Why is Cutting Your Hair so Freeing?

Cutting your hair feels has some real, tangible effects on your mood and your attitude towards things. Many of us go through a change of hairstyle when something impactful happens in our lives, or when we need a change. I recently caved to the urge of cutting all of my hair off and went from really long hair that touched my lower back, to a short bob. And, it feels amazing!

There must be a reason why cutting our hair has become a symbol of freedom and change. First, let’s start with the history.

Cutting hair for rebellion can be traced back to Joan of Arc. The New York Times traced the “bob epidemic” to 1903 when two female college students cut their hair in order to play basketball. They also note that it became popular in New York after learning that intellectual Russian women cut their hair in order to hide from the police.

Short hair has always been an act of defiance from the gender cues expected for women. Fast forward a few decades and we still feel like short hair is an act of defiance. More importantly, it is a way to express our feelings in a physical way.

Mental health counselor Dr. Danielle Forshee talked to Elite Daily about the matter. “Hair is an extension of our identity, how we see ourselves, and how we would like others to see us,” Dr. Forshee said. “When we need a change, cutting or changing our hair is usually considered because there is a significant amount of meaning about what our hair means to us in terms of our identity, and how others perceive us.”

This can explain why so many people chose to color their hair in many different ways, and why we feel like we’ve changed after a haircut. We might decide to have a radical transformation at basically any point in time. Understanding the link between our hair and our identity can show why it’s particularly meaningful after some traumatic or meaningful event.

Changing hairstyles can also be a symbol of bodily autonomy. For example, for women of color and particularly black women embracing their natural hair or some protective styles can be a big “F you!” to a society that has historically expressed that straight hair or “white hair” was the only way to look professional.

“In the POC community, the big chop can represent liberation, self-discovery, or starting anew for many women,” said  Kiyah Wright, a celebrity hairstylist and founder of Muze Hair, “This can be anything, from literally freeing herself from heat damage, hair breakage, and/or effects caused by a relaxer or hair extensions, to making a bold statement by defying and breaking free from traditional beauty standards.”

At the end of the day it’s about loving your hair and doing what feels right at the moment. No matter if that’s pink hair or a buzz cut. Go for it!

Also published on Medium.