9 Women On Why They Shaved Their Heads

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There was a time when, in some circles, a shaved head meant you were a skinhead, and a time when it stood for being gender-queer. But while in some instances, those ties remain, a woman with a buzzcut is a lot more common nowadays. Maybe it’s because I live in a creative city but, right now, I must know a dozen women with a shaved head.

When I asked these women why they did it, their reasons ranged from a moment of clarity, to a life-changing event, to a desire to take back control. Most said they found it empowering, or like wiping the slate clean. Sadly, some also said it lead to stereotyping, feeling invisible, or receiving homophobic abuse.

Ahead, we hear the stories behind the haircuts and how it made their wearers feel. If you’re considering a number 1, 2 or 3, this could provide you with some valuable insight.
1 of 10

Why did you decide to shave your head?
It actually happened on a complete whim – my best friend and I had gone to see the film Pride in the cinema and cried our eyes out, and that night I decided I wanted to buzz all my hair off because I was running on adrenaline and being proud of who I was.

How did you do it?
We bought some cheap clippers, she got a mohawk and I got a buzzcut. I always kind of considered it as the next step, as I’ve had short hair since I was about 10 years old. I cut it all off the first time because I saw a girl in a film with a pixie cut, so I guess films really define how I feel about my hair!

How did it feel, shaving it off?
It was really amazing. It was the first time I ever felt nervous getting a haircut since I had my first mohawk when I was 14. For a long time, people would describe me by my hair – as in “she’s the one with the blue / red / green hair” – so it felt like I was letting go of something quite integral to other people’s perception of me.

How does your shaved head form part of your identity?
I’d say it’s as much part of my identity as other stuff – like my tattoos and my piercings – but I don’t see hair as that much of a big deal because it’s temporary. I like the fact that men who have preconceptions about what LGBTQ people look like don’t hit on me. I like the fact I can look a bit more gender-fucking than I did before, despite my boobs. I like the fact it highlights my ear piercings because they are many and they hurt loads when I got them. But mostly I guess I don’t see it as something that forms my identity because it’s pretty in line with everything else I’ve done since I was 13 and how my identity has always been. Just a new way of communicating it.

And the best thing about it?
This question just made me think of the time I went to a house party where people were very high, and the moment I walked into a room, four people crowded around to pat my hair because it was buzzed, bright red and “looked like a cat”. So that.
2 of 10

Where were you when you shaved your head?
I was in my local barber shop. My hairdressing bill used to be more than $100, I paid under $10 for this cut.

What was your hair like before?
It was long, thick and very straight with golden highlights. It was probably my best asset if I'm honest.

What was the main reason you shaved it?
I was diagnosed with cancer in June of this year. After the first couple of rounds of chemo my hair started to fall out. Huge clumps would fall out when I brushed it and I would spend mornings filling the bathroom sink with it. Shaving my head did, in a small way, give me some control over my situation and the huge changes my body was going through.

How did you feel after it was gone?
Surprisingly, very liberated. And cool, very cool, both in the temperature sense and edgy sense! It definitely helped that shaved heads seemed to be all the rage this summer.

Did it change the way you feel about your appearance?
100%. I feel less worried about how I look and don't aspire to have that "perfect" female form as much as I used to. I also never get derogatory comments shouted at me from white vans or catcalled anymore. Again another win factor! So in this sense I don't feel objectified and instead feel appreciated for me. Although this may be because I obviously look like I have cancer rather than just a trendy woman who has shaved her head. Who knows.

What's the best thing about having a shaved head?
It literally takes 0 seconds to style.
3 of 10

When did you shave your head and how long was your head shaved for?
I shaved my head with clippers in my bathroom at home, and kept it like that for a year or so. It needed clipping every two weeks.

Why did you do it?
I did it because I was sick of my face and needed a change. I joke about it being my "Britney moment" but that wasn't it at all. I wouldn't have maintained it for a year if it had been a moment of madness.

What was your hair like before?
My hair before was unmanageable and curly. I was sick of treating it every day and either frying it straight or waiting hours for it to dry naturally.

