For young women, the buzz cut seems to be going the way of tattoos. And facial piercings. And candy-coated dye jobs. No longer a symbol of rebellion and angst-y rabble-rousers, today’s definition of the hair style centers on one’s individuality and overall aesthetic.
Pop culture is welcoming the lack of length with enthusiasm, a sure sign that the world is ready to allow women to come as they are—or as they would like to be. The 2016 Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show sent a cadre of abbreviated manes down the runway; 12-year-old Millie Bobby Brown buzzed off her brunette locks for her star-making role in Stranger Things (according to show creators Matt and Ross Duffer, the style took inspiration from another powerful badass, Mad Max: Fury Road’s Furiosa, as played by Charlize Theron); and classic movie moments like Robin Tunney’s breakdown buzz in Empire Records and Demi Moore’s one-of-the-boys power cut in G.I. Jane feel more relevant and relatable than ever.
Still, the initial snip does require a moment of daring. Insta-girl Marie Bamage considered breaking up with her naturally curly lengths for a year-and-half before she took the plunge. “I began to notice how my levels of self-esteem and self-love often depended on how my hair was looking that day—and good hair days were rare,” says Bamage, a 23-year-old of half German-Rwandese descent who, pre-buzz, had the kinked texture to match. “I was so fixated on this glorified idea of long hair that I didn’t look into the opposite direction.” And for Bamage, broadening her perception of beauty came with some welcome fringe benefits. “I see the beauty in more things, not only faces and hairstyles but places, situations, sounds, smells—everything,” she says. “It was one of the most liberating decisions of my life.”
It was one of the most liberating decisions of my life.
Bamage’s sentiment is echoed throughout black culture, where hair is revered and highly-stylized, but at times difficult to deal with. Solange Knowles—whose song Don’t Touch My Hair equates her strands to her pride—famously buzzed her cloud of curls in 2009, citing the energy and expenses that came with upkeep as her motive. Since then, Knowles has rocked nearly every style imaginable, owning each look as if she’s known it forever. It seems a clean slate was a good place to start.
Just ask Kris Gottschalk. Though the German model’s career-defining platinum buzz was dreamed up by Riccardo Tisci for Givenchy’s spring 2016 runway, Gottschalk had previously parted with the majority of her lengths on a trip to Bali, where a near-fatal motorcycle accident shifted her perspective. “I was very lucky to be alive, and I felt like starting again—a new beginning,” says Gottschalk, 24. “So I started with shaving my head, finally liberating myself from what other people, or my agencies, expected me to look like.”
Like Bamage, Gottschalk’s concept of beauty and gender norms was quickly turned on its head upon realizing that, to some, the length of her hair defined her at first glance. “I don’t fit into the usual boy/girl description and my look is pretty strong,” says Gottschalk. “It made me realize how conservative these standards still are, how prejudiced people are in general, and how much we all judge, and are being judged, by our looks.”
Post-buzz, the model was quickly likened to Louis Vuitton mainstay Tamy Glauser and Saint Laurent cool girl Ruth Bell, who originally traded in her blonde locks for an Alexander McQueen campaign. And though the infusion of shorn lengths seemed to have undergone a sudden renaissance, Sudanese natives Grace Bol and Ajak Deng had long sported short styles, as has runway veteran Alek Wek. Today, Adwoa Aboah has taken the model-esque buzz to the next level, augmenting the head-turning look with freckles, daring dye jobs, and toothy grins.
Legendary hairstylist Guido Palau—who’s responsible for the ‘90s-inspired pixies and bowl cuts the models sported at Alexander Wang’s fall 2017 show—considers parting with long lengths as a sign of a woman who has come into her own. “[A buzzed head] makes you feel that a woman is strong, she has her own mind, and wants to let people see her the way she wants to be seen.” says Palau. “I often find that when I do buzz cuts, girls would change the way they dress, the way they stand, their whole attitude.”
No matter the beauty landscape, lopping off one of the world’s main identifiers of femininity will likely continue to require both badass mindset and a hefty dose of courage. But those willing to go under the scissors reap immediate reward: A shaved head is the new calling card for confidence.
More on hair and confidence:
- My Natural Hair Is an Accessory, Not a Statement
- Singer Halsey Won’t Be Defined by Her Hair, Shaves It All Off
- Victoria’s Secret Models Embrace Their Natural Hair
Models on taking hair style risks: