Hair Is Everything (But It Doesn’t Have to Be)

Hannah discusses our emotional attachment to hair.

I recently cut my hair, which, for me, was unnecessarily monumental. I didn’t just get a trim. I cut off nearly eight inches of my hair, fully converting from my recognisable identity as a long-haired girl to that of a short-haired one. 

Leading up to it, I’ll admit that most of my friends witnessed a much more panicked, whiny version of me, holding onto my hair for dear life and lamenting about how I would look ugly without it, less womanly, and more unsure of myself. I remember dramatically declaring that cutting off that much of my hair would feel like getting my wings clipped, rivaling Belinda’s theatrics in Alexander Pope’s ‘Rape of the Lock’. 

A lot of my insecurity stems from the fact that I had never cut my hair that short since I was about seven. My face looks different now, so who’s to say it wouldn’t look terrible? I also happen to have a pretty round face shape, an unchangeable trait that always scared me out of getting a short haircut. 

This was enough to stop me from ever making any drastic changes to my appearance. I’d admire shorter hairstyles from afar, and while I acknowledged that they looked good, I always followed up internally by insisting that they wouldn’t look good on me

That’s why I ultimately chose to cut it off. I threw a wrench into my insecurities in spite of them. Eventually, my denial turned into acceptance, and when the time came to get my haircut I didn’t feel any fear. I sat in the chair with resolute tranquillity as nearly a year’s worth of my long hair crumbled to the salon floor in curled, golden heaps.


My cut hair.

I expected to cry, or at least have one moment where, in a bleating panic, I stared at my new reflection in complete disbelief of the decision I had made. But in reality, I love it. It looks good. I still have the same face, albeit with less hair covering it.

While I love my new haircut, it didn’t make me into an entirely new person either. That’s another misconception about haircuts: you’re still the same person after leaving the salon that you were before entering it. 

So often people justify their decision to cut their hair with the overarching statement, “I just needed a change!” Sometimes we’ll admire a celebrity’s haircut or scroll through Pinterest, and implicitly register that if we get that haircut, we may end up looking like the pictures we see online instead.

The frivolity of this thought process is not lost on me, but I would be feigning ignorance if I pretended that hair wasn’t everything. As Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s character says in Fleabag, “Hair is everything. We wish it wasn’t, so we could actually think about something else occasionally, but it is.” And the more I think about it, the more I realise that she’s right. 



Hair determines so much of how human beings perceive one another. It changes our self-confidence, can make us feel more or less attractive, and is arguably our most defining characteristic. When one person wants to identify another, they’ll usually say “that blonde girl” or “the red-head” etcetera. So much of our perception comes from our hair, which is why it’s so earth-shattering when we decide to change it.

In just a few snips, I went from “the girl with the long wavy hair” to “the girl with the short brown hair.” The change was instantaneous, and yet so much of me seemed to change. Yet, despite having the willpower to cut so much off, having shorter hair doesn’t take away from the hair-centric way that I seem to live my life. 


Jennifer Aniston’s changing hairstyles over the years.

This phenomenon isn’t just exclusive to me, either. My dad is in his mid-fifties and no longer has the thick head of hair that he once did. I remember rifling through old, teenaged pictures of my dad when I was little, gawking at the long-haired lanky teenager that stared back at me. His face hadn’t changed at all, but his hair certainly had. 

My dad is no stranger to the occasional, playful bald joke, but I also have a tremendous amount of sympathy for him. While it may be different depending on your gender identity, ageing, regardless of sex, has some kind of impact on your hair, whether it be that it turns grey, loses its softness, or disappears completely. 

But you can learn a lot from the elderly, most of all, how to stop caring. I cut my hair solely because of my reliance on it. Over time, it became my armour. It covered my face and even shielded most of my body when draped across my chest and shoulders. While I loved having long hair, I noticed that I eventually tolerated it solely because I was too afraid to live without it. 

Eventually I had enough. Who cares if my face was too round, or if I look like a completely different person, or if the new style didn’t suit me perfectly. At the end of the day, hair grows back. It can even be good for you to cut some off, both in terms of regrowth by severing the dead ends and in terms of self-confidence. I cut my hair because I can. Because beauty is subjective. Because I’m still myself at the end of the day regardless of a silly little hair cut. Because, yes, hair is everything, but only if you allow it to be. 



14 thoughts on “Hair Is Everything (But It Doesn’t Have to Be)

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