I’m a big proponent of the “dress for yourself” tenet, so it’s not altogether surprising that two weeks and fifteen inches ago I lopped off my long, brown, predictable locks. Like many, I’d been tempted by reactionary haircuts in the past; I viewed them as a proxy for some life change that had either just happened or needed to. But I never went through with one, realizing the catharsis of an undershave would be temporary at best. This time, however, my motivation was pure: I was up for something new.
On the advice of Amelia, I contacted Wes Sharpton from If You Knew Beauty (a magical hair think tank of sorts). After talking through mood boards with Wes and my soon-to-be colorist Roxie Darling, it became clear that we were all on board for a big change of Mia Farrow proportions. My fate was in their hands.
Two hours later, it was facing me in the mirror.
Very short hair — expertly highlighted, chopped and tousled — sat on top of my new-person’s head. There was no more security blanket growing from my scalp, nothing to hide behind, nothing to twist or tie or braid. But the empowerment I felt, however cliché, was glorious. I left the studio feeling like the ballsy lovechild of 90’s Linda Evangelista and Lancôme-era Isabella Rossellini.
The thing is, I don’t live in New York full-time. And while my counter-Samson delusions of short hair as a power source were settling nicely into a more sustainable love of my cut, I crashed from my hair high the moment I got home to rural New Mexico.
In the City, I was confident and beautiful with short hair. Pushed back I felt like Agyness Deyn in February’s Interview. Raked forward? Stella Tennant, British Vogue, July 2011. Gathering kindling in the woods, however, I fixated on my neighbor’s loving remark that I looked like a mom, which I should have taken as the compliment it was. Instead, it triggered fears about how the cut would be received, and the bizarre notion that in five years I would be too old for a short cut to look fun, as opposed to functional.
Shortly thereafter I decided that the cut just didn’t resonate in the context of my barn coats and shearling clogs. Aside from no one mentioning how reminiscent my look was of a 1983 Paula Yates, I had two issues: 1. what I wanted my look to express and how it was actually received were not in sync (I was clearly downtown hip with uptown polish, right?), and 2. I started to doubt the cut.
I rationalized that within “dressing for yourself” there’s an element of expressing how you want to be seen (That girl’s baggy jeans are so cool!), and that one can’t always succeed (That girl must have grabbed her boyfriend’s jeans by accident, awkward!). I’d accepted this with clothes but was surprisingly uncomfortable with misinterpretations concerning my hair. And yes, I realize how ridiculous that sounds.
Ironically, the cut that initially incited a newfound a sense of beauty and confidence was now revealing unforeseen insecurity. As it turns out, I was in fact so concerned about other’s perceptions that I deemed my haircut “too chic” for the entire state of New Mexico. (I know. It’s ridiculous. And offensive. Self-actualization doesn’t always bring out the best in me.) It was a poor excuse to mask the fact that I could revel in short hair if the rest of my look was styled, but in the absence of long locks, without some other element to my look, I felt unattractive.
That realization alone — never mind that my haircut and color are actually stunning – made the experience worthwhile. To realize how dead wrong I was about the extent to which other people’s opinions affect me is both hugely surprising, and also kind of fun. How often does one get the chance to challenge their sense of self and learn from it?
Or maybe I’m over-thinking it all; it’s probably not that unique to experience doubt after such a severe change. Either way, the panic wore off, the flat iron and prescribed magic hair cremes arrived, and I’m wholly enamored with my cut again.
Edited by Amelia Diamond. Inspired to cut it all off? Consider donating your locks to Wigs for Kids.