I like to think that I’m one minor adjustment away from becoming the perfect woman—the Gwyneth Paltrow I always knew I had inside me. Imagine going baby blond—suddenly you're adding "Kennedy" to your Carolyn Bessette. Do a Key Son workout DVD and you'll know what it feels like to be Daria Werbowy (spoiler: awesome). Put on the right red lipstick, and now Liv Tyler is referring to you as the "Chunginator." I'll put it to you this way: in lieu of a linen closet, I keep a closet full of skincare, hair products, supplements, and makeup purchased with the hope that I would someday be able to look at myself in the mirror and think, "There she is."
And, until last month, I had yet to consider the most alluring and terrifying of image transformers: Bangs. Fringe. La Frange. LaBeouf. Whatever you call them, that swath of above-the-eyes hair has the ability to make or break a woman or a Bieber. They could go terribly wrong, but did fear hold back Lou Doillon from shrouding her face in mystery? Did Rooney Mara turn down The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo because of a requisite trim? What Would Grimes Do? Better yet, What Would Suri Do? And, after binge-watching Funny Face and The Devil Wears Prada, I decided it was time I took my blunt cut into Freja Beha territory.
"I'm getting bangs!" I announced to the office with the pride of a newly engaged woman. And, like all good, concerned boss-friends, they suggested that I ask hairstylist Ashley Javier to fashion temporary faux fringe for me before making any rash decisions. "Like a hair piece?" I clarified. "He did the same thing for Annabelle [Dexter-Jones]," Nick said, explaining how Javier could color-match and cut a few clip-on styles to send me home with before I took scissors to my real hair. And after a phone consultation with the extremely wry and charming Javier—“I don’t do 'cuts,' I do careers,” he told me—I set up an appointment to visit his sunny Flatiron salon.
I was greeted by a hot tea, a terrier, and a rainbow arrangement of fake bangs. In other words, I had taken the subway and an elevator to heaven. I thought that I would get the ball rolling by whipping out my own set of color-matched clip-ins—until I realized I'd made the mistake of ordering ones made of synthetic fibers. "I can't believe my scissors are going to cut this," Javier said, laughing. He would not be able to dye my faux hair, nor could he do much in the way of taming or styling, out of fear that too much heat would melt the—yes—polyester. Thankfully, the color was more or less spot-on and Ashley was able to look past my naiveté.
After cornrowing a two-inch-wide section of my real hair back over (to which the faux bangs would be clipped), Javier swiftly chopped polyester and talked me through the World of Fringe, which includes:
1. The bi-bang: A Birkin-esque bang that can be swept to the side so it disappears into the rest of the hair.
2. The brow bang: Cut right above the brows, so the eyebrows are still visible.
3. The girly bang: Cut one finger-width above the eyebrows, it's a "very Sandra Dee" bang, ideal for shorter lengths.
4. The baby bang: Audrey Hepburn mini fringe.
5. The fetus bang: An extremely graphic, very edgy, choppy bang that is two-and-a-half fingers above your eyebrows.
All the while, we laughed, played with hairstyles, talked references, and weighed the pros and cons of each look. It felt adventurous and extravagant. I was the Tai to his Cher. And, like any good tryst, when we were done he asked if he could light a cigarette before telling me about his childhood, about his passions (hair), and he even showed me a painting he was working on. He told me that I looked the prettiest in the girly bang, but that he'd want to hang out with fetus-banged me, so I left with one fetus bang , one girly bang , and one bi-bang .
I spent a week in those beautiful, bespoke face-merkins, but as much as I liked them, I ultimately decided I wasn't ready to commit. It's the same way I feel about getting a dog. Of course I want it, but it wouldn't be fair. I don't have time to take care of bangs, and I really do enjoy the freedom of not having to style them or have such a signature look everyday. And I couldn't be happier that I went temporary, because I'm no longer taunted by the mystery of 'What would I look like?'
Here's what I learned about getting bangs, both faux and real:
1) When going fake, invest in real hair if you can get it. It's much more versatile, and you can manipulate it to match the texture of your own hair.
2) As a general rule, bangs should never go wider than the arches of your eyebrows. This will not only keep your face from looking wider (an unfortunate reality of a lot of fringe), but will also keep you from looking like you have a bowl cut on the front half of your head. We can't all be Willow Smith.
3) If you're going to taper your bangs (and not cut straight across), make sure the length is consistent at least within the gap between your eyebrows.
So, this time, I did not get banged. But, the experience left me with the itch to change something, so I made an emergency hair appointment and chopped off a full five inches—right to the collarbone. A day later I ran into Leandra Medine who told me point-blank, "I like your hair. It's not short enough." I'm still very much on the journey to revealing my inner Gwyneth.
Photos by Mathea Millman