This is the story of the second-best decision I’ve ever made, the first being my college decision: the day after I got home from finishing my freshman year, I cut my hair into a pixie cut, and I can’t imagine ever growing it out again.
I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with my hair: it’s a dark blonde, which makes me one of the few blondes in my family (and the inevitable hearer of many dumb blonde jokes in elementary school). It’s thin and stick straight, which means it has no texture, hates to cooperate with any sort of updo, and lays flat no matter what. It doesn’t help that my history of hairstyles isn’t without a few mistakes.
I had straight-across bangs from the time I first had hair all the way up to fifth grade. Okay, until I tried to grow them out and suffered through a few horrible hair clip and headband situations. There was also a short stint in first grade when my mom decided I should get a bob cut, and I still shudder at the memory of my hair tickling my neck every time I dared to move my head. For family photos, my mom would style my hair by flipping the ends out with a curling iron until I looked like a cartoon character. Then there was the time in middle school when I decided I wanted side-swept bangs, but those turned out like two curtains hanging limply over my eyes. It doesn’t help that even when my hair was around its longest in freshman year of high school I wasn’t very good at styling it, even when I tried to follow tutorial after tutorial on YouTube. Even though I had mountains of volumizing shampoo, mousse, and volumizing spray, when I left my hair down it would inevitably fall flat, so I never left the house without a ponytail holder and a dozen bobby pins to restrain my lifeless bangs. My signature hairstyles were a revolution of ponytails, the half-tuck pony bun thing, and twisted back bangs.
Junior year prom, the only updo my hair allowed itself to do was a French twist (goodbye, Pinterest board of fancy curled updos), and for senior year prom I just did my hair myself—two braids pinned into a low crown with a hundred bobby pins and locked down with a bottle of hairspray. Every haircut, I would get my hair a bit shorter (but never to the point of being a bob because I learned my lesson with that) in the hopes that it would look fuller, but I always reverted back to my trusty ponytail holders and hair clips.
One night last semester as I was falling asleep, I was thinking about how frustrated I was with my hair. “Why don’t I just cut it all off?” I mentally huffed to myself. A pause. Then, “Why don’t I just cut it all off?” Cue the Pinterest deep-dive.
I created a folder on my phone dedicated to hoarding pictures of pixie cuts I liked and those I didn’t. I obsessed over Twiggy, Audrey Hepburn, Mia Farrow, Jean Seberg, Winona Ryder, and Emma Watson. I bookmarked article after article about pixie cuts and made a playlist of YouTube videos about pixie cuts and upkeep and styling. I didn’t go into my research with the mindset of “What if I did that?” but “I’m going to do that.” And that was it. That was how I decided I was going to chop my hair off. I texted Cash for Cuts and just had to wait an agonizing month until the cut. Up until then, each time I was annoyed with my hair I would think “Just wait a little longer.” Every night, I would hold my hair back in the mirror and imitate the short sides and choppy bangs I envisioned, and my heart would give an excited jump.
A typical hair day and an atypical encounter with a cockatiel.
When I told my friends and family, they were nervous and hesitant, albeit supportive. Honestly, my mom was more anxious about it than I was. I actually didn’t even tell my brothers I was doing it—I just sent them a picture of my pile of hair on the floor. Walking into the haircut, I wasn’t nervous, but excited. I figured that if it turned out badly and I didn’t like it, I had a couple of months to grow it out before school. After all, hair is hair. It grows back. But that doesn’t mean it’s still not a big deal to drastically change your hair, because somehow hair is deeply connected to identity, to personality, to personal expression. No matter how many times you stand in the mirror and try to manipulate your hair to look like a pixie, nothing actually prepares you for hearing your hair hit the plastic bib and slide onto the floor, the scratch of the razor on the back of your neck, the cold hiss of the scissors against your ear, and the lightest feeling you’ve ever had. When my hair was cut and dried and I looked at myself in the mirror, I almost didn’t recognize myself . . . and it was the best feeling ever.
The first few weeks with my new hair were especially fun because it felt like I was incognito. It was fun to greet people I knew and watch their expression of surprise. People in church would stand next to me for a few minutes, glance over, and realize it was me. I felt like a new person, and it did take me a couple weeks to immediately recognize myself when I glanced into the mirror. Short hair makes me feel more chic and polished even when wearing jeans and a tee. I appreciate earrings a lot more now, too. When people with long hair agonize over getting a couple inches off and say how short it is now, I think, “Don’t even try that with me unless you get at least a foot cut off.” And let me tell you, pixie cut envy is a real thing—I can spot a good pixie cut from a mile away and silently obsess over it.
For me, my pixie cut was a big deal because, you know, it’s my hair, but at the same time I didn’t expect it to be as big of a deal to other people. There’s been a few rude stares, a few double takes. One guy in Kroger looked up at me and exclaimed, “Woah, that’s a girl!” Actually, I’m a woman, and I went to Kroger for Cheerwine, not your commentary. The thing about a pixie cut is that everyone has an opinion about it. I expected all of the typical questions women hear when they cut their hair short:
“But aren’t you afraid of looking like a boy?” Nope. On the contrary, I feel more feminine now.
“How will you get a boyfriend with short hair?” If a guy doesn’t want to date me just because of my hair, then he wasn’t worth dating in the first place.
“Won’t it be hard to grow out?” Probably, but I don’t think I ever will, so I’m not worried about it.
“What if you get bored with it?” Trust me, just because it’s short doesn’t mean there aren’t new styles or tweaks I can make to it. The fun part about super short hair is that even a few centimeters can make a difference in the style.
“Now you have to dress more feminine, right?” Not exactly. I like dressing up even more with short hair because I feel like it makes me look more chic, but I will still rock a sweatshirt without fear of looking masculine. Some days I might even feel like dressing more masculine. My short hair has become a part of my style, not the source of it.
“So, what made you cut it short?” Oh, you know, my raging feminist agenda. Yes, I’m a feminist, but that’s not why I cut my hair. My hair isn’t a rebellious act. I thought it would look good and it does, so there. That’s not to say, however, that there aren’t cultural and societal implications that accompany short hair. Even with the mod era of short hair in the 60s, even with a lot of older women having short hair today, it’s still shocking for a young woman to have short hair.
Then . . .
Women getting pixie cuts are considered brave, daring, and risky: words that aren’t associated with men growing their hair out. There are definitely still a lot of unsaid expectations and rules connected to how women physically present themselves, and I hope to see a day when women can express their personality through style without worrying about the societal implications and possible repercussions of those choices. I don’t really know why I didn’t consider getting a pixie cut earlier—I guess I didn’t want to do any drastic, risky changes during senior year or right before my freshman year of college. I was more restrained by the expectations of how I should present myself in highly visible times of my life (graduation, first impressions on my classmates and professors) than the actual thought of my hair possibly looking bad. I guess I never realized how connected my hair is to my identity until I decided to finally have hair that I loved. For me, cutting my hair was about growing into and defining my own style. But also it’s been about being comfortable with the way I am.
Short hair has helped me claim my face. I was worried I’d feel too exposed, too vulnerable with my face on display, but now I think it’s actually helped me accept my appearance more. For the first time, I look in the mirror and think, “Okay, this is me,” instead of looking in the mirror and thinking, “I wish this weren’t me.” My hair highlights my face, and by extension it’s helped me come to terms with my appearance. I feel good about myself because I feel good about how I now physically present myself.
Now, it’s hard to imagine a time when I didn’t love my hair. I love my inevitable bedhead. I love my little wisps of sideburns. I love my ragged bangs. I love running my fingers through my hair and messing it up for fun. I love slicking my hair back after I get out of the shower and pretending like I’m in The Outsiders. I love my hair ruffling in the wind when I go for a run. I love rubbing my hand on the back of my neck after I get a haircut and feeling how fuzzy it is. I love how now I think I actually look okay in hats. I love joking with my brothers about my hair and laughing with my roommates about finding their hair everywhere. I love how I feel more feminine, more confident. I love my hair even on the days it wants to fall back into a middle part for no reason, when it falls flat in the rain, when it just won’t look exactly the way I want it to no matter how many times I scrunch and style it, when my hair is between cuts and it looks like I have a bit of a mullet and my sideburns start poking into my ears. Now, there really aren’t any bad hair days.