How to cut your hubby's barnet without sparking a barney

How to cut your hubby’s barnet without sparking a barney and a royal crimper’s step-by-step guide to keeping him trim

  • British writers who’ve cut their partner’s hair in lockdown shared the results  
  • Brian Viner usually pays £9.50 to have his hair cut at Klippers in Leominster
  • While in quarantine his wife of 27-years Jane, stepped in to groom him
  • Celebrity stylist George Northwood, has debuted a series of YouTube tutorials 

The perils of women cutting their menfolk’s hair have been apparent ever since Delilah sneakily gave Samson a short back and sides, as painfully recorded in the Old Testament. But unprecedented times call for unprecedented measures.

With barber shops closed, the pandemic has made hairdressers of millions of wives, no matter how cack-handed, nor how real the threat to marital equilibrium. Last week, Newsnight host Emily Maitlis reported that she and her husband were no longer speaking after her disastrous attempt to give him a haircut left him looking, if only from behind, like an extra in an amateur staging of One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest.

He was blissfully unaware of the damage until one of the couple’s teenage sons dobbed her in.

British writers who’ve been having their hair cut at home during lockdown revealed the results, including Brian Viner (pictured after)

Think of a salon’s Saturday girl trying to interrogate politicians, and you have some idea how rubbish Maitlis was with the clippers.

But she’s not the only one. All over the UK, men are subjecting themselves to barbering butchery, while being told sharply by their spouses that no, they may not return the favour. I did offer, but my wife Jane responded with a mirthless laugh.

‘I’m pretty sure you can’t do a graduated bob,’ she said, almost as if my inability to do a graduated bob, whatever that is, has made our 27-year marriage one long disappointment to her. She added that she is prepared to hang on for as long as it takes until her hair can be layered back into shape by Abby at Avant Garde in Hereford.

Apparently, that will cost her £38! At Klippers in Leominster, Louise charges me only £9.50. I just amble in on a Saturday afternoon and wait until she’s free. Then we chat about her pets and my holidays for 15 minutes while she gives me an expert trim. If I missed that experience before I allowed Jane to take Louise’s place . . . I miss it more now.

Nevertheless, the moment had come. At least I’d be saving £9.50 (which I’ve donated to The Little Princess Trust).

Jane had phoned her mum and told her she was about to cut my hair. ‘Be careful, it’s his greatest asset,’ said my mother-in-law. It might be the most backhanded compliment I’ve ever had.

Brian’s wife of 27-years Jane, went online for a few pointers before trimming his hair. Pictured: Brian’s hair before 

I duly arrived in the kitchen to find Jane bringing out implements only ever previously used for grooming Finnegan, our Schnauzer-poodle cross. At the sight of them he hid under the table, only to watch in what I’m sure was disbelief as she set about me instead. You know things are bad when you have the sympathy of a Schnoodle.

‘You did say you wanted a Nike swoosh at the back, didn’t you, sir?’ she said. My daughter thought that was hilarious. To me, the buzz of the clippers suddenly seemed as ominous as the whir of approaching helicopters in the Vietnam War.

In fairness, Jane had been online for a few pointers. She knew the scissors had to be as sharp as possible, and to take the same amount off all over, a little at a time.

Brian donated the money he would’ve paid his barber to The Little Princess Trust. Pictured: Emily Maitlis’s mishap with her husband’s hair

Mind you, I could have done without her applying Finnegan’s comb to my head with the same pressure she applies it to his fur. Aptly, I gave a dog-like yelp.

After using clippers on the back and sides, which seemed to go mostly OK, Jane tackled the top with kitchen scissors and the dog comb.

She didn’t wet it first, though she did talk loftily about trying to ‘section out’ some of it. That must be women’s salon jargon, because I’ve never heard that expression before. Frankly, she could have said she was attempting a triple-nickle stovepipe and I wouldn’t have asked any searching questions.

You might disagree, looking at the pictures, but the truth is that my hair could have ended up worse. It’s actually passable, even if I did end up with a small bald spot at the back when she briefly, very unprofessionally, glanced at her phone. The whole operation took more than 25 minutes, around twice as long as it does at Klippers.

Jane and I are still talking. But I think we both emerged with enhanced respect for the hairdressing trade. On which subject, I always give Louise a tip and Jane got one too: when you’re wielding the clippers, never say ‘oops’. It’s terrible for customer morale.

The Little Princess Trust, which provides real-hair wigs to young people with hair loss, is asking you to donate the money you’ve saved with a DIY haircut. Text HAIRCUT2LPT and the amount you want to donate (must be a whole number between 1 and 20) to 70085.



‘You’re not as nice as Magda,’ pouts my boyfriend, as I attack his mop with kitchen scissors. ‘She gently steers my head from side to side and never swears.’

‘Maybe you don’t spend the entire time telling her how to do her bloody job,’ I retort, stabbing him in the neck. It was at this point that Terence demanded sunglasses in order to emerge fully sighted.

