this thing's incredible

This Gravity-Defying Barber Cape Lets Me Cut My Own Hair Without Making a Mess

The author, freshly shorn and not at all worried about cleanup. Photo: Tim Mak

A few months into quarantine, I realized that I would probably need some way to cut my hair in order to feel presentable — if not for myself, for my co-workers on Zoom calls. Isolating alone in my apartment, I dug into YouTube tutorials then bought an easy-to-use clipper set and cautiously trimmed away.

While I was proud of myself for not butchering my hair, any resulting smile on my face faded when I saw the hair all over my sink and bathroom floor. As the months passed and I kept cutting my hair, I tried to catch the clippings in different ways, including draping towels over my shoulders and cutting a hole in a garbage bag and sticking my head through. Once, I stood in my shower (which I do not recommend unless you have copious Drano). Everything left me with a mess. I would often delay my haircuts because I didn’t want to think about cleaning the follicular aftermath.

I shared my struggles on social media, and my brother responded to tell me about how he cut my toddler nephew’s quarantine hair with something called an umbrella barber cape. By putting my nephew in the tub and having him wear this contraption as he cut, my brother said it saved him from doing any cleaning afterward.

I ordered one to see for myself. It’s a light nylon apparatus that has a hole in the center for your head and looks like an upside-down umbrella, collecting your hair in a sloping reservoir at the base. Straps extend from the neck to the reservoir to help keep its shape, even when it’s loaded down with clippings.

When I pulled it out of the package, it was gathered in a tight circle that popped open like one of those car sun shields. After I stuck my head through the hole, the velcro opening was easy to adjust so it fit snugly around my neck. (The packaging says it fits most adults and children, and from the looks of it, I don’t think there are many necks that wouldn’t fit inside.) Then I pulled the edges down a little so the cape fit over my shoulders and got to work.

I was worried that raising my arm to use the clippers might tip the umbrella and spill the hairs, but the deep grooves of the umbrella held. Once I was satisfied with my barbering, cleanup was easy: I opened up the velcro clasp and carefully slipped it over my head. After dumping all the hair in the trash can, I took a microfiber cloth and wiped it clean. (You can also rinse it, as it dries quickly and is waterproof.) Then you fold it back into a small circle for easy storage until you need it again.

With how well this thing worked for someone on his own, I can imagine it would be incredibly convenient for those with partners or roommates (or, in the case of my nephew, dads) to cut their hair. It also works for beard trimming, collecting the shavings for easy cleanup instead of letting them fall all over my sink. When the pandemic is finally over, I’m looking forward to paying someone else to cut my hair again. But in the meantime, haircuts at this barbershop of one have become a lot easier to deal with.

A few more cape options

The barber’s cape that I bought seems to go in and out of stock nearly every day. Here are a few other nearly identical choices.

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This Gravity-Defying Barber Cape Lets Me Cut My Own Hair