One of the decisions a hairdresser has to make each time he or she buys a scissor is what size to purchase.
In beauty school, most stylists learn with a 5.5-inch scissor, which they are often taught to do everything with. SENSEI President Mark Wright believes the length of the shear should be driven more by the cutting techniques you use. The 5.5-inch shear from beauty school is an ideal length for cutting the hair held between the fingers — no doubt.
That size gives you enough blade to cut to your second knuckle, which is as far as you really should cut against your fingers. The shape of your fingers makes it so that you can only really tightly control the hair up to your second knuckle. Beyond that, there is a gap between the fingers that reduces your control. Also, cutting farther into the fingers risks accidentally cutting the skin of our palm. Those little V cuts in the palm can be very painful and hard to heal. So, stop at the second knuckle.
What about other cutting techniques, though? Cutting shear over comb with a 5.5-inch shear is not ideal. You're picking up a wider panel of hair. Wouldn’t it be better to cut it all at once, so you get a nice, even line? Barbers, who do more shear-over-comb work than other stylists, use 6.5-inch and 7-inch shears when they cut shear over comb. This allows them to get a better blend and it saves them time. So, it makes sense that hairdressers should take a lesson from the people who specialize in shear-over-comb and use a longer blade for that technique.
You might say to yourself, “I don’t really do much shear-over-comb work, so I can’t justify a longer blade for that technique.” SENSEI would suggest that there are many other places in a haircut where a longer blade can be an advantage.
When you're cutting hair that's laying on the skin for example, a longer blade will allow you to cut a wider panel at a time making for cleaner lines with less connections within the line.
When you're cutting in the fringe around a client’s face, a longer blade will allow you to keep your hand farther from the client, which is more comfortable for them and it also gives you better vision on what you are doing.
Finally, always understand that you need more than one cutting shear to do hair regardless of your technique. There is always the risk that your cutting shear could be dropped or knocked from your section. If it falls in such a way that the blades are nicked severely, it could be impossible to continue using the shear, until it can be repaired. At that point, you need a second pair of hair shears in order to keep working at all.
SENSEI, therefore, suggests rather than buying a second pair of 5.5-inch shears, you make your second pair a longer blade, so you can gain all the advantages listed above and more. What about shorter blades like 5-inch or even 4.5-inch shears? SENSEI makes some 5-inch shears but for most stylists, we feel that short of a blade will make them work too hard. We have seen thousands of stylists over the years buy a 5.5-inch shear after using a 5-inch and we have never seen a stylist go back to the shorter blade. Most feel they are working twice as hard to cut with a 5-inch vs. a 5.5-inch. Even hairdressers with very small hands can learn to use longer blades with no problems if they just put their mind to it.
The key in getting used to a longer blade when you first get one, is to pay attention to the tips of the blades at all times. If you do that for a day or two, your mind will become acclimated to the longer blade and you'll be a more efficient stylist from then on. For specialty shears like blending and texture shears, or slide cutting shears, we recommend a 6-inch length. It will give you enough blade to use those tools in a variety of ways without being too long or too short.
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