I’ve wanted to shave the side of my head for one and a half years — Rihanna and a blogger I follow did it, and I thought it looked so ballsy and sexy. But I never really had the courage to do it. It seemed like a really big decision — my sister, who’s eleven years older, shaved her head when she was my age, and I remember it was really traumatic for me. And my boyfriend at the time told me it would be ugly. He loved that I had long, curly, red hair, and the idea of buzzing it to him was unattractive and “hipster” and not in line with his idea of beauty. But when we broke up a few months ago after six years together, I thought, “I’m shaving it.”
It wasn’t just about him, though. I’d just moved to New York, and moving to a new city felt like going off to college, like a fresh start. I came here by myself, and the only person I knew was my sister, so it really felt like a chance to reboot.
I’m also not necessarily interested in attracting guys with my hair right now. I’ve been dating since I was 16 and this is the first time I’ve really been single, so dating and having a boyfriend aren’t things I’m looking for right now.
Even though my ex was out of the picture, I still got a lot of pushback from other people in my life. Older friends of mine who have high-profile jobs told me I’d look unprofessional and that I’d regret it. My sister discouraged it, even though she had shaved her head. I actually tried to get it done in Portland, but two stylists turned me away. They said they liked my hair too much to shave it off. Even the stylist in New York who ended up doing it hesitated at first — she asked if I’d ever had a clipper to my head before.
I hadn’t, but I love the way it looks. And I really feel like a different person. It was empowering to go to the salon by myself — I was going with friends, but I decided I just wanted to do this on my own. I feel like the new style fits with some changes in my personality too. Since I’ve moved here I’ve become a more direct person. I don’t know if that’s New York or just getting older, but to me the hair was just the cherry on top of a new life that I love.
I’ve mostly gotten positive reactions — if people hate it, I don’t think they’re going to say so to my face. The only outright negative response was from my dad. I called him out of courtesy, because I didn’t want him to find out from one of my other relatives who are friends with me on Facebook. He asked what other people were saying about it, and when I said they’d been nice, he said, “they’re all lying to you.” I ended up telling him he wasn’t supposed to like it, because I didn’t do it to please him. Really, I didn’t do it for anyone but myself.
I think anyone who’s too upset is overreacting. There’s way too much emphasis on women’s hair — people are so fascinated by it, and it’s such a big part of our identity. But ultimately, it’s just hair. Even if you cut it, it grows back.
Guys have always tended to notice my hair, and that hasn’t changed since I shaved part of it — I get about the same number of compliments as before. I have noticed one difference, though: since I shaved it, women have started hitting on me. That part is a little unexpected. It’s flattering later, when I’m walking away, but it catches off guard when it’s happening.
I definitely plan on keeping the style up, at least for a while. My sister has clippers, so I should be able to maintain it. I’ll keep the style for at least a few months, and then who knows — maybe I’ll shave it all off!
As told to Anna North.