does your look affect the way you see your world?

wallflower illustration by jodypham - click image to view more

I’m a short-haired girl. Every so often, I feel the need to grow out my locks, try to bear the discomfort of stretching each hair to my chin, and force them into the imprisonment of a pony tail.

Once I hit pony tail stage, I realize that I just want the hair off my face and it’s a hell of a lot easier to do that when there is none.

So the scissors come out and I chop it all off.

Yes, I do it myself. Yes, it’s a little therapeutic.

In the initial hours after making the chop, I’m ecstatic. Free. Taller. Thinner.

Okay, not really but it sure feels that way…

Then comes what can only be described as an existential crisis: who is a woman who has no hair? I need to dress better. Do I still look pretty? Where’s my lip gloss?

Recently, I saw a post highlighting the words of Joan Juliet Buck, the editor-in-chief of French Vogue from 1994-2001:

Women with short hair always look as if they have somewhere else to go…

Once you have cut your hair you have to remember to wear lipstick, but you can put away the brush, elastics, and the black barrettes in the form of shiny leaves with rhinestone hearts. When you cut your hair you lose a nose and gain a neck. A neck is generally better than a nose…

With short hair you begin to crave pearl necklaces, long earrings, and a variety of sunglasses. And you brush your teeth more often. Short hair removes obvious femininity and replaces it with style…

You may look a little androgynous, a little unfinished, a little bare. You will look elegant, as short hair requires you to keep your weight slightly below acceptable levels…

Short hair makes others think you have good bones, determination, and an agenda…

I’m sure the other short-haired girls out there can relate. This is TRUTH.

I would also take it a step further: these same observations can be applied to my world as a short-haired girl. When you have short hair, you see the beauty of subtraction not only in your choice of outfit but in your choice of pillows. You see beauty in the simplicity of a flat horizon. You see stillness as fullness.

Since I have always been a short-haired girl, I don’t really know any other way of being in the world. So I wonder if other women (or men!) draw such thick connecting lines between the way they choose to keep themselves and the way they choose to exist in the world?

Care to let me know?

34 thoughts on “does your look affect the way you see your world?

  1. I think Buck absolutely nailed what it means to have short hair. I went from middle of my back to above my ears twice in my life, once for the thrill of the new and once for practicality. I definitely see myself differently with short hair, and after the initial thrill, I end up hating it. I feel limited by styling choices. My physical flaws (real or perceived) are suddenly out on display. And when I feel that self-conscious, I feel less sure of myself, which definitely affects how I act. Call it a security blanket or a my superwoman cape, but I like having my long mane.

  2. This is so much fun Tara! I grew my dreadlocks longish when I had them, but otherwise, I have spent most of my adult life as a short-haired woman. I’ve always loved to be a little defiant and since long hair seemed so prized…*snip* *snip*. Although, I feel short hair with little to no make up can be stunning, I agree that you gain a neck (had no idea about the lost nose, ha) and earrings do seem to become more important. I used to want longer earrings, but I think studs with short hair is so alluring and oozing with confidence that I’m drawn to that more these days, with a bare neck (or something delicious and special if a necklace is worn), and beautiful yet comfortable clothes.

    As I type, I’m growing my hair out (maybe), but I miss my super short hair (it’s short now, but I mean 1-2″ short). There’s something gorgeous and courageously vulnerable…a willingness to reveal what so many hide…that you find with short hair.

  3. Hee. Hee. I’ve always been a long-haired girl. Long and straight. Even though it’s naturally curly and thicker than the thickest hair you’ve ever seen.

    Everyone was a little shocked when I opted for a pixie in May 2010. I remember the date because it was a life changer for me…I felt this new sort of independence from looking like everyone else, from devoting my time to doing my do, from bouncing around with a non-descript bob.

    I suddenly felt like my journey started. And it did.

  4. Wow. Perfectly stated. For 40 years, I have been a long-haired girl. Last month, I cut it all off and donated it to locks of love. Ah, freedom.

    I agree with every word you wrote, and think the quote from Ms. Buck is spot on!

