Is short hair the secret to looking younger? We think so …
Flicking through photos of myself as a fresh-faced au-pair back in the 1990s, I realize that although my life has changed beyond recognition, I still have the same hairstyle I was sporting 25 years ago.
Mid-length, straight, with a long fringe — a safe, low-maintenance and, dare I say it, dull cut has seen me return to the salon time and time again, simply for a trim.
I have well and truly fallen into the proverbial “hair rut” and, at 43, it’s going to take some guts to get out of it.
I like to think of myself as someone who is curious and open to new experiences, but I’ve become that woman who hasn’t changed her style in decades. In the past quarter of a century I have had three children, switched careers and traveled the world — yet here I am still sporting the same “look” as I was all those years ago. What is going on?
It is partly down to lifestyle and laziness — like most people I am too busy in the morning to sit in front of a mirror and blow-dry my hair to perfection, particularly with a rampaging toddler around. I just wake up, drag a brush through my hair and forget about it for the rest of the day.
But deep down, I know my hair rut is a symptom of a deeper cause connected to feelings of security. Long hair has, for me, always felt like a sign of femininity that I could hide behind. There is something comforting for me to have a shiny (albeit rather fine) curtain of hair close to my face. It feels like a sort of shield against the world and also an intimation of girlhood that, if I am honest, has long bloomed into something deeper and more interesting.
So it is that I begin to think about going for the chop — and as the idea of short hair grows on me, I begin to feel excited about the potential for change.
I had always wondered what it was like to have short hair and envied those women with pixie crops for being brave enough to try it. It is with some trepidation (and a little nostalgia) that I take my 1990s hair and pounding heart off to the expert stylist at Cash For Cuts for a long-overdue hair overhaul.
“Hmm,” he says, thoughtfully. “You’d be perfect for a crop. You have the right bone structure — I am thinking Sixties-gamine with a bit of Linda Evangelista.”
He darts off and returns with a picture of the exquisite supermodel and her famous glossy, short ‘do. “Yes, she certainly looks stunning,” I agree, nervously. “But will short hair really suit me?’
Supermodel, I am not — I am paranoid about my forehead and beaky nose but he assures me the style will work well. He tells me that he doesn’t know anyone who has gone for the chop and not been delighted with the result — but they have to be sure they are “100% committed” to taking the plunge, and he can tell if they are not.
For me it is now or never, and as he ties my precious hair into bunches which can be cleanly chopped near the root I bid them a silent farewell.
The cut has extra poignancy as my hair is going to be donated.. As his scissors slice cleanly through the hair I feel strangely liberated and suddenly it is gone and the nape of my neck is tingling.
He presents the bunches of hair and I feel delighted to be distanced from them after all those years. “See, you already look younger!” he says with a smile.
He then gets to work on the finer details of the cut, working quickly and intuitively. As he moves, he tells me more and more women, and indeed men, are going for short crops including pixie cuts and Purdey-inspired styles from the sixties.
Often they are inspired to go for short hair after a life-changing event, such as divorce or bereavement, but most often people in their thirties, forties and fifties are just ready to make a change.
“Pixie cuts and crops are so on trend at the moment,” he tells me. “Look at Katy Perry, Agyness Deyn and all the catwalk shows. They are so versatile — they can be dressed up or down, tousled and they make a strong statement.”
For such a dramatic transformation, the cut flies by and before I know it, a different person is looking back at from the mirror — someone with a choppy, side-swept and exhilaratingly striking look.
Gone are my long, lank locks — instead the crop frames my face and is gently layered around my ears with choppy “shattered ends” that he tells me are “incredibly flattering and very now.” I still have my beloved fringe, but after decades of struggling to get it to behave, he has managed to sweep it across my face so naturally it feels it should always have been that way.
Miraculously, he has also tamed my wayward cowlick by parting my hair further to the right and using the weight of hair to flatten it down. The cowlick and I have had years of fighting each other, and it looks like the battle has finally been won.
My hair is transformed but interestingly, it is my face and neck I notice most of all — I can see my jawline again and the cut enhances my cheekbones and eyes. He’s right — I do look, and feel, younger. I reach round to touch the back of my head and the short hair feels soft, and light, and somehow incredibly feminine.
“The neck is one of the most feminine parts of the body and highlighting it with short hair this can make a strong, beautiful statement,” he says.
He tells me I am now the proud owner of what is known as a “boy crop” — and I feel anything but masculine. “You look like you have twice as much hair!” he adds, and he is right. Ironically, it feels thick and plentiful, even though it is daringly short. For the first time ever I have an abundance of hair and I can’t stop playing with it.
One week later and what I love most about my short crop, aside from the unexpected compliments from family, friends and even the local librarian, is the versatility and sense of play that I have not felt about my hair since I was a child messing about with crimpers.
I can tuck it behind my ears for a more elfin look or style it forwards for a Mary Quant-esque retro style. I can turn my head upside down and shake it and it still falls back into place. It can be shiny as a conker or casually tousled and only takes five minutes to blow-dry it in the morning.
I have also noticed that I am paying more attention to make-up and clothes that compliment my new style — short hair demands I make more of an effort with my look. My crop has encouraged me to make the best of myself and this, in turn, has gently and permanently boosted my self-esteem. Who would have thought a haircut could do so much?
After decades of “meh” hair I finally have a style! I have given short shrift to the long-haired girl I used to be, and if only I’d known how much fun it was, I would have waved her goodbye years ago.