If you have been keeping up with your beauty magazines, you’ll have noticed an increase in the number of famous actresses and singers who have cut their hair short. Short short. Not short like a bob hairdo, short like my father Bob’s hairdo. Perhaps you would like to cut your hair short, but you’re afraid it will look bad, or that people will make assumptions about you. These are rational fears—make no mistake about it—but if you follow certain guidelines, you can make the successful transition to life as a short-haired female.
First, find some photographs of women with short hairstyles you like—you’ll want to bring a few to show your hairdresser. Useful Internet search engine keywords include very short, super short, pixie, boy, boyish, androgynous, masculine, lesbian, queer cut, and alternative lifestyle haircut. While you hunt, keep an eye out for botched cuts—it never hurts to be prepared for the worst-case scenario. Have realistic expectations.
After doing a few months of research, take some time to reflect: is short hair really right for you? Useful during this period of reflection is a mirror. Look at one and ask yourself a few questions. Do you like tweezing and fashion? Kim Lepine of the Kim Lepine Salon says that short-haired women must “maintain a well-shaped brow,” and “dress with great style.” Are you already attractive? A woman who looks attractive with short hair, Lepine says, has “small features, a strong jaw line, and a well-proportioned face, neck and body.” Meg Ryan’s hairstylist agrees: “Anyone with a petite mouth and nose looks great with short hair.” But big-mouthed gals with prominent proboscises may not be out of luck: Jennifer Lopez’s stylist Oribe (rhymes with sorbet; no known last name) says “flaunting a quirk is very modern.” If you feel self-conscious about your chin, says New York City stylist Carol Flora-Rosenberg, don’t get your hair cut short. Instead, try one of my favorite styling tricks: take a section of hair from one side of your head, pull it under your chin and tie it around your ear on the other side of your head. Chin problem solved.
Consider what stage of life you’re in. Are you in your 40s or 50s? Don’t cut it short, advises the Queen of England’s hair stylist, Ian Carmichael (trust the royal hairdresser—he obviously knows his stuff), lest you be mistaken for a woman in her 60s or 70s. Oribe agrees: “Why do what everyone else is doing and end up looking like an old lady before your time?” Are you in your 20s or 30s? Think about how you’d like to spend the next year. You could spend twelve months waiting for your hair to hit chin length, or three months courting a mate and the other nine gestating. If you’re in college and dating, you’d be “insane” to cut your hair short, says one short-haired writer in a New York Times Magazine article. You may be wondering why that’s the case, but probably not. It’s common knowledge that men are more attracted to women with long hair. “Straight men across the board are not into this hair,” says actress Michelle Williams, who has worn her hair short for years. “I cut it for the one straight man [late ex-fiancé Heath Ledger] who has ever liked short hair and I wear it in memorial of somebody who really loved it.”
Williams exaggerates a bit—there is more than one straight man who likes women with short hair. After cutting your hair, if you take steps to compensate, you may still have a shot at finding one. Wear heels and low cut tops. Speak in the highest pitch you can and avoid using big words. Drop things on the ground and seductively retrieve them. Remember, as far as attracting a mate goes, there is only so much you can do—just do your best. Even when you’re not actively looking for a husband, you’ll probably want to take precautions to prevent others from mistaking you for a man. Put some dangly earrings on whenever you’re planning to leave the house. Wear skirts and dresses, and save pants for special occasions (blizzards and hikes longer than seven miles). If you’re a flat-chested woman, consider surgical enhancement—you don’t want to leave any room for mystery. Even if you take all of these precautions, though, you should still prepare to be called “sir” every now and then.
Some short-haired women may never be mistaken for men, but every last one will be mistaken for (or correctly identified as) a lesbian. It seems women considering short haircuts fear this most of all. There is no sexual experience or sexual orientation requirement for getting a short haircut, but you mustn’t be insecure about either—having at least seven male intimate partners will help with any insecurity. As I always say, if you can’t handle regular accusations of lesbianism, get out of the hair salon.
If, after all of this reflection and self-assessment, you are still interested in a short haircut, you’re probably ready. Look for local hair salons with good reviews, but be willing to travel out of state—and perhaps across country borders (Lesbian Haircuts for Anyone is an excellent salon hidden in a bicycle shop in Montreal)—to get the best cut. At the salon, expect to feel terror, not relief, as you watch your femininity fall to the floor in fuzzy clumps. Don’t worry, though. You won’t know if you’ve a huge mistake until after your first shower.
Articles about short hair from all of the authorities—Marie Claire, Vogue, Cosmopolitan, Harper’s Bazaar, and The New York Times Magazine—say the same thing: there are beauty rules that every woman with short hair must follow. “Once you have cut your hair you have to remember to wear lipstick,” writes Joan Juliet Buck, a former editor-in-chief of French Vogue. Hollywood makeup artist Tricia Sawyer advises drawing attention to either the eyes or mouth with makeup—one or the other, but never both at once. “With short hair,” says Sawyer, “there can be a fine line between what looks hip and cool and what looks dowdy, so you definitely need to figure out the right makeup.” In addition to trying pink blush (if you forget to wear blush, give each cheek a few firm slaps every twenty minutes until you have the opportunity to duck out to the nearest department store on your lunch break), Sawyer says that women who cut their hair short should “keep one feature soft.” Can that feature be your midsection? Buck doesn’t recommend it: “You will look elegant, as short hair requires you to keep your weight slightly below acceptable levels.” If you’re having trouble with this, try apples, egg whites and Parliament Lights (one at a time or all together in a delicious cold-pressed juice).
Remember, ladies, in order to look your best with short hair, you must be confident: the finest pink blush in the world won’t do you any good if you aren’t. If you don’t feel confident about your new look, pretend you do. And if you can’t fake it, at least you can be confident that your hair will grow back, centimeter by centimeter, over a period of several years. Maybe even before menopause.