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Making The Chop: Why Short Hair Should Not Define You

Samantha Dilley |
November 10, 2014 | 12:06 a.m. PST


Brandy Melville model (@BrandyMelvilleUSA/Instagram)
Brandy Melville model (@BrandyMelvilleUSA/Instagram)

About three weeks ago, I chopped off close to five inches of my hair. I’ve had long hair since the start of high school, so the change was a bit jarring at first. Cutting my hair while concurrently stepping into the shoes of a college freshman seems deliberately similar. A change in the interior of my life felt like it required a change in my exterior.

My goals as a college student include wanting to be more sophisticated or more adult and I felt like my hair had to follow the same trend. 

Although I love my shorter hair now, our relationship took a little time to develop. Whether it’s the necessity for approval or my admittedly vain conquests, I guess I was subconsciously looking to gain a new attitude about myself, internally and externally. I wanted to become a “real” college student and separate myself from what my high school peers knew me as.

But, at the end of the day, it was just hair.

I think that the idea that a new look appropriates a new self is momentary in every sense of the word. Three short days after the thrill of a new me in the mirror, I realized that it was still the old me, with the same values, ideas, and goals. It is interesting and odd all at the same time that something as basic as hair can change someone else’s perspective of yourself, while you still internally feel like the dorky college freshman you were "pre-haircut". Hair attaches connotations of personality and impressions to it, when rationally it seems illogical that it could hold that kind of power at all. 

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Miley Cyrus at the Billboard Music Awards 2013 (Getty Images)
Miley Cyrus at the Billboard Music Awards 2013 (Getty Images)
It became incredibly apparent after cutting my hair, that I no longer resembled any female figure in the media any longer. In today's modern pop-culture, aspects of feminine beauty almost directly correlate with long hair. Brandy Melville, an Instagram-famous clothing retailer with a cult-like following, never features models with short hair, but instead bleach-blonde hair that seems all the more glamorous as it falls all the way down their back. Pop star Miley Cyrus received so much flack when she drastically cut her hair into a pixie. I even thought she made a mistake. At a first glance, I thought she looked too boyish by chopping off her beautiful feminine brown-locks. But why are we taught to associate femininity and beauty with long hair? Does style have to conform to the binary construct of gender to be considered beautiful? 

Interestingly enough, both Anne Hathaway and Jennifer Lawrence rocked short locks on the November 2014 covers of Harper's Bazaar and Vanity Fair, respectively. Hathaway looks like a classic beauty with bright red lips against her boyish hairdo, while Lawrence maintains her signature fierceness along with her short hair. When Emma Watson gave her infamous UN speech about gender equality, her hair was not only short but tied back. It seems as though there is a growing correlation between strong women and shorter hair. Although it is an advancement in gender equality that women with short hair are increasingly associated with strength, there still lies the problematic separation between society's ideas of a powerful woman versus a beautiful one. Why should a young woman be forced to decide between an outward appearance of strength or beauty? 

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It is hard enough for girls today. You have to be skinny, but not too skinny. You have be fun and carefree, but still act like a lady. So to be critiqued on hair length is excessive in every sense of the word. Yes, different hairstyles are going to look different on every woman, but I wish a girl with short hair was not such a statement. After I cut my hair, it seemed like everyone had something to say. “Wow! I can’t believe you cut your hair” or “Oh my god! It looks so different!” Yes, it is different, but it is still just hair.

As much as the media controls our perception of beauty, in reality I feel no more educated, no fiercer and certainly no less beautiful because of my new look. Although the style doesn’t define myself, style in it of itself holds power in displaying mood and emotion. The timelessness about style lies within it's temporary nature, which is why taking risks in style is so exciting. Big or small, changes that keep you recognizable or those that design completely new person, I think trends are meant to be reevaluated and tested to it's limits. And I especially think the glamorization of long hair is due for a change in perspective. 

Reach Contributor Samantha Dilley here.



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