The Long and the Short of It


Lest you think no one's reading the comments here, well, we do. (And fun fact? We love them. Your tweets and emails and comments often inspire posts and, at the very least, extensive conversations.). Case in point: last week, when one notably well-thought-out comment appeared under our latest hairspiration post, The Manic Pixie Dream Cut, we got to talking, seriously, about hair.

Ignorant Male wrote:

“I am a male with no fashion sense whatsoever, and I stumbled onto this post because sometimes people take wrong turns on the Internet. I am in no way trying to troll. As a fashion layman, I need this question explained.

Why is this a look? What about it is aesthetically pleasing?

All these women are beautiful, but in my view, this hairstyle in my opinion makes every person pictured look worse. Furthermore, I don't know a single male who prefers this look to a normal hairstyle. I know that everyone here will pounce on that comment as misogynistic drivel, and I am NOT trying to imply that women's fashion is about looking good to men. It is not, but if every person I know agrees that this haircut is a terrible idea, what am I missing that makes it good/desirable?

Again, I do not know what I am talking about. I'm not trying to start a fight, and I know that style is inherently subjective. I am simply ignorance personified, and I want to be informed why anyone would go with this look.

Please don't kill me.”

Well, thankfully, nobody killed him (we hope? are you still out there, Ignorant Male?), and there was a whole variety of thoughtful responses (from Abby, KIki, Hannah, and Lischelt among others). The consensus seemed to be A) You’re very brave and very funny and good on you for asking for help with something you don’t understand; B) This is nothing new: “Women from the 1920s were intentionally rebelling. This haircut is timeless as shit.” (Love you, Hannah.); C) Short hair is “chic,” “unfussy,” “denotes a level of confidence...eccentricity,” and can help women “stand out” when they have the right facial structure for it; and D) This excellent ’88 essay from Vogue by Joan Juliet Buck that everyone should read (thank you, Lischelt), because it hits the nail on the chicly coiffed head and is beautifully written.

All these answers, though inventive and thoughtful, still left essential pieces of the question unanswered: Does cutting your hair have to mean anything? Or, are we, on some unconscious level, paralyzed by a need to feel 'technically attractive'? Or is the desire to present yourself however which way you choose a right you own that belongs to only you? Combine that with our “ Future Feminism' post and the comments therein, and we felt we had a lot more answers to find. (And, for the record, our brand of feminism means “You go, girl,” regardless of what you wear or what you do or what you want. That's just for the record. Lipstick or no lipstick, full-face or no-makeup makeup, YOU GO, YOU.)

Ever the faithful sleuths, we turned to our good ol’ pal the Internet and came up with a whole bunch of blog posts by men about how men prefer long hair because it’s “more feminine,”guys like change [from themselves],” “ You know how you feel about guys having really long hair? That’s how men feel about women with short hair,” one notable failed attempt at a joke about picking up hot lesbians at a bar in Silverlake, CA, and a whole bunch of psychological studies that cite how long hair denotes youth, and long, healthy hair denotes childbearing possibilities that get men’s primal instincts for babymaking all excited. We even turned to Millionaire Matchmaker Patti Stanger (sadly, only in televised form, as she was unreachable for comment), who once told the New York Times that “men like long flowing locks. They just do” and who we have watched ask more than one aspiring trophy wife to pump up the cleavage and get extensions, if necessary, to produce some Victoria’s Secret loose beach waves “Men want something to play with,” she shrieked). (She also recommends staring at men, striking up conversations at random and “always, always returning calls,”)

But...what about ‘chic’? Who’s thinking about ‘chic’ here? (Joan Juliet Buck is: “Short hair removes obvious femininity and replaces it with style... Short hair makes other people think you have good bones, determination and an agenda... Your face is no longer a flat screen surrounded by a curtain: The world sees you in three dimensions,” she wrote in Vogue.) And oh, by the way, preferring to have long hair does not make you a slave to the male gaze—some of us just look better with long locks, too! (Or do we...?!) It was all very confusing. What team were we on? Are there teams? SHOULD THERE BE?!