  5. Tara, I LOVE it! So it takes a few more moments to apply a coat of mascara…far better than hours under the heat of the hairdryer. You’ll notice it’s only men that mourn the loss of our locks, and to them I suggest they grow out their own hair if they are so fond of the length. We short-hair girls do indeed have somewhere to go :)

  6. what a great post! i totally know how you feel — though i am on the far other end of the spectrum.

    i’ve got dreadlocks down my back and half the time i forget they are even there. i started growing them over 7 years ago. i have to tell you i have the same feelings of Independence simply leaving my follicles to their own devices.

    people get confused by my apathetic hairstyle, but i embrace the random chaos that is keratin growing from my scalp. everyday i wake up, and my hair is done without any sort of routine. i get to put pretty beads in each lock. they are generally made by dear friends, making me feel close to them and their creative energies.

    having grown up with certain expectations for EvErYtHiNg that i was ever supposed to do in life, i guess this is my little way of say “damn the man, save the empire!” hair is hair is hair is hair….is hair.

  7. I am very much a long-haired girl. I crave the no make-up, hair swept-into-a-bun days. However, I have super thick hair which can get very heavy. I tend to grow my hair until it has become so heavy that I start to get near daily headaches at which point I cut off my hair and donate it to Locks of Love. It lets me enjoy the long hair while I can, but then I get to give back when it is time to “go short.” ๐Ÿ˜€

  8. In my heart I am short haired. I have had short hair for large blocks of my life, but I have settled on long because short hair just doesn’t suit my face. I envy all of you who look good with it.

  9. I have naturally curly hair, and have never had to do anything except let it dry with a little hair cream of some sort in it. Long hair has never been an option because it gets to be too much work for me once it’s past my shoulders. It’s more than how I look, it’s part of who I am. I remember my friends in junior high trying to get their hair to look perfect by re-flipping it over and over, and I just didn’t get it. Why were they wasting our time on hair?? I have to wonder if I am less concerned about my own appearance, am I less concerned and judgmental about the outside of others? I hope so! The superficial is so much less important than what’s on the inside. I think that’s part of why I like handmade–there’s more on the “inside”. It’s not hollow like something from from Burburry or Lacoste.

  10. I need to get a haircut! LOL

    But seriously, I am extreme with my hair: I let it grow down my back and then get it cut above my chin. I like it both ways, which is way I probably go back and forth. I do think short hair does make you think about your appearance differently- ie earrings, etc. And although a new haircut will surely give you confidence, I don’t think about myself differently in any other way with short or long hair.

  11. I have so many people tell me my inch-long hair is adorable and powerful, though some children ask their parents if I’m a girl or a boy. I find it so exhilarating and empowering and I do look at the world without the lens of ‘stereotypical’ beauty. I purchase the saddest looking plants instead of the one with the most blossoms. I shape my posture and body to reflect the strength I feel off ignoring the norms. I think that ambition and strength also goes into my business, where I say “Who cares that pen and ink work died in the 1900s?” I love my short hair and won’t be changing anytime soon (mostly because I’d have a blonde afro).

  12. I’ve struggled with wanting long hair all for my entire life, but it’s just never going to happen. I think it’s time to really embrace short hair – maybe go even shorter. I totally agree with Buck as well…with short hair, I always make more of an effort, which is never a bad thing.

  13. I’ve always had long hair, except at 13, when I went through a “rebel” phase, cutting my then waist-long hair to punky short hair (like Limahl from Kajagoogoo, anybody else remembers him or am I the only one that old?).

    It was liberating, I felt special, everybody admired my courage and those girls who didn’t were just jealous because they didn’t have the guts to do something so extreme themselves, hehe…

    The hair went together with handmade clothes & rainbow painted fingernails, which my mother tolerated (even in school I got complements from teachers for my nail-artwork), because she knew I would grow out of it… And I did, by entering hingschool and having to struggle with my grades (boy, I hated math) so there wasn’t much time for rebellion anymore…

    Thank you, Tara for that post,
    Perhaps it is time to cut my hair again?

  14. I too am a short haired girl.

    The only time I grew it super long was because my friend wanted it long for her wedding. So I grew it out for a couple of years and the day after the wedding I chopped it all off. They cut off 14 inches and donated it all to Locks of Love. It felt awesome to donate it, but I was so relieved to have my short hair back! I feel so much prettier with my short hair. And short hair is just part of my personality. As odd as that sounds.