And what's it like now?
I've since grown it out to shoulder length. It's taken three years and I think it looks OK...

What was different about having a shaved head?
When I had a shaved head I received a lot of homophobic abuse, despite being straight. My family hated it and said I looked like a boy. I got called a "d*ke bitch" in the street. But I also got loads of compliments, especially from girls who wanted to shave their heads but were too scared. To them, I say: Anyone can pull off a shaved head, you just have to believe!
4 of 10

How long have you had a shaved head?
I shaved my head eight years ago. It was beyond liberating, not to mention low maintenance.

What inspired you to do it all those years ago?
I used to use chemical straightener in my hair and it was so time-consuming and expensive. Plus, I've always admired shaved headed women like Grace Jones and Skin from Skunk Anansie. They embody beauty and femininity.

Have you noticed anything different about how you get treated with a shaved head or not really?
Over the years it's become more of a trend to have a shaved head and so it's seen as cool and edgy and sometimes sexy now. People have stopped me in the street to tell me I'm beautiful and they love my hairstyle.

What are the best and the worst parts of having a shaved head?
In the UK the winters are cold, and that's the only time I ever think to myself that I should grow my hair, but I've gained thousands of hours of sleep by not having to get up early to do my hair!

Will you always have it shaved?
I might let my hair grow back, who knows!
5 of 10

Why did you decide to shave your head and when?
I'd been threatening to do it for six years but kept chickening out and cutting it Winona Ryder-short instead. In the end it was a matter of various forces aligning. I remember feeling like I didn't have a lot of stability in my life at the time and this seemed one of the healthier ways to give myself that sense of control back, at least partially. Summer was approaching and my hairdresser was out of town, so that seemed like a practical time to not have hair. I also did it the day before my 27th birthday so if it went badly I could say 'wow, remember when I was 26 and decided to shave my head? What an idiot!'

What was your hair like before?
I was in the middle of growing it out from one of those aforementioned short hair phases so it was a bit of a mess. There was a middle parting involved. It was quite Jared Leto circa My So-Called Life, plus half a head of bleach.

How did it feel, shaving it off?
Like the day you come off your period and you put your pants on and it feels like the first time you have ever worn pants.

How would you say it's changed your appearance?
I'm definitely someone who alters something about their appearance either as a confidence boost or as a symbolic way of acknowledging a period of change. So, for me, it hasn't made too much of a difference. I still have days where I feel buff. I still have days where I feel super self-conscious – especially if I have a breakout and there's nothing to distract away from the hormonal tempest raging across my face. I still have days where men shout at me in the street for no reason, which forces me to think about my appearance and re-affirm, to myself, how I choose to present myself. And I'm sure that will continue to be the case, regardless of what's going on with my hair.

The best thing about it?
I haven't paid for a haircut in five months.
6 of 10

Where were you when you got it done? And when?
About 12 or 13 years ago in a small town in northern Italy called Bassano del Grappa (I was living there at the time).

Why did you do it?
I actually went in to get a standard haircut... the guy took ages to cut my (then quite long) hair and when he turned me around I was faced with one of the worst cuts I’d ever seen, proper mullet-meets-mushroom vibe. I had recently seen a picture of my mother from when she shaved her hair in the ‘80s and thought she looked cool as fuck so in that moment I made a split decision and told him to shave it all off. He was horrified – it wasn't really the "done" thing in Italy but when I told him to just crack on he started to get excited, shaved my head then bleached it so I walked out of the salon with a bright white shaved head. It was pretty scary.

Wow! What were the reactions like?
Well as I said, it was Italy and they weren't particularly adventurous in that little town at the time. My mother loved it, my father didn't know what to do with me, and my school friends were aghast. I got called Sinéad O'Connor a few times but, bar that, everyone actually ended up quite liking it.

How long did you have it until you decided to grow it out?
I had short hair for about a year and then went traveling and let it grow out. It was handy to be away for that awkward grow-out length. As luck would have it I had to renew my passport that year so I ended up living with this choice for a whole 10 years. Border control should have rules about commenting on passport pictures.

