Why Women—Like Rihanna—Are Cutting Their Hair Short
As re-entry beckons, salons are reporting a rise in 1920s-style liberating bobs and pixie cuts. Here, what to consider before you take the leap.
SHORT AND SWEET A smiley attendee with a soft, curly pixie at the Paris menswear shows in January 2020.
PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES
By June 17, 2021 3:23 pm ET
I HAVE a recurring nightmare in which I have long hair. In the dream, I’ll be doing something mundane, like making coffee, when I notice listless brown strands slithering over my shoulders like anemic garden snakes. Then I’ll touch my head, hyperventilate and, with any luck, wake up.
My hair has not extended past my chin since 2007, my senior year in college. Mere months before I was to exit academia and try my hand at adulthood, a stylist at Shear Ego, a regrettably named upstate New York salon, chopped my locks into a bob. I don’t remember how I felt after that initial cut, which relieved me of about 6 inches of hair. But every time I wake up from my nocturnal angst-session, I feel relieved, unencumbered and chic.
In the wake of the pandemic, salons report that women are flocking to hair professionals to receive their own short cuts. Among them? Rihanna, who recently visited her longtime stylist Ursula Stephen to trade her waist-length braids for a pixie. “I think when anyone decides to really make that chop, it [gives them] a sense of freedom,” said Ms. Stephen, whose salon, Ursula Stephen the Salon, is in New York.
After nearly a year of isolation, freedom is in high demand. Sal Salcedo, a hairstylist in Los Angeles, estimates that since reopening his salon, Nova Arts Salon, when restrictions relaxed, about 70% of his clients have asked for radical chops—up from around 50% pre-Covid. “As soon as they could, I had a lot of people reach out to me and say, ‘I want to cut it off,’” he said. Guido Palau, the New York-based hairstylist who’s responsible for model Kaia Gerber’s bob and the runway hair for brands like Prada, thinks the weight of Covid has inspired women to take more risks. “To chop your hair off isn’t such a big deal after what we’ve been through.”
The pandemic made many of us feel helpless. A hair transformation affords a sense of power. “After major world events, people want to take control. They want to do something different. And cutting your hair off, it just feels rebellious,” said Rachael Gibson, a London hair historian. She equates the current desire for cropped coifs with the bob craze of the 1920s when, after emerging from WWI, women got the vote and “rebelled against their parents’ generation.” Short cuts, she said, telegraph that “you have better things to do than sit and do your hair.”