guide to cut your hair.
If you want something more complex, have a look at just any cheap hair clippers at your local Walmart. It’s a good place to start, and not a huge investment. If you want to spend more, have a look through my comparison of hair clippers.
You’ll need two mirrors. One for the front (can be just the mirror in your bathroom), and one for the back (get a handheld mirror) — unless you’ve eyes on your back or someone else is helping you with this part.
You’ll also need something to control the hairs flying around your bathroom and getting everywhere. I once cut my brother’s hair by wrapping him in plastic wrap to protect his clothes (it didn’t work very well). You should go with a simple hair cutting cape and a vacuum cleaner.
Optionally, prepare scissors (for longer hair) and a razor blade for the edges.
Pick a haircut
First, a few notes on hair types:
- Curly hair is easier to cut at home as any mistakes are more easily hidden, but you need to be even more careful about not damaging hair (don’t use a razor!).
- Wavy hair must be cut at the right place, otherwise it may spring out of the head. Be careful about the natural ways your hair grows.
- Very thin hair is harder to cut yourself as mistakes are easily visible. If you have this type of hair, enlist the help of a friend who will help you blend out the transitions (hah!) between different hair lengths.
Let’s assume your goal is to make your face look masculine (mine is, anyway). If you’re lucky enough to have a square or rectangular face, then you can wear pretty much any haircut to look more masc. In other cases, you’ll want to create the squareness with your hair. For example, if your face is oval in shape, you should think about leaving the hair on top a bit longer.
Here are a few haircuts you can do at home without sweat. I recommend that you follow the general idea of the style you picked, but put your own twist on it, depending on the shape of your face.
How to cut your hair at home
First, make sure you have everything prepared and placed within reach. You don’t want to walk to get your vacuum cleaner after you’ve finished and get hairs everywhere.
If this is your first time, don’t rush. The haircut could easily take a full hour or more. If you become impatient, you’ll make a mistake — just chill. This is supposed to be a fun experience. Prepare some water, snacks, everything you need to stay comfortable. Take a break if you become tired.
First, wash your hair. This will help you reveal any hidden irregularities and make the hair easier to cut. Keep in mind that the first cuts will be the most important ones and you’ll have to get them right. Follow your haircut guides closely.
You’ll notice our guides have layers of different lengths. For some haircuts, these need to be blended — simply use a guard size of your hair clippers between the two sizes you’re blending.
Start with the sides. If you need to, fix your top hair so it’s stays out of the way while you cut the sides. Be mindful of your facial hair if you have any, and blend it into the sides of your cut. Do one side and once you’re done, do the other side immediately. This will help you not make mistakes on the other side since it will be still fresh in your memory.
Using your two mirrors, you’ll be able to cut the hair on the back of your head just fine. It needs some getting used to, but it’s completely doable. Make sure the back connects with the sides smoothly. Check the cut at both 3/4 angles to spot any problems.
The top of the head is the trickiest as it’s typically the longest. You simply buzz the hair on the longest setting and do your best to blend it on the edges to create a gradual change.
For some cuts, this is longest setting not long enough and you’ll need to use scissors to cut your hair in layers. This is difficult without any additional tools so my recommendation is to get a friend help you with it.
Clean up the edges
Once you’re happy with how everything looks, it’s time to clean up the edges. This is pretty simple — carefully cut your hair on the edges of the haircut from one sideburn around the back to the other. Pick one of these simple neckline styles:
When you’re done, blow dry the hair and take one last look. This is your chance for any last fixes.
Clean up, and you’re done!
Cutting your own hair can be a great skill in the gender dysphoric person’s toolbox. I personally stopped cutting my own hair at home after several years when I found a hairdresser who does what I ask. I still offer my skills to my friends, so it’s truly a helpful thing to learn. Who knows – maybe you’ll be the one opening a trans-friendly salon in your town!