We decided to let our hair down (ha, ha, ha) and call in the big guns—or those who wield the big scissors—to find out what they really, truly thought about hair length, and specifically the crop.

Their answers, below:

Jimmy Paul: “There's obviously something very compelling about healthy, androgynous hair on a woman—youth and health and a slight bit of danger, if you really take it down to a psychological level. That kind of haircut always comes back, whether its Josie Borain in the '80s with the Calvin Klein ads, or Linda Evangelista, it’s always going to come back in fashion, when there’s a thatch of hair on top and short on the sides and back—it’s so flattering, and on a woman, it’s a great thing. The head shape comes into it, too. Most women have heads that are smaller than men’s heads, and necks that are thinner, so all of a sudden something 'androgynous' becomes something extremely feminine and beautiful and delicate. I mean, short hair may be 'technically androgynous,' but if you think about Linda Evangelista or Audrey Hepburn, in fact it heightens their sexuality and femininity, in a way. It also highlights that incredible bone structure. Think about Funny Face, when Audrey has longer hair, she looks dowdy—and she didn’t have beautiful hair, Hepburn—they have it down in her face when she’s 'plain' and working at the bookstore, and then they cut it short and all of a sudden—[gasp]—you see the neck, the bone structure, you see it.”

Julien D’Ys : “I prefer long! I always prefer long. It’s more romantic. You can do more with it..,”

Didier Malige (who created Natalie Portman's chop for The Professional) is the guy responsible for Emily's ever-disappearing 'do, which is one way of making his feelings on the subject known.

Danilo [via email]: I REFUSE TO CHOOSE




Michael Angelo: “ I believe there’s a short-hair personality type and a long-hair personality type, and often with the latter, it’s because they feel safer that way—that’s what makes her feel sexy and pretty. But what I try to do is engage in a conversation that helps me to understand where she’s coming from. When I hear women who would look great—could look better— with short hair say silly things like, ‘My husband wants me to keep it long,' or 'Guys like long hair,’ I say, ‘Can we talk about that? What does your husband do for you because you like it? Or are you just kissing ass?’ I think how we present ourselves, our fashion, our hair, our makeup, is an exterior expression of how we feel about ourselves on the inside. When women cut their hair short, they feel attractive, I think they’re saying, ‘I’m on my terms, I’m not letting typical male desires dictate my choices,’ and that’s intimidating as hell to a lot of men, because there are a lot of men out there who still are raised to think that they can tell women what to do. And then you have to think, well, if that's why you're afraid of cutting it, do you want a man who wants a woman who’s not confident? When it’s done best, beauty is about infusing confidence; that’s what’s beautiful to me. Think about Madonna in “Papa Don’t Preach' [Ed. note:F-ING KILLER REFERENCE], when she emerged with that short, sassy platinum cut and you watched the way she moved, it was sexy, but it wasn’t 'feminine.' It wasn’t Victoria’s Secret, or that sense of 'Come and overtake me,' it was like, ' I’m going to do the fucking here.' Plus, there’s so much more you can do with short hair to flatter the face. Long hair is just sort of long. You can strategize with short hair, start sculpting someone’s head... Even when we dress someone for an event, the first thing we do is put the hair up; it’s instant glamour. I guess it’s just, for some guys, the idea of that hair finally coming down to be played with is still just such a draw.”

But, what this all comes down to, is you. Can you picture yourself walking down the street with a pixie cut feeling really, truly confident? Would you be hesitant to do it because you’re worried about what men will think? Or is that just something that we all have to grow up and get over because it’s your head and you’re great and who gives a hell what the proverbial 'he' thinks, if he can’t take it? Let’s hash this one out. (And, by the way, to quote Ignorant Male: Please don't kill us for all the questions. We can't help it! We're just so curious!)

Photos via ITG.