    As soon as it gets long enough to go into a ponytail it’s time for a cut. Which is where it’s at right now. If it gets long I tend to not style or do anything to it. It just gets in my face so I put it into a ponytail or put a headband on to get it out of my way.

  15. YES, YES, YES!!! That sums it up perfectly. From trying to let it grow and then screaming get this hair off of my head, to the freedom so little hair gives a woman.
    It’s not conventional for the most part, we’re a little different, those of us with the uber short hair. We do see things differently. We want to embrace every moment, not waste time DOING the hair, and frankly it’s just in the way of really SEEING!
    Thank you for this, I was just these past few weeks thinking I wanted to try to grow my hair out, it was much longer at one point. Now I am reminded of why it’s short…and if a French woman says it is elegant…who are we to argue!

  16. For some reason the loose a nose gain a neck didn’t work for me. It was gain a neck but always my nose looked even bigger. Not good for the greek in me. I also have a TON of hair so when I cut short it becomes a chia pet do.
    I envy the cute bobs or short short haired gals with an adorable petite face walking around gorgeous as ever but I also feel so good when one of you gals say…ohhh I wish I could have this long hair. So thank you to you who make me feel better. Now go put on some lipstick!

  17. hm…I’ve been on all sides of this one. I’m not sure….

    I can’t do super short hair, because I have a baby face. I look all of 12 with short hair, even now that I’m close to turning 30. I’m usually in the just-shy of shoulder camp. Thatโ€™s the length that makes my cheekbones shine and my personality triumph.

    Despite that, Iโ€™ve just made the decision to grow out both my hair and my bangs, because short hair is incredibly high maintenance. I think long hair isn’t as fun, but it’s definitely easier.

    Perhaps I’m taking issue with this line, “You see beauty in the simplicity of a flat horizon.” In my experience, short hair is exactly the opposite. It may look easy and chic. But, it’s the opposite of carefree and minimal.

  18. Tara – spot on! Short hair doesn’t suit me, but I’ve noticed that changing my hair color definitely changes my outlook (and how others respond to me).

    As a platinum blonde, I want to take more time in front of the mirror, and am very careful that my look is more polished. I’m more likely to wear perfume and dress feminine, and I am aware that others respond to me one-dimensionally.

    As a brunette, I feel “sportier” and spend less effort on looking put-together. I’m less likely to wear makeup and more likely to sport a ponytail, and will wear more jeans than dresses. I get more respect as a brunette, and people always assume the brunette me is much smarter than the blonde me.

    It’s strange thinking of it this way. I feel more like myself when I’m blonde, but I prefer the way others treat me when I’m a brunette.

  19. Loved this post. I have the kind of hair that people talk about. Its curly, but not kinky, soft, not very dry and golden brown. As a kid and teenager everyone always told me it would be a sin to cut my hair. I hated being told that, its only hair! When I was in college I got so sick of being defined by my hair…”you know Sierra, with the long curly hair?” that I shaved it all off and kept it super short for years.

    I loved having short hair, I always felt done with little effort…and very elegant. I however get bored and like to mix it up, so I’ve gone back in forth with length, color and style. I had fun with it all, but recently decided to grow my hair long again. When wet, it reaches far down my back now. I feel prettier with long hair, but it can be chaotic. I’m sure one day I’ll reach that point again when I just want to cut it all off and get it out of my face…but for now, I’m enjoying the chaos.

  20. Thank you for so PERFECTLY and eloquently articulating exactly what goes on in the minds of us perpetually short-haired gals. I love my short hair style that has varied over the past 10+ years between Mia Farrow-esque pixie and super-choppy Courtney Love circa 1994…but I’ve always done battle with the idea that I don’t look feminine enough and need to always add an extra bit of makeup, or at least a sparkly barrette before leaving the house. All said and done though…I couldn’t imagine myself with any other look – I love my short, chic, spunky style and thank my lucky stars that I can pull a short-hair look off better than most people. Cheers to all of my fellow short-haired lovelies!

  21. Hi Tara – I believe this is my first time commenting here! I’ve been thinking about the same thing actually. I apologize in advance for how long this comment is, but I think people can underestimate how important someone’s hair is to their identity and how changes in life are often reflected in our hair.

    I was *always* a short-haired girl. It was usually a bob in elementary school, until 6th grade when I thought I wanted to feel less like a tom boy, and more feminine. I grew my hair for over two years, never letting my mom even trim it.

    Then – an emotional crisis hit and I needed a change. I got a very short, angled bob, which was very edgy for a 13 year old ๐Ÿ˜› I spent the next three years with a short bob until I hit another turning point in life (turning 16) and went for the pixie cut, which I LOVED. My mom did the initial cut and shape, but I trimmed and maintained it myself from then on, especially into college.

    Funnily enough, it was when I hit another milestone/turning point in my life that I decided to grow my hair out again. I guess I missed that feminine feeling. It isn’t that I don’t think girls with short hair are feminine, but I was just paranoid that I looked like a guy from the back. So I grew it out for another 2 years, had it nice and long for an up-do for my wedding, and then cut it again.

    The last 4 years have been a series of cutting and growing my hair, especially since having children. It gets nice and long, and then I *always* put it up in a pony tail (I have two toddlers – no time to do hair!). So last week, I took out the old scissors, said goodbye to the pony tail, and gave myself a bob again. I do already miss the option of being able to put my hair up into a bun for going out, because having a bob requires me to straighten my hair – kind of a pain. But I think this is a step in the direction that I am starting to feel more like an individual person again, now that my youngest is no longer an infant – I’m ready to invest time into my look again.

    I would love to be able to have *very* short hair again. As I am getting older, and am now a mother, I feel the need more to have a defined look that is my own, and I think hair is the best accessory to do that with.

  22. I don’t have much new to add here, but I must chime in as a short haired woman. I’ve kept it short most of my life and always felt hair is more of an accessory than anything else. For 15 years I had an amazing hairdresser that made me look phenomenal in a variety of short low maintenance dos. I disagree with Brigitte on that. Short hair has always been super easy to maintain for me, the shorter the better. When I let it grow I don’t know what to do with it. Like many of you I end up pulling it back till I am sick of it and cutting it off. Anyhow where my story differs is after my guy went away I never found anyone that cut it as well again. I got sick of paying for haircuts I was not happy with. Seems difficult to find a hair dresser that believes me when I say SHORT. So last summer I bought electric hair clippers and did it myself. It freed me in a way I hadn’t experienced in years. As an older woman I get a few looks for my buzz cut but I love it. And yes it does change my outlook on the world to one of more simplicity. It fits my life as I become less focused on adornment and more on functionality. I still enjoy some bling here and there, and I occasionally put a sparkly barrette in but most days it’s wash and go. The other thing I love about short hair is freedom to change color. When it is short that is so much easier to do, and since you are always chopping it no worries about damage!
    BTW Tara I love your short hair :-)

  23. BAM, you totally nailed this. I was growing out my hair over the summer and it was AWFUL. I didn’t feel very much like me and I spent so much time worrying about what I was doing that I couldn’t enjoy my pretty hair. I finally flipped out and lopped it back to my natural Twiggy length and I feel like myself again!

  24. Wow — you are making me want to get my hair cut short. I loved that quote! I have to admit, I’ve always felt really powerful when I’ve had short hair. I do think you need a certain amount of confidence to pull it off.

    I’ve been growing my hair out for about a year now; it’s not that long since I had a very short Jean Seberg cut. But now … I’m getting that feeling again …

  25. My short, platinum hair has become sort of my personal trademark. If someone does not remember who I am, I just tell them I’m the chick with the short, white hair–and people go “oh yes!”. I think it suits my artistic personality perfectly: it implies non-conformity, confidence and playfulness.

    I had long hair for the first 30 years of my life. I wanted to try something shorter and edgier but feared that I could not carry it off due to being seriously overweight and having a not-so-delicate nose amid delicate features. Boy was I wrong! When people look at my long-hair pictures, they never fail to comment how much better I look now.

