How bold women with buzzcuts are changing the definition of beauty
A week before I began my freshman year at Howard University in 2011, I went to my local barber, sat in the chair, and told him to cut off all my hair. After years of perms and hot combs burning my scalp and leaving me to equate beauty with pain, I knew it was time for a change. Amid the many stares of the men in the shop questioning why I would want to do that, I felt the buzzers on the nape of my neck and knew I wasn’t turning back. When I left the barbershop, I felt empowered and free; however, the consistent looks and accompanying commentary that soon came with it from people I didn’t even know made me wonder why seeing a woman with a short haircut was such a taboo topic. To be frank, I can count the times I was asked about my health status or sexual orientation — as if either of those were determinants of a woman’s hair choice.
But now more than ever, women are reclaiming their power — and the power that has long been given to their hair. In lieu of long, flowy tresses, many individuals are sporting short, cropped, or buzzed looks. Lest we forget, back in the late ’80s Sinéad O’Connor rebelled against the societal norms of women in the music industry by cutting off all her hair, and Grace Jones lopped off her tresses in an act of rebellion against how women were meant to behave.
It seems this moment is becoming longer than a running trend — celebrities such as Willow Smith, Keke Palmer, Kristen Stewart, Amandla Stenberg, Cara Delevingne, Sanaa Lathan, and the list goes on — have all rocked buzzcuts. Women like Amber Rose pushed the envelope before it became a “thing.” And who can forget even the moments that have forever been encapsulated in pop culture, like Britney Spears infamously shaving her hair off in 2007?
There are modern characters like Eleven from Stranger Things, the amazing Dora Milaje warrior women in Black Panther, and others who have reintroduced what it looks like to be a beautiful, badass woman without hair. Oh, and don’t mistake that the only ones making a difference are on the big screen — even in local communities, buzzed beauties are getting things done, like Emma González. González not only has become a symbol of hope for speaking out on gun reform after the Parkland, Fla., shooting, but also a symbol of female empowerment in her decision to shave her head as a marker of her preparing to continue war against those who uphold current gun regulations. As she puts it, “When you got work to do but your hair’s gettin too long #StonemanStrong #BaldiesGetTheJobDone #MarchForOurLives.” And while it’s not necessarily a political move, it’s still pretty bold.
Who are some of your bald superheroines? Slick Woods and Jazzelle Zanaughtti were two of my biggest inspirations in making the decision to shave my head. Their styles are so unique, and they are so authentically themselves in a way that demands a certain kind of unapologetic confidence.I think more women are starting to care less about male approval and starting to say, “We can look however we wanna look and do whatever we wanna do with our bodies.”Grace Brumley, photo producerYahoo Lifestyle: Why did you cut your hair?Brumley: The first time I cut my hair short I was 15, living in the Midwest, and a huge Agyness Deyn fan. I was in awe of how beautiful and confident she looked, and I wanted that for myself. I’ve had short hair on and off for 10 years, growing it out every few years before chopping it off again after a major life event (graduating college, getting laid off, dog dying, getting a new job, etc.). Making the decision to chop off my locks gives me confidence and power in times of instability.Does anything surprise you about people’s reactions to your hair?It still shocks me how many times I hear “I could never pull that off” or “Wow, you’re so brave,” when in reality this is the easiest, stress- and fuss-free haircut. It requires no product (not even shampoo), and you can go to a barber shop or buzz it yourself, which saves an ungodly amount of money every year. Those type of comments make me uncomfortable, probably because having short hair is very revealing. You don’t have long, beautiful hair to hide under. Every imperfection is exposed.Have you seen a shift in the conversations of women and their hair?Women with buzzed and short hair are dismantling the age-old stereotype of long hair being necessary to be beautiful, and it’s really cool to see a younger generation embracing that. In the past few years, friends’ daughters have started asking for short haircuts. They definitely see it as a practical move, but I can see we’ve started to move the needle. It’s really nice to see women embracing their natural textures and feeling comfortable with natural, nonstyled hair.
Who are some of your bald superheroines?My inspiration to cut my hair 10 years ago was Agyness Deyn, and these days it’s Winona Ryder in Girl, Interrupted and Charlize Theron in Mad Max. Women with short hair exude a confidence that is unparalleled. There’s something about exposing your entire face, neck, and ears that makes you feel vulnerable.Tara Well, psychologist and research scientistYahoo Lifestyle: What role does hair play in the way we are perceived?Well: First impressions are extremely important. Before we even speak, people sum up us in a matter of seconds based on our physical appearance. We make a lot of assumptions about people based on very little actual information. Our hair plays an important role in first impressions. So how we chose to wear our hair may seem like a small decision, but it’s really a big decision.What role do you see hair playing for future generations as we continue to grow more open to various forms of beauty?Hairstyles have changed over time. What looked very fashionable a century ago or even a decade ago can seem a bit bizarre by today’s standards. What’s more important is how women felt wearing their hair in these styles. I think hair will always be an important vehicle for people to express their individuality, and hopefully as time goes by a wider range of expression will be enjoyed by all.Tomi Adesokan, strategic insights and analytics coordinator Yahoo Lifestyle: How would you describe your relationship with your hair? Adesokan: My relationship with my hair is wonderful. I love my hair; my hair loves me. She doesn’t bother me; I don’t bother her. I give myself a haircut every week. I feel liberated, I feel like a #BOSS after I cut my hair or get a fade.Who are your short-haired superheroines?My hair inspirations are Amber Rose and Danai Gurira. I don’t care what anyone says; Amber Rose is that girl. She made being bald sexy, and she just walks around like no one is going to f*** with her. Danai Gurira wears her hair so effortless as an African woman, while advocating for women’s rights. She didn’t cut her hair for a movie role; she cut it off just because. It is amazing to see a black woman in the entertainment industry just doing as she pleases with hair and not caring about what others think.
Do you believe the conversation is shifting on beauty and hair? The conversation has shifted and changed. It’s changed to black women doing whatever the hell they want to with their hair, and they could care less about your thoughts or the stereotypes. It’s amazing to see women of color in media wearing various hairstyles. As always, representation matters. I just hope this isn’t a trend/fad and that this shift continues.Jame Jackson