How To: Chop Your Hair and Be Okay With It

Forget the dentist.

There was nothing I dreaded more as a kid than getting a haircut. Everyone has experienced the horror of having a hairdresser spin your chair towards the mirror to reveal that the one-inch trim you asked for turned into four inches of your hair on the floor. As you gaze at your reflection, eyes wide with terror, your mom coos over “how much healthier it looks!”

Then you realize that while you were telling them to cut nothing off, your mom had secretly allied with the maestro of flocculence to ignore your dreams of long, beachy waves and instead chop it off so it’s “easier for summer.” After I experienced this very horror, I spent years growing it back out to a length that I refused to compromise or give up, until one day recently.

Something kept tickling my butt. After realizing it was my hair, I decided it was time to cut it into a long bob. I never thought that my baby face could work a short ‘do, but weeks of pulling my layers forward and looking at photos of Alexa Chung convinced me it was time for a revolution.

I thought I might regress to kindergarten and shit myself. But once seated in the chair, a few things kept me going, and hopefully these bulleted slivers of advice can help you too put the scissor to the sideburn, if you know what I’m saying.

  1. Tell everyone — Once I told my friends, the barista at my coffee shop, and my grandparents over the phone, I realized that there was no way I could back out. Call it a self-fulfilling prophecy, but I’m no coward. They all expected to see me sans-hair, so sans-hair it would be.
  2. Do it for the right reasons — In this case, the hair/ass tango was good enough. Remember when Hannah gave herself that awful bowl cut at the end of Girls season 2 in an OCD panic attack? Don’t do that. Do not succumb to post-breakup impulses, peer pressure, or oncoming thoughts of “YOLO.” Do it for you.
  3. Consider what you know — which is what will look good on you. Not all of us have the bone structure of Natalie Portman that would allow us to shave off our heads and still look chic. Recognize if you have chipmunk cheeks and spend copious amounts of time googling what kind of short hair will look good on you.
  4. Don’t be afraid to wait — Cutting it is a step. Ask yourself repeatedly if you’re ready until you literally are about to cut if off yourself because you’re so excited. Then ask yourself one more time.

If you were wondering, I really, really like new hair. There are many cultures that shave your head as a sign of maturity or spirituality or new sexuality. For me, it was just amazing to be able to naturally dry my hair in less than an hour.

Would you ever do it?

-Amina Khan, edited by Leandra Medine

Image shot by Patrick Demarchellier, via Vogue

  • Charlotte Fassler

    “Everyone has experienced the horror of having a hairdresser spin your chair towards the mirror to reveal that the one-inch trim you asked for turned into four inches of your hair on the floor. As you gaze at your reflection, eyes wide with terror, your mom coos over “how much healthier it looks!”

    Yep. This is pretty much the experience of every hair cut I’ve ever had. They seem to get scissor happy and somehow half my hair is missing by the end. However I think I am typically pretty hyperbolic about it since maybe 1 in 5 people notices the change. How is it possible that when I feel like something has drastically altered my look no one else seems to think so???

    When I want more chopped than usual, I will typically get a dry hair cut. There is no bullshit and you can see exactly what you’re getting during the process. None of that surprise shrunken post-blow out hair.

  • I shaved my head when I was 13, as a sort of teenage rebellion… So once that was off my list of possible hairdos, nothing could shock me! My hair grows really fast though so it’s almost mandatory to change style frequently if I don’t want to have it wrapping around my feet…

    • Amelia Diamond

      oh wow that’s awesome! do you have a pic?

      • I do… And since it’s #tbt… It was the year of Shinead… And I just realized that GOSH I totally look like my mum now.

        • Leandra Medine

          You are so cool. And you can’t fake cool.

        • Amelia Diamond

          Wow you look unbelievable

          • Thank you! The reactions at the time at school would do any manrepeller proud 🙂

        • Charlotte Fassler

          Wowww! cool to the max

        • Charlotte

          I have a (slightly grown out) pixie right now and can’t help but be in awe and jealous every time I see a girl with a shaved head. Don’t have the guts yet – but you look incredible 🙂

          • The growing out part is the worst… One reason I won’t do short short again (even though one never knows). Maybe now is the moment for you to go all the way? Thanks and cheers from Slovenia!

    • Bess Maria

      Sorry, I can’t seem to stop going back to your picture! You look so stunning. How’d you manage that? If I shaved my hair, I think I’d just look majorly ridiculous. You pulled it off so well, you’ve got me wanting to make a change. Im in awe!!

      • swissinslovenia

        Hey 🙂 first of all, thanks for the compliment! You know, when I did that I was 13 or 14, terribly bored with my life and desperate for any kind of change 😉 so shaving my head seemed a great idea. I never regretted it, it was an important learning and growing process for me- how to deal with stupid comments, how to keep my head up high etc… so if you feel like it, go for it and just take it as a way to discover more about yourself and others around you. Cheers from Slovenia!

  • ChristenaR

    I have lopped off more than 12 inches in the last few weeks – feels great! But now I realize I had the “just one more chop” mindset going and may have gone a wee bit far. Oh well, its only hair and it grows!

    • Amelia Diamond

      you did it incrementally?

      • ChristenaR

        I did, I first cut off a total length of around 10 inches, then with each return, It became more extreme – I’m now sporting an extreme high-low with my hair super short in the back, way above my collar. And of course, I figure now that it is healthy again (damn that ombre I HAD to have!) I can do what ever I want

  • Olivia

    You must post a photo! This is my story right down to browsing Alex Chung hair inspo pics. My break pointing was getting my long hair caught in a fan! womp womp. Now I’m short hair, don’t care!

  • Crazy, I just started on this post today, I guess it’s that time of the year…
    I think your steps are a great help! I have been debating a ‘drastic’ cut for about 5 months now, it may actually be time!

    • Amelia Diamond

      we wanna see if you do!

  • The accuracy of this article is unreal–I can totally relate! I, too, am thinking of cutting my hair, inspired by both Alexa Chung and Karlie Kloss’ awesome bobs. Glad to hear you like your new look!

    • Amelia Diamond

      of you do it post a pic!

  • I’ve never met a haircut I was afraid of. It’s just hair, it’ll grow back. I think the only thing you have to worry about are the problems mentioned in this video:

  • Dani

    My recent venture into the world of short hair came after spending six weeks in a room filled with fabric, wallpaper, tile, and scissors. I began telling classmates I was shaving my head after presentation. I’m still not sure if I meant it at the time, but I knew I could not return to class Monday with a head full of hair. My hair dresser was afraid to buzz it all off, so I left her salon with an asymmetrical bob. Luckily my boyfriend is a barber. Three days before my first Thanksgiving with his family, I got him drunk and convinced him that shaving half of my head was a wonderful idea. I regret nothing.

  • Charlotte Fassler

    Also- word on the “Tell Everyone” point. I cut my hair for locks of love and had it chopped off in front of my whole high school during Recess. There was no going back when I sat down and they ponytailed my hair and unevenly hacked it off into an asymmetrical bob….

    • Quinn Halman

      I did locks of love too! I weighed myself before and after the haircut and there was 3/4 of a pound lost

    • I donated mine last year when my hairdresser pointed out that if I was willing to go one inch shorter, I’d have enough to donate. I was sold, and it was a great way to give back!

  • Shelby Louise

    I have really thick, naturally pin-straight, dark hair. It also grows like a weed, so for the majority of my existence my descriptor has been, “The tall girl with really long, dark hair.”
    Once in a fit of PTBS (post traumatic break up syndrome) I chopped my hair, got some blunt-ish bangs and loved it. The only annoyance was males telling me I look like Zoey Deschanel as a sad attempt at a pick-up line (aside from the bangs I look nothing like her).
    Since then I’ve chopped it much shorter and I plan to continue unil I finally commit to the pixie cut of my dreams. If I’m following Amina’s rules I should get to it, because I’ve been telling my friends about it for nearly a year.
    P.S. Don’t find the selfie, it was a cry for help

  • Ida

    I’d always had this cute Amélie-esque bob as a kid but one summer when I was about five my mom took me to her hairdresser for this terrible, too short bowl cut which looked ten times worse because my ears were kind of way too big compared to the size of my head. I remember being mortified. Since then my hair grew back (of course. Also, thankfully, my head grew to match the size of my ears) but I still can’t look at photos from that era without at least sighing.

  • elephantfootprints

    SO happy you wrote about this today. I have had crazy long hair since late middle school – now almost 24 and trying to be actually serious in life – I feel like it’s time for a change and cutting my hair could be the way to go about it. As much as I am comfortable with my perma-beachy-esque-do, I don’t think it really works as a ‘please take me seriously city’ look.

    I’ve actually constructed an entire Pinterest board (corny, I know) of my ‘rebrand’ (scheduled to take place in September 2014) a long bob look being the pinnacle. I appreciate your thoughts on the matter and your long bob is actually one of the few long bobs that is inspiring my potentially-to-be long bob.

    So again thank you. And happy cutting.

    -Kristin Dee

    • I’m a college professor, and after chopping off my hair a couple months ago, the first thing a student said to me was “Wow! You look like a real teacher now!”

      It stung a little…but I guess short hair does come off as more “mature” or whatever. 🙂

  • Charlotte

    This might be a very strange question, but how do you know if the shape of your skull is ‘nice’ for a shaved head?

    • Noelia Rivers

      That’s my biggest question to do it or not(the pixie7mohawk thing) I really really think my skull is not big enough…

  • I have had almost every hair style. Pixie, bob, long and wavy, short and curly, and believe me, it grows back.

  • CarlotaLMorais

    Yes! When winter starts, a perfect shoulder length to take the damaged hair and have a fresh look.
    For me a new season means some sort of change and there is nothing better than a good new haircut!

  • Yemisi A

    As a black woman I grew up not liking my hair and resorting to extensions. It wasn’t until a year ago that I decided enough was enough, I was going to rock my natural hair. I chopped it all off and I haven’t looked back ever since!

  • Alex

    I wanted a pixie cut for ev errrrrr (the sandlot) but I was terrified. Then I moved to New York and realized people do whatever the fuck they want… So why shouldn’t I? And then I just went for it. Then my boyfriend dumped me… Cool. But seriously, I thought it was fun and liberating and it’s been super entertaining for me (and my friends) to watch all the new stages as it grows out.

  • I was always the kid who challenged my mom to let me cut it shorter (I was lazy and loved the thought of “wash and go”). Then she showed me a photo of her from high school with super short hair (we look a lot alike), and I never asked again. Short hair just isn’t for us!

    This doesn’t mean I don’t go through the “chop it all off” moments, though. I’ve been genetically blessed with fast-growing hair, so about once a year, I go in and demand a shoulder-length bob, which requires losing 6″-9″ of hair. My hairdresser loves the drama, and it always look amazing right after. I also got to donate it once, which made the decision a bit easier. 🙂

    I’m not rocking a long bob, and am considering going back to lose a little more for summer. Every time I hear someone ask me if I’m “really sure” I want to do it, I tell them the same thing:

    It’s just hair. It’ll grow back.

    • Lynda Carol Webster

      I hate when people say that,yes it will if you are young ,not if u r older and impatient

  • A couple of months ago I went on a two-week cutting spree and ended up eight inches shorter with a long angled bob. I watched this guy on YouTube and DIYed… and it was so stress-free to make the commitment slooowly!

  • Hans Zieschang

    Welp perfect timing…I’ve been agonizing on whether to cut my waist length hair (& telling everyone I was going to do it for the past 5 years) & after hearing “you’re never gonna do it” & having a camera roll full of inspiration pics, it’s time. I’m pretty sure I’m going to cry but I have an appointment Saturday & this mop is getting chopped. So giddy/terrified/can’t wait for my neck to stop being sweaty/waving goodbye to unintentional semi dreads.

  • I have been rocking some length of pixie cut for about 5 years now – right now it’s perfectly platinum and shorter than my husbands. And I love it. Though my best friend and hair dresser for 10 plus years is moving cross country and I’m scared shit to let some one else touch it. Being 6’1 with no hair – it needs to be perfect let’s just put it that way. Though I don’t much mind looking like a boy these days. Like swissinslovenia I shaved it all off at 16 and not much intimidates me in the way of hair. Or otherwise. I’ll never grow it out. #shorthuur4lyfe

  • JenniferCN

    I had the same exact experience! When I was 4, my mom told me to be a good girl and sit down. I sat there with my eyes closed thinking “yea, I’m a good girl!” and once I opened it, all of my long straight hair was gone and there was a bob. I cried for days – years, and swore to never go bob. Until recently and it was really liberating. I’ve learned that short hair is best for me (manage/style-wise). Now I cut my own hair!

  • reversecommuter

    Hair is like dating….committing to one (look, cut, boy, girl) is all about timing.
    If your not ready to commit, you slut around with a variety.

  • sarah

    sometimes this can go horribly wrong . my hairdresser had only ever cut my hair long. i decided to go shorter ( jaw length), and came to the sudden realisation that my hairdresser is very un-cool, and as such made me look like kate gosling. after 7 years, i am now without the security blanket of a hairdresser, and i am very disturbed! not to mention the bob-cat pony tail that i have, making me look only slightly less weird than my actual hair does. ;-(

  • ShanIsRad

    I chopped mine off once, and it wasn’t supposed to be short. I always kept my hair long, my mom never made me cut it short, the shortest I ever went was shoulder length because I was involved in dance and cheerleading, and I always had to be able to put my hair back.

    So I was 20, going to the JC Penny salon, I told the stylist to cut it in shoulder length layers. That turned into a long bob (chin-length straight, like an inch or 2 shorter when wavy), which looked terrible with my thick, wavy hair when it wasn’t straightened. I never went back there again, and waited almost 2 years until I cut my hair again (and I found an amazing stylist!). Now I stick to shoulder-length layers, that works best for my hair, and my face shape. I’ve always thought about maybe going shorter again, but not that short- maybe this summer.

  • emily

    I honestly go through wanting to cut my hair at least once a year,from looking at old pictures and being like wow i liked it so much. Then i think about how much work it was lol, anyways I decided to write a blog post about it, if youre thinking about cutting your hair you should def give it a look.

  • Lynn

    I’m trying to get my mom to let me cut mine into a pixie cut. My hair now just feels wrong.

  • erannahrae

    Went from middle of the back to shaved head! Was a little nervous, but I’d wanted to do it for a long time, and it ended up being a blast! What really got me through though was remembering never to take myself too seriously. It’s just hair! It grows back 🙂

  • Lesly Bertin

    I use haircuts as a therapy. Everytime something pisses me off or there`s to much stress to deal with, just pull all my hair up and chop it. The result? A more—relaxed—curly—bob—headed person.