What was the best and worst thing about having it?
Best was maintenance, which actually did take some getting used to. It was much easier to travel with too – although in India, children would always ask me if I was a boy or a girl – another culture of long hair for women! Also that my hair wasn't in great condition from experimenting with hair dye in my teens, so it was good to give it a decent shot at recovery. The downsides were that it was quite chilly in the winter and growing it out, it didn’t look ideal.

Would you do it again?
I wouldn't say no! It was pretty cool and I found that I have a decently shaped head and nice warm hats are easy to come by. I'm definitely more comfortable in my skin now that I'm in my '30s.
7 of 10

You were about to start chemo when you shaved your head – did you do it because you were going to lose it anyway? And was that about power or practicality?
With chemo you lose your body hair first, so you know what's coming! It was painful, emotionally, losing part of my identity that way, and a constant reminder that I was ill for the weeks it happened. Much of what had happened to me up until then was deeply personal but losing my hair felt very public. The final straw came during a BBQ when a clump blew off onto my little sister's plate! That's when I knew I had to take control.

What was your hair like before?
It was long and blonde after years of highlights! It never grows back as it was – it's definitely darker and thicker now. It's been an adventure, to say the least.

How did you feel in those moments after it was all gone?

When my head was shaved I felt a combination of liberated and empty, cold and powerful. A part of my old identity went with that hair. Determined not to let the 'blonds have more fun' idea prevail, I decided to use chemotherapy as a chance to reinvent my look. I had needed a new hairstyle for a while and now I was forced to have one. I think there is something very beautiful about being bald, it is our natural state at birth. I tried to have fun with wigs, head scarves, and new getups.

Would you say it's changed the way you feel about your appearance?

Losing my hair was certainly a big confidence knock at first but sometimes the biggest knocks have the biggest bounce-backs. When it came to eyebrows and eyelashes – that was hard, that's where our expression is.

How long has it taken to grow out?
I'm two years out of chemo and I've been experimenting with different styles. It's now shoulder length, I've had a couple of cuts, one buzz cut in Mexico... never again! A good diet and sunshine helps it grow!
8 of 10

Where were you when you shaved your head, and how long ago did you do it?
I shaved it for the first time in Barcelona four years ago, in a public square with all of my friends dressed in black as a sort of funeral procession just before I moved to London. I did it again last year on my 30th birthday as an empowerment ritual, naked with my sister in Epping Forrest.

What was your hair like before?

I had long dreads the first time (a vestige of my squatting hippy past in Barcelona) and the second time I had dyed my shoulder-length hair black.

What would you say your main reason was? Had you been considering it for a while?

I did it both times as a marker point for a change in my life and maybe also as a protest against growing older and feeling the pressure to behave and look more like an adult. Both times were very considered and planned in advance.

How did you feel in those moments after it was all gone?

Both times I felt an incredible release and very powerful.

Would you say it's changed anything in you?

I think in a way it has, you have nothing to hide behind so you learn never to hide. As a woman, your hair is intrinsically linked to your worth so when you have none you can reconsider who you are and what kind of human you want to be beyond your physical presence.
9 of 10

How long have you had a shaved head?
Since February this year.

What made you do it?
I'd been cutting my hair shorter and shorter whenever I was bored over the six months before and, one day, I was shaving a guy friend’s head and I was like ‘dude, do mine too’. I’ve always really liked Chelsea cuts, so I went for that.

What was your hair like before? And why do you prefer to have it shaved?
My hair was in a very short, messy bob. I wouldn't say I prefer my hair shaved but I'm enjoying it at the moment.

Have you noticed anything different about how you get treated?
At first I was hyper-aware of how people reacted to me on public transport and in the street, and I think I saw negative reactions where there were none, which frustrated me. These days I think my haircut does me more favors than disservices, and I get to override people's initial expectations of a girl with a shaved head every day, which is fun.

Do you have many friends with shaved heads?
I'd say about a third of my friends have shaved heads, and more are opting for it all the time.

Are you going to grow it out?
When I get bored. But I'm sure I'll come back to it!
10 of 10
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