The Anti-Kardashian Haircut

Short hair, for a woman, is a statement. One of confidence, empowerment, counterculture, and saying "fuck it" to the beauty norms. Or, you know, it's just a haircut. The idea of super-short hair on a woman is no longer such a rarity that the world will gasp in shock and clutch its collective pearls when they see it in the wild. Sometimes, hair is just hair and not an act of protesting the patriarchy. Sometimes, we just like the way something looks on our head.
According to Hairstory Studio's founder and creative director Michael Gordon, cropped hair is no longer a form of androgyny but rather a way for women to convey a new type of beauty. "I think that this is more about women not wanting to be overly identified by their hair. At the same time, these women are displaying a new kind of femininity; maybe the absence of hair allows them to be seen as more open and honest."
What prompted this shift to short? "I think there’s a sort of rebellion of independence going on with women who are frustrated with the stereotypical, pumped-up, Kardashian-y look, which is so much about overt sexuality that it actually isn’t very sexy," explains Gordon. "In a way, it also encourages a more subtle but consistent use of makeup; it’s effortless."
Wes Sharpton, Hairstory's resident stylist, who is aptly called the "scissor wizard" (best business-card job title ever), says that what makes this "unapologetic" cut stand out from your run-of-the-mill pixie is not just how it looks, but how it's cut. "The main difference between this type of cut and a longer cut lies in the technique, referred to as 'scissors-over-comb.' This is where you place the comb close to the head, or on the head, and move the shears very quickly. The distance you put between the comb and the shear determines how short you can go."
Sharpton notes that the shape of the head has a big influence on the length and style of the cut. Since not everyone has a symmetrical head shape, he says, it's about finding balance, but not obscuring or "correcting" that uniqueness. In other words, perfection is not the name of the game here, so if you are someone who loves uniformity and control, this is probably not your jam. "Nobody’s perfect, but I like imperfections and I like when people embrace their own imperfections," he says. "I also really love people’s unusual growth patterns and cowlicks, which can be so beautiful in their own micro-level way, kind of galaxy-esque swirls — you really notice this with cuts this short."
But for the love of all things holy, don't call this style a pixie. "I hate the term pixie," says Gordon. "I feel like it’s a term that any woman['s] short hair is referred to as, when in reality there are so many different kinds of short haircuts," he says. "I think what most people refer to as a 'pixie' is actually a very boring, not very good haircut; it’s rather soccer mom-ish." Ouch. Gordon is clearly pulling no punches on pixies.
To help illustrate the unusual beauty and versatility of the scissors-over-comb cut, Sharpton transformed five stunning women by giving them variations of the look. The results differed in length, shape, and style, but were all equally open, free, and sexy in their own right. Ahead, the women talk about their relationships with their hair and how the comb crop (that's what we've dubbed it) made them feel.
For those still unconvinced of the power of the shear, Gordon offers up this passage from Ernest Hemingway's The Garden of Eden: "Her hair was cropped as short as a boy's. It was cut with no compromises. It was brushed back, heavy as always, but the sides were cut short and the ears that grew close to her head were clear and the tawny line of her hair was cropped close to her head and smooth and sweeping back. ... 'You see,' she said. 'That’s the surprise. I’m a girl. But now I’m a boy too and I can do anything and anything and anything.'" The ultimate girl-power motto, if we've ever heard one.
1 of 6
Photos: Courtesy of Hairstory Studio.
Kellie Jones, Online Vintage Shop Owner

On the first time she went short: "My decision to cut my very long hair for the first time was in the moment, though I'd always contemplated going short. One day, I felt like it would be fun to cut off all my hair and I went for it. I didn't want to spend too much time thinking about it."

On how it makes her feel: "Short hair is so liberating! Long hair is certainly pretty, but the feeling of cutting my hair is just too good."

On her new styling routine: "My hair dries in 60 seconds!"

On how people react: "I've met some interesting and creative people who started conversations by asking me about my short hair. I met a photographer in that way; we ended up talking and eventually working together on creative projects."

On hair and femininity: "When I abandoned all of my hair, I wasn't worried about ideas of femininity; for me, it's important to explore femininity from a personal angle and to disregard common ideas of what should be feminine or masculine."
2 of 6
Photos: Courtesy of Hairstory Studio.
Grace Yang, Visual & Audio Artist/Freelance Digital Strategist

On hair and femininity: "[Short hair represents] freeing femininity from the rigid norms of beauty and what that 'looks like.' Freedom from being expected and pressured to behave a certain way — a passive, pretty princess — freedom to express myself as a person, rather than as just the female gender."

How it makes her feel:
"I loved my haircut — the mauve-blond crop was my best look yet. At first, I felt very vulnerable...but then I began relishing it. It was also liberating in that I felt like it filtered out interactions with insensitive catcallers or typical dumb pickup lines; men were a little more alert, boys were scared. Also, I end up talking to men who really appreciate the fresh sexiness of a buzzed look."

On her new styling routine: "I loved how the look evolved over time. I never thought I'd like frosted tips, but they suited me well. The haircut Wes gave me makes me feel like an alien queen — empowered, striking, but also very me in that it was low-maintenance for a relatively sharp look."

On how people react: "Different kinds of men approach me — and none of them are jocks or bros! They're more well-read or well-traveled, have more exposure to gender-fluid communities, or really enjoy empowered and confident women."
3 of 6
Photos: Courtesy of Hairstory Studio.
Xi Chen, Image Retoucher

On the first time she went short: "The first memorable short haircut I got was when I was about 8 or 9 years old. My father took me to a barber who cut men's hair, and just told them to buzz it off. I was extremely upset. And it cast a long shadow for me to want to keep my hair afterwards. It is not so much about the haircut, but more about the fact that it was taken away from me against my will. After that, my real short haircut was with Hairstory. Which, ironically, is of similar length as my haircut when I was 9. But this time, it was my choice."

On how it makes her feel: "I feel very confident in this. [It] feels so much lighter and burden-free. It really makes me feel like a 2016 version of Faye Wong in Wong Kar Wai's film Chungking Express."

On her new styling routine: "I currently have one-eighth-inch-length hair all over. It is super-easy to maintain, and I feel really sexy in it. I actually shaved my head after a couple months of rocking the muted-pink short hair. I have always wanted to shave my head, but have not been in the moment that feels right. Since my hair was only two inches long, I figured, Why not now? And I love it."

On how people react: "My friends all say that it really suits me. Overall, I think people also perceive me differently as a woman. I think because the poster image of a sexy woman is long, wavy locks and an hourglass figure, it is harder to be sexualized. And it is true I get less catcalls walking down the street, which is a great takeaway."

On hair and femininity: "Women often put a lot of significance into hair. I had kept my hair growing for five or six years before I cut it off. It did mean a lot to me. However, that is partially why I chose to cut my hair: to get away from the stereotypes and associations people give to hair length and women."
4 of 6
Photos: Courtesy of Hairstory Studio.
Ashley Garner, Photographer/Writer

On the first time she went short: "The first time I cut my hair short, I was 14 and had just seen the Sex and the City episode where Carrie had cut her hair to chin length. I was so inspired; she seemed to have so much vivacity and weight lifted off of her once her hair was chopped. I had hair down to my breasts at the time and my father was very against [cutting it], saying that girls with short hair never get boyfriends, but I ignored his remarks and went ahead with it anyways. Two weeks later, I got my first boyfriend."

On how it makes her feel: "I absolutely love it! This is the most versatile haircut I've ever had. I can maintain the cut myself and can go green one day, pink the next, and then just shave it off and start again. I will definitely be maintaining this for a while."

On her new styling routine: "I can just wake up and leave the house without worrying about styling it. Saving money on products is great, too."

On hair and femininity: "I never felt like cutting my hair was a risk; it was just, 'Do you want long hair or short hair?' Personally, I never directly associated it with my femininity — I don't rely on my hair to make me seem 'beautiful' to the rest of the world. For many years, I was a working model and had long, curly red hair — for a very long time, people would not refer to me as my name but as 'the girl with red hair.' It's nice to have people remember my name now."
5 of 6
Photos: Courtesy of Hairstory Studio.
Ottilie Landmark, Art History Student/Intern At Alexander Wang

On the first time she went short: "I have wished to have short hair for a couple of years, and I think it was because I have had long hair almost my whole life and wanted to have some change. With this haircut, I can try a lot of different hairstyles that I have never had."

On how it makes her feel: "Feminine, fertile, and youthful."

On her new styling routine: "It is so easy to maintain. I don’t have to spend a lot of money on hair products, and I don’t have hair all over my clothes."

On how people react: "Some people like it and some people don’t, but I do hear people's opinion about my hair more often than when I had long hair. I feel like some of the negative reactions are because of society’s fetish with the hair as a strong female symbol, but regardless I can’t be bothered with someone who judges me solely because of how I look."

On hair and femininity: "To me hair is just hair, and if I get tired of a hairstyle I can always let it grow out again. Society has a need to gender all parts of the body, and therefore some women might feel like they can’t live up to the expectations and norms [of] the fetishized female body. I think it is a very old-fashioned viewpoint in 2016, and I won’t let someone else’s association affect my decision about what hairstyle I choose to have and whether or not I can still be feminine."
6 of 6
Like this post? There's more. Get tons of beauty tips, tutorials, and news on the Refinery29 Beauty Facebook page. Like us on Facebook — we'll see you there!

More from Hair


R29 Original Series