In the US you can specify the length of a short haircut by giving a number. So a "Number 2 Haircut" means using the #2 guard on a clipper to cut the hair 1/4 inch long. A "Number 4 Haircut" will cut it 1/2 inch long; and so on.

I know that clippers are used the same way in China but the numbering system seems to be different--and of course in China they use metric. I and a short-haired friend have both gone in sort of blind about exactly how say what we want in Chinese. (Well, travel is an opportunity to try new things!)

But now I would like to know the right way to specify it. Suppose I want 1/2 inch, or more or less 1.5cm. What is the barber's terminology for this?

The site linked by @user3306356 has this list, which is true in the US also, but is humorously vague:






I will say I'd been getting haircuts in the US for a long time before I knew this system existed here. A grumpy woman barber who wants men to pay more attention to their hair told me to remember it.


2 Answers 2



Actually there is not a term to describe the length of the haircut in China.

So, how to decide the length of the haircut? keep communicate with barber.


I: 'please cut my hair with 毛寸(is an adjective for style, not length)'

B: after a while 'Is it fine?'

I: 'shorter'

B: 'Okay, let me see'

  • 1
    Agree.I've never heard of or used such jargons when communicating with a barber to have my hair cut. It's now that I know I can even tell a barber an exact length 😉. What an interesting question.
    – Huang
    Jun 12, 2017 at 11:30

I studied in Chengdu for a school year last year and started with 0 Chinese ability. So, getting my first hair cut was quite imposing as I went by myself and was still in Level 1.

The guy asked what I wanted I said me holding up index finger and thumb 我要这种长度。I showed a conservative length. Then, I just kept saying “短一点儿” until I got the length I wanted. (took three tries)

Quick Chinese salon rundown. I got haircuts in two different cities. This is my experience and not the blanket truth. They may wash your hair and cut your hair in two different areas of the shop, and possibly have two different people do it. They may also give you a neck, shoulder, arm, and hand massage before you hair cut, but after your hair is washed. Both places collected payment after, but the person at the door wanted to know what package I wanted. Both places had massage areas, so be aware that a package may include that.

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