The best inventions are often the ones that are relatively simple in concept -- even if they seem ridiculous at first. Remember the Flowbee? That crazy hair-cutting contraption from the 80's infomercials? Well, it turns out that it's still around and has quite a fan-base. The Flowbee is in its third generation and has inspired a host of wannabes that promise to make cutting your own hair a cinch. In fact, the latest models got us wondering if the good old Flowbee actually works and how the newbies compare. We were surprised by what we found.
For those of you who aren't old enough to remember the Flowbee craze, here is a brief history. The Flowbee graced our televisions during the wee hours of the 1980s, promising to make cutting hair at home a cinch and leaving no mess behind. The haircutting contraption has a hose that connects to your vacuum cleaner. The vacuum serves a couple of purposes: it pulls hair to the blade (which cuts hair to a predetermined length) and it sucks up the remnants so that there is no mess left behind. According to manufacturers, it's virtually impossible to mess up a haircut using the system, which includes spacers that are designed to clip hair anywhere from 1/2-inch to 6-inches in length. (Longer hairstyles will need more spacers, which can be purchased separately.) There are also attachments that allow for tapered and layered cuts.
We were skeptical until we started reading user reviews. It turns out that there is quite a following for the Flowbee. Almost all of the 90 or so reviews posted to Amazon.com are positive. Many of the reviewers have been using the haircutter for years and say that it has saved them a small fortune in salon fees. A few things to note: users say that you will still need a set of clippers for sideburns and cleaning up the neckline and there is a bit of a learning curve -- especially for any specialized looks. It's also very loud but most users think that it's a small price to pay for the fast and easy haircuts it provides.
But wait ... there's more! Just when you thought it couldn't get any better, along come a host of companies that also promise to bring haircutting prowess to the masses.
The bottom line: The Flowbee is a great option for easy, mess-free haircutting at home -- especially if you're working with short, simple hairstyles. Skip the knockoffs, though -- they generally don't cut as well nor do they last as long. If you're handy with a set of hair clippers but would like a simpler option for reaching the back of your head, consider the Philips Norelco Headgroom. Of course, a standard set of hair clippers works too. See our report on hair clippers for recommended options.