A couple of weeks into lockdown, he looked like an extra from the musical Hair. Realising it would be my responsibility to keep him in employment, I ordered professional scissors from Amazon. They failed to arrive. And, last weekend, I cracked: how hard could it be? The answer: pretty darn difficult.

Hannah Betts watched a YouTube video aimed at cutting curly hair,  before overhauling her boyfriend Terrence’s hair. Pictured: Terrence before 

I schooled myself with a YouTube video entitled: ‘Man’s Haircut for Curly Hair.’ It claims to be from 2012, yet features a style that owes more to Tom Selleck’s Magnum P.I. era.

I was instructed to start around the ears, use my fingers as a guide to length (two fingers’ wide on the side, nearer three on top), and remember angles, angles, angles.

Pre-cut, then customise. And don’t chop above the hairline at the back or front, or you’ll make him look bald. This meant creating a little Julius Caesar-style fringe, immediately obliterated when he ran his fingers through his new do.

I went around tweaking any bits that stuck out, then trimmed his eyebrows where they had gone a tad Denis Healey. I managed to cut my own hand. However, his ears — and our relationship — remain intact.

Hannah has labelled herself a genius, although Terrence claims he’s been made to look like a Sixties Las Vegas lounge lizard. Pictured: Terrence after

Terence’s judgment is that I was ‘lacking in client focus’ and made him look like a Sixties Las Vegas lounge lizard. My judgment is that I am a genius and have transformed him from Fred West into Dominic West.

To be sure, curly hair is quite . . . forgiving (read: a complete random mess whatever you do with it). And Terence did start off resembling Roald Dahl’s Mr Twit.

Close up, I’m not sure it bears much scrutiny. Magda may yet weep with laughter when forced to rectify matters.

Still, reader, you be the judge. Next stop: bleaching his teeth.

A royal crimper’s step-by-step guide to keeping him trim

‘There is so much emotion attached to hair, and that’s true for men, too,’ says George Northwood, who has cut the hair of stars including Prince Harry, Matt Smith and Arctic Monkeys singer Alex Turner.

He has launched men’s grooming tutorials on his YouTube channel ( recognising the demand from desperate men. ‘Yes it’s only hair and it will grow back, but if you look in the mirror and have a stupid haircut, it’s going to cause tension between you and the person who cut it.’

Here George tells CLAIRE COLEMAN his foolproof hair cutting method…


  • A set of clippers and additional guards: ‘They usually come with a set of guards graded from one, the shortest, to four, the longest, but if you wear your hair longer, you should also try to buy a set of guards graded five to eight.’ A number eight guard will leave hair an inch long.
  • Sectioning clips: To keep hair you’re not cutting out of the way.
  • Comb: ‘Ideally you want one a bit longer than a standard comb and matte in texture so it doesn’t slip.’
  • Hairdressing scissors: ‘Don’t buy expensive Japanese ones that are really sharp and will take off half your finger — the cheapest pair you can find is fine. But don’t use kitchen scissors.’
  • A spray bottle: ‘When you’re cutting with scissors, you want hair wet, but you also want to take your time, so dampen it with the spray if it starts to dry.’

George Northwood who has cut the hair of Prince Harry and Alex Turner,  advises taking off less than you think is needed (file image)


‘Err on the side of caution,’ urges George. Whether cutting or clipping, he advises going slowly and taking off less than you think it needs.

Before you start, think about what you’re trying to achieve. ‘Few men have hair the same length all over. It tends to look better when the sides and back are a bit shorter.’


Clippers are the foolproof way to cut hair that’s straight or has a slight wave.

George says the best approach is to wash hair so it’s clean and let it dry the way it sits naturally. ‘Comb it while it dries so you’re left with it relatively flat and even. Clippers are like a lawnmower. When you mow a lawn, you rake it first so that all the blades of grass are standing up and you get an even cut. Similarly you want to comb the hair so you can clip it evenly.’

Clippers only work against the direction of growth. ‘On the side of the head, it grows down, so you want to work upwards, but on the crown you may have to change direction,’ says George. You should start with the longest guard then work gradually through the shorter ones.

So, for example, if you want hair on top to be an inch long, you’d put the number eight guard on. Then, to get the back and sides shorter, you’d step down — say, to six — and use that lower grade working from the neck up and stopping level with the top of the ears. Then you’d step down another grade and again work from the neck up, this time stopping a little below where you stopped before.


‘Even using the longest clipper grade on curly hair will give a very short cut, as curly hair can shrink to a quarter of its length, so using scissors and a comb can be a better option,’ says George.

Work on wet hair. Take a horizontal section across the front about an inch wide and pull it upwards between your index and middle fingers. Chip into it with the scissors at 45 degrees to give a textured line that’s more forgiving, if not perfect.

Take the back half-inch of the section you’ve just cut, and another horizontal section from behind that’s around half an inch. Use that first section as a guide, and cut across again. Work in the same way from the temple, back to the crown, and from behind the ears to the crown, then finally from the back of the head to the crown.

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