There are two main classes of hair clippers: the sturdy, heavy professional versions you see in barbershops and salons; and less weighty home-use clippers. Both can do the job, but with varying degrees of ease and speed.
Professional hair clippers are designed with the professional hair stylist or barber in mind. They are made with the most powerful motors and sturdiest build quality so they can endure through multiple haircuts on a daily basis. On the other hand, professional hair clippers tend to be heavier and more difficult to maneuver.
The Oster Classic 76 (*Est. $140) is widely considered to be the best hair clipper on the market. It has a powerful universal motor that reviewers say can "plow" through even the thickest hair with ease. It has a detachable blade system, with 13 blades available (they must be purchased separately), that allows you to trim hair anywhere from 1/2 to 1/125 of an inch. Comb guides are also available separately for layering and texturizing hair. These come in 10 sizes that range from 1/16 to 1¼ of an inch.
Dave Alexander, a professional stylist and About.com's guide to men's hair, says that the Classic 76 is reliable whether you're trimming wet or dry hair. (Note: ConsumerSearch is owned by About.com, but the two don't share an editorial affiliation). The only drawback, he says, is that because it's air-cooled, the fan sometimes blows air into the stylist's face. Editors at Buzz-Cut.net, a special-interest website that focuses on hair clippers, say this professional hair clipper has "enough power to traverse any head of hair with relative ease." Home users at Amazon.com also rate the clipper highly, giving it an overall rating of 4.5 out of 5 stars. Although several point out that the Oster is a bit heavy and cumbersome, many say that it's the only clipper that doesn't get bogged down by thick hair. It comes with two blades (1/50- and 3/32-inch), a blade guard, blade oil, clipper grease and a cleaning brush.
The Oster Professional 76023-510 Fast Feed Clipper (*Est. $75) is another popular choice among professionals. While Buzz-Cut.net says it's a "notch below the Classic 76," it's a reliable option for anyone who cuts hair on a regular basis and may be a better high-end option for at-home users. The Oster Fast Feed's pivot motor isn't as powerful as the universal motor in the Oster Classic 76, but it's a step above the magnetic motors found in most budget hair clippers. The motor is also lighter than the one in the Classic 76, making the Fast Feed clipper easier to hold and maneuver, and much quieter.
Instead of interchangeable blades, the Fast Feed is an adjustable-blade hair clipper, which means that the blade can be fine-tuned upward or downward for close cutting or medium-length trims. Users at Amazon.com say that it fits comfortably in their hand and can cut through thick hair with ease. Several also like that the Fast Feed doesn't get as hot as other models. The Fast Feed comes with one adjustable blade, a blade guard, four guide combs (1/2-, 1/4-, 3/8-inch and blending), blade oil and a cleaning brush. If you need additional blade combs, the Oster Professional 10 Universal Comb Set (*Est. $27) includes 10 more in sizes ranging from 1/16-inch to 1 1/4-inch.
Hair clippers in the price range of $20 to $60 are made with the at-home buzz cutter in mind. If you're in the market for clippers and this is your budget, experts suggest sticking with well-known brands, such as Andis and Wahl. And even then, purchase clippers at the higher end of the price range since their components tend to be more durable components. Most budget hair clippers have less powerful motors than professional-grade products, but they are generally strong enough for periodic use.
The Wahl Chrome Pro Deluxe (*Est. $40) garners praise from experts and users alike for being powerful, durable and affordable. It has a magnetic motor that produces 7,200 blade strokes per minute -- the highest of any motor of its type, according to Wahl, and can be used on wet or dry hair. It also has an adjustable blade that allows you to taper and fade your cuts. The clipper comes with all of the tools you need to get started cutting your own hair, including a battery-powered trimmer (for cleaning up hairlines and sideburns), barber comb, flattop comb, scissors, two hair clips, cape, neck brush, 12 guide combs, cleaning brush, blade oil and a storage case.
Users at Walmart.com, where the Chrome Pro Deluxe earns a high overall rating from more than 150 owners, warn that the cape is flimsy and useless, but say that the other accessories perform well. More than 300 users at Amazon.com are equally pleased with the hair clipper, saying that it is easy to use -- even on your own hair -- and that it pays for itself within a couple of uses. Several users comment on the heft of the clipper, saying it's a bit on the heavy side and may be too large for those with small hands or poor dexterity.
Professional testing and review of hair clippers is limited, so we turned to consumer review sources like Amazon.com and Walmart.com in order to find the top performers. Users at both websites comment on overall reliability and ease of use of several models. About.com's men's hair guide -- a professional stylist -- recommends several hair clippers based on his decades of personal experience. We also found special-interest sites such as Buzz-Cut.net and HairClippersProfessional.net that focus on hair clippers and cutting techniques to be especially informative. Editors at GQ magazine test and review a single model but don't compare it to others.