    Moral of the story: It is quite possible that you look great in short hair even if you think it doesn’t suit you. Find a good hairdresser and just go for it!

  26. Hair. I wish I didn’t care so much about it. I have had all lengths of hair, including bald. Not by choice. By breast cancer. It really is one of the most traumatizing things to suddenly, while ill, have all one’s hair fall out and be left bald as can be. My face was not meant to be without hair. It was the saddest thing for me. And it is taking so long to grow back and what has grown back isn’t my hair. It’s alien hair. My thick, brown, loose curls are gone and are replace with salt and pepper, very thin, tightly curled fluff. So tightly curled it looks like I have a poodle perm.

    While I am happy to be alive and certainly choose life over hair, I will say that hair has been large on my mind during this whole ordeal. Often it’s the only public statement that something’s wrong with me. It changes the way people treat me and respond to me. I went from looking like a stylin’ middle-aged woman to a granny and I see it in the way people respond to me.

    I hope I get to keep my life and I hope I get my hair back … or at least some kind of happenin’ hair style instead of this strange stuff that’s sprouting from my head now.

    Thanks to all of you who donate to Locks of Love.

    1. Hi Heather,
      I am so sorry you have had to face life or death issues in regards to your hair loss. That has to be the most difficult!!! And while I cannot feel your pain, I truly have empathy for you.

      I googled ‘short hair’ issues because I was drastically reduced from full shoulder length hair that I just wanted cleaned up to below the chin to a drastic pixie cut which I allowed (sort of ) a hairdresser I had complete confidence in to do as “she thought best.”
      I walked out of the shop in shock. Had to walk the town to comprehend what had just taken place. Then I couldn’t imagine facing anyone who knew me.
      I didn’t go back to church for a month. That’s how this has affected me. My self esteem lay on the floor back in the salon. Strangers and neighbors have given me compliment after compliment but everytime I see a reflection in my cell phone I see rolls of wrinkles and I feel it screams “old lady” when I know it doesn’t. I’m still afraid for my kids to see me.
      I have often imagined what I would do if I had to undergo chemo and loose my hair. When I was younger I knew I would be brave and go bald. But now that I am older I feel like I would have to wear a beautiful headpiece or scarf or funky cool scarf.
      Believe it or not, after my own shock I ordered a wig….haha. Then realized I would look older with it.
      Anyway, I would love to hear if you feel differently about things now…Has anything changed for the positive? Feel free to write to me.


  27. To me, simplicity is my long curly hair.

    It’s part of my outlook on life. I can accept and nurture the truth of my hair, accept that it’s part of my identity, and it loves me back. I have had short hair a couple of times, but my liberation is growing it long. If the phone rings while I’m sleeping in, I can literally roll out of bed, splash water on face, pile my hair up with a big pin, out the door and no one will ever know.

    I think the intersection of how you keep yourself and how you interact with the world has to do with realizing how others see you. Then you can change your look (if you want to) to reflect what you’d like them to see. My hair will always give me a somewhat romantic look, but since I’m a bit of romantic that’s OK with me!

  28. I have always had long hair, and probably always will. For me, it’s much simpler and more practical than short hair. Every time my hair has been close to shoulder-length or shorter, it drives me crazy. Short/medium hair has to be styled, and it has to be recut so much more often. I don’t know how you short-haired girls do it! I get a haircut about twice a year and that’s it. Since I have two very young kids, I have no time to do anything with my hair in the mornings [unless I want to get up while it’s still dark – no thanks], and long layered hair actually looks kind of good when you forget to brush it before leaving the house…or at least that’s what I tell myself!

  29. Interesting post…I’m currently struggling in no mans land between short and long hair. I can totally relate to wanting the long locks, but then when it gets to that point, I chop it off…although I’ve not yet been brave enough to go so short. I think it does have to do with feeling like I’ll lose femininity in some way. People have often said I look like my brother, so if I go really short, will I start to look like him? Oh dear!

  30. Well, I’m a long haired girl (72 cm!) with a mind of a short haired girl! I love necklaces, singlasses, and make sure to keep my figure veryyy fit ๐Ÿ˜‰ So i guess it works both ways. An extra plus if you have long hair and think like a short haired girl.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *