Photo: Courtesy of Jane Helpern.
About nine years ago, after my boyfriend dumped me for a sober girl with back-spanning butterfly wings and I found out via the change in his relationship status on MySpace, I shaved off my below-boob-length hair. It was therapeutic.
At the time, I had all kinds of body and eating issues and was completely incapable of valuing or loving anything that was physically attached to me. I had always hated my hair — I thought it was bland and mousy. But, when I cut off several feet and I finally had some distance from it, I realized it was gorgeous, rich, shiny, mahogany, Pantene-commercial-worthy stuff.
I didn't miss it, though. Newly enlightened about the self-imposed mind-trickery that had been going on all those years, I embraced my shaved head and basked in being an alternative beauty who didn't need to use her hair as a shield. I even joined a "bald and beautiful" group on Facebook. In the almost-decade since that first buzz cut, I've kept my hair short and felt like an androgynous badass.
I've also learned that, despite popular opinion, the upkeep of short hair can be a real burden.
Photo: Courtesy of Jane Helpern.
There are many perks to having short hair. To name a few: Three fourths of the male population doesn't give you the time of day, one fourth of the female population wants to take you on a date, and strangers on the street often compare you to one of the handful of short-haired celebs whose names they can recall in the second it takes to pass you on the sidewalk. While all of this is just lovely, it doesn't mean that maintaining short hair is a walk in the Parisian courtyard. I hate to break it to all the mermaid-maned ladies contemplating the Big One (haircut, I mean), but chopping your locks in favor of a boyish pixie coiff is a whole new animal.
For starters, short hair does weird things when it first wakes up in the morning. This means you have to wash it every day, unless you want to go to work looking like your dome is playing host to a family of mini ducklings. But, seriously, the short-haired look goes from effortlessly disheveled pixie chic to overly spiky Dixie Chick almost instantly. Yes, if it's not properly styled, it can get pretty Kate Gosselin. And, with that haircut you'd be hard-pressed to find yourself even a plus-one.
The moral of the story is that short hair isn't the one-crop solve to all your long-hair disillusionment. It requires time, product, and willingness to be repeatedly on the receiving end of backhanded compliments like "How cool is it that you don't care about conventional beauty?!"
You also have to be prepared for the fact that it can be limiting fashion-wise. For example, when that Twiggy pixie you're going for is paired with slouchy boyfriend jeans and your favorite vintage tee, you can easily more closely resemble a truck driver than Alexa Chung on a casual Friday. And, when you wear a really lovely, low-cut dress that exposes your swan-like clavicles and neckline, you run the risk of looking like a little boy dressed up in his mom's best, which is probably not what you’re going for.
Don't get me wrong, though — I love my short hair. It suits my tomboyish personality and looks and feels much healthier than that shapeless mop I used to sport. But, for everyone on the cusp of the cut, it's only fair that I tell the whole story about the short story.
So, here it is: You’ll have no more “I just had sex” hair or tousled beach waves or angelic wood-nymph braids to hide your stress zits behind. And, if you're like me and addicted to bleach, when you only have a few inches to work with, a little root goes a long way. It can get real “accidental reverse ombré” faster than you can call your best friend's husband's sister's cousin who is in school to be a hairstylist. Consider yourself warned.
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