Open vs Closed Clippers: A Comprehensive Guide to Finding the Perfect Clipper for Your Needs

The truth is:

A hair clipper is an indispensable item in men's hair care kits.


Selecting the right clipper for your needs could be challenging as there are several features to consider beyond the aesthetics and ergonomic design.


Based on my extensive experience dealing with various clippers, I can confidently say this.

Two categories to consider in the realm of hair clippers are open and closed clippers, which are primarily differentiated by their blade setting.

What’s more:

To shed more light on this topic, I have asked Sunny Kambo, our experienced barber instructor from Vancouver, to provide his valuable insights and expertise on these clippers.

Join us as we uncover the story behind open and closed clippers—their features, benefits, and impact on different hair lengths. Sounds good? Walk with me.

Open vs Closed Clippers: What’s the Difference?

 Open ClippersClosed Clippers
DefinitionIt has adjustable cutting blades controlled with the use of a lever.It utilizes non-adjustable cutting blades and provides a specific length or cut.
Blade settingAdjustableFixed
Cutting mechanismVisible cutting bladesEnclosed cutting blades
DifficultyRequires more skill to operateMore straightforward to use
FunctionalityVersatile and customized cutsPrecise and detailed cuts
MaintenanceIt may require frequent cleaningRequires less maintenance
Best Used ForFades and tapersBuzz cuts, high n’ tight, and crewcuts
Cost$30 - $50$12.99 - $210.5

Both open and closed clippers provide excellent hair-cutting service–however, the major difference between the two lies in their blade setting. The open hair clipper has cutting blades that are adjustable with a control mechanism, while the closed hair clipper utilizes a fixed blade system.

If you’re wondering what other features distinguish the open clipper from the closed one, read along; I've got you covered.

What Are Open Clippers and How Do They Work?


In simple terms:

An open clipper has visible cutting blades that can be adjusted using the control lever by the side of the clipper.

By manipulating the control lever, the user can control the blade's position, adjust the cutting length, and achieve different hair lengths.

Sunny adds:

"Some open clippers have a detachable blade, allowing the attachment of new blade types. You can control the tightness or looseness of the blades using the tension screw of the clipper."

Benefits of Open Clippers

Get this:

The adjustable blade system in open clippers enhances the versatility of haircuts, offering various hair lengths and styles.

Another thing is that:

The open-blade design featured in this clipper allows direct contact with the hair. Thus, ensuring sharp, clean cuts.

However, the exposed blades pose a higher risk of accidental cuts during grooming sessions. Hence, I advise that you are very cautious during usage.

In Sunny’s opinion:

"Open clippers are useful for creating sharp line-ups, fades, or very complex designs."

Effect of Open Clippers on Hair Length


You can achieve a variety of hair lengths with an open clipper without swapping out blades or attaching guard combs.


By adjusting the clipper blades, you can add an inch or more to the cut. Thus, resulting in longer cuts and creating room for versatility and more precise control over the hair length.

What Are Closed Clippers and How Do They Work?


A closed hair clipper features non-adjustable cutting blades enclosed within the outer shell of the clipper.

Unlike open clippers, closed clippers have no mechanism for adjusting the blades, and they have a fixed cutting length.

Benefits of Closed Clippers

Closed clippers offer a safer and more controlled cutting experience, making them suitable for beginners and at-home use.

What’s more:

They are easy to maintain. Since the blades are enclosed, there is less chance of hair particles accumulating within the cutting mechanism.


The non-adjustable blade system in closed clippers offers consistency while cutting, making them perfect for creating bald and crew cuts.

Effect of Closed Clippers on Hair Length

Here's the thing:

Closed clippers have a non-adjustable blade system, resulting in a fixed cutting length.

What's more, the blade system allows you to gradually reduce bulk till you achieve your desired length.

Hence, they are more suitable for creation of shorter, precise haircuts.


If you’re still aiming to achieve different hair lengths, you can do that by attaching guard combs to your clipper.

Open vs. Closed Clippers: Variations in Hair Length

You see:

The blade settings featured in open and closed clippers primarily determine the difference in hair length.

For closed hair clippers, the cutting blades are positioned close together, allowing the creation of shorter, more uniform haircuts, such as buzz cuts or crew cuts.

This clipper provides a close cut, usually very close to the scalp, leaving only a few inches of hair length.

On the other hand:

The clipper blades are set slightly apart in open hair clippers, achieving longer hair lengths and cuts. This includes side-part hairstyles, pompadours, textured crops, and tapers.

 Sunny also adds:

 "The actual length created with open or closed clippers sometimes varies, depending on the clipper model or brand."

How To Adjust the Clipper Lever Position to Achieve Different Hair Lengths


The function of the taper lever on hair clippers is to adjust the closeness between the clipper blades. Thus, adjusting the length of the haircut.

By moving the taper lever upwards, the edges of the blades get closer, offering a very close cut and shorter hair length.

In the same vein:

Moving the taper lever downwards pushes the blades further apart, creating distance between the blades and providing longer hair lengths.


By adjusting the taper lever during a haircut, you can achieve various hair lengths, blend different hair sections, or gradually transition between different cutting lengths.

Managing Hair Length with Open and Closed Clippers

 I’ve highlighted five techniques below to guide you when controlling hair length using open and closed clippers.

1. Acquaint Yourself with the Lever Positions on the Clipper

Know that:

The lever position adjusts the length of the cut. Hence, when the clipper lever is closed, more hair is cut, and when the taper lever is open, less hair is cut.

2. Begin with the Lever Fully Open


In Sunny’s opinion:

"A good rule of thumb is to start with the taper lever fully open to create a gap between the clipper blade and guard, resulting in a longer cut."

This technique allows you to remove bulk and work towards your desired length instead of cutting off more hair than required.

3. Gradually Close the Lever



To achieve a shorter cut, gradually close the lever while cutting. This technique allows a smooth transition from longer to shorter hair without hassle.

4. Use Attachment Combs


Here's the thing:

It's essential to know the corresponding guard length for each lever position. Sunny Kambo advises barbers to start cutting hair with a longer attachment comb.


Starting with a longer comb allows you to easily maintain control during the cutting process and achieve your desired length.

To back this up:

A Reddit user also recommended these long guard combs, saying they are faster and do the job efficiently. 

5. Maintain an Even Cut

Another excellent technique in controlling hair length is ensuring an even cut on both sides of the head.

Remember to:

Always check and compare the lengths on both sides of the head to ensure a balanced result.

6 Factors To Consider When Choosing Between Open and Closed Clippers

One of the key decisions to make when purchasing the right clipper for your needs is whether to opt for open or closed clippers.

Because of this:

I’ve outlined some factors below to help you make an excellent choice that suits your hair needs and preferences. 

1. Hairstyle

HaircutIdeal Clipper Type
Buzz cutClosed clipper
Crew cutClosed clipper
Layered hairstylesOpen clipper
Fades (High, Low, Skin fades)Open clipper
TapersOpen clipper
UndercutOpen clipper

In Sunny’s words:

"The type of hairstyle you'd like to create is essential in determining if the open or closed clipper is the best for you."


Know that open hair clippers are typically used for longer haircuts, while closed hair clippers are more suitable for shorter, precise cuts.

2. Hair Length

Hair length is also a crucial factor in determining what type of clipper you should opt for.

Here’s why.

Open clippers cater to diverse hair lengths simply by adjusting the taper lever. The available cutting length settings often include options ranging from 1/16 inch (1.5 mm) to 1 inch (25 mm).


The range of length settings varies between different clipper brands and models.

Some advanced models may offer additional attachments or adjustable settings for even greater versatility.

On the flip side:

Closed clippers have a fixed cutting length, which might not be suitable for you if you want to explore various lengths.

3. Blade Setting

If you'd like a clipper with adjustable blades, go for open clippers. However, if you want something with a fixed blade system, then closed hair clippers should be your go-to.

4. Maintenance

The level of clipper maintenance required is also a vital factor to consider.

Open hair clippers may require more frequent cleaning and lubrication than closed clippers due to the larger gaps in the blade setting.

To this end:

A Reddit user described a fantastic way of removing hair particles in clippers, and I totally recommend it.

You see:

Clipper wash solutions are effective for breaking down hair, removing debris, and lubricating the blades to maintain their performance and last long.

Most importantly:

To ensure safety and proper usage, read the manual or follow the instructions provided with your specific brand of clipper wash before usage.

5. Budget


Closed hair clippers are more affordable than open hair clippers.

This is because:

Closed clippers have a non-detachable blade system. Hence, there's little or no need to buy more blades or accessories.


You should know that the price can vary depending on the clipper's brand, model, features, and quality.

6. Skill Level

Open and closed clippers require different skill levels. Open hair clippers may require more skill to use effectively, especially when blending hair lengths.

On the other hand:

Closed hair clippers are often easier to handle, making them more suitable for beginners.

Essential Tips for Choosing Between Open and Closed Hair Clippers

Below are three useful tips to guide you when choosing between open or closed hair clippers for professional or personal use.

1. Versatility


Professionals prefer open hair clippers because they're incredibly versatile. On the other hand, most at-home users go for closed hair clippers because they are more straightforward to use.

Sunny also weighed in: 

"Adjustable blade clippers are a popular choice among professional barbers because of their ability to achieve different hairstyles and lengths."

2. Durability

Closed hair clippers are more durable than open hair clippers because they have a non-detachable and non-adjustable blade system—eliminating the need to swap out blades regularly.

Also, you can easily maintain them—making them more suitable for frequent use.


If you're a professional barber, you'll likely use clippers more frequently than a personal user.

Because of this:

You may require a more durable option, like closed hair clippers, for your grooming sessions with clients.


For personal use and occasional trims, open hair clippers might be sufficient.

3. Precision and Control

Open hair clippers offer more customized cuts. This makes them suitable for intricate hair designs, fades, and other hairstyles that require versatility and control.


If you prioritize versatility, open clippers are an excellent option.

Closed clippers, on the other hand, are more suitable for creating short, precise, and consistent haircuts.

Hence, they might be sufficient for DIY enthusiasts who are not looking to explore a variety of hair lengths.



Both open and closed clippers contribute significantly to men's hair care and styling culture.

While closed clippers are known for precision, they have certain limitations compared to open clippers.

For instance:

The fixed blade system and limited versatility in closed clippers may not be suitable for creating more intricate or precise haircuts.

Also, closed clippers might not be the best choice for professional barbers who deal with a vast range of hairstyles and lengths.

All in all:

When choosing between open and closed hair clippers, your choice should majorly hinge on:

  • Desired hair length
  • Personal preference
  • Budget
  • Skill level
  • Durability

And there you have it! All you need to know about open and closed clippers. Did we miss out on anything? Got any recommendations for us? Feel free to share them in the comments below.

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