THIS IS WHAT IT FEELS LIKE TO SHAVE YOUR HAIR
This piece was originally published in our #BeautyMeans zine, an editorial project that explores beauty standards and encourages self-love. Click here to read the rest of the issue for free, right now.
Welcome to The Bald Girls Club, where progressive ladies who’ve gotten over the idea of having an abundance of hair (and the draining effort and sentiments attached to it), come to live freely; free of cares to give to those who ignorantly question their motives or their sexuality, and still don’t understand that female beauty doesn’t come from the length or volume of your locks. Before you begin the life of a hairless, careless beauty, it is important to understand the four steps leading up to the big chop and the varied experiences, depending on your hair texture, your personality, and your willingness to not give it a second thought.
First off is the curiosity phase, also known as the moment you fall in love with the idea of joining The Bald Girls Club. It might be that you spotted a pixie cut on the subway that made you wonder if that was the look for you. Or it might be that your friend decided to go bald and made it look so good that you ran to your mirror, pulled your hair behind your ears and analyzed your naked face without the added frame from your mane, dreaming of doing the drastic cut yourself.
If at this point you’ve decided to give it a shot, the second step is the intense research, where you scope out the best options for your face shape and lifestyle. This involves sitting in front of your phone for hours on end, searching every thing from early 2000’s emo buzzcuts to the most stunning ba[l]ddies on social media. Personally, during this process, I had a slight dilemma trying to choose which colour or style to emulate. Because although the blond pixie cut seemed like a clear choice from the start (hey, Zoe Kravitz), I was aware that the contrast with my darker skin tone and my hair texture would not enable me to keep it straight or corkscrew curly for too long, and without any significant amount of effort.
This highlights the fact that for black girls, hair is not only an extension of one’s body, but a reflection of one’s being that requires a lot of care and patience. Growing up surrounded by kids who were born into families of immigrants from East Africa to the West Indies, from Northern Africa to Southeast Asia, I never really felt like my curly ‘fro, my cornrows, or braids were something of an anomaly. Nevertheless, my decision to cut it all off left me feeling indecisive for weeks. As a result, I began to narrow down my search to black models who’d gone under the razor in order to find the perfect fit. In my search for hairless perfection, I stumbled upon stunners like Selah Marley, Maria Borges, Simone “Slick” Woods… the list goes on. I remember showing a picture of Amandla Stenberg’s orangey-blond buzz-cut to a friend and recall him saying something along the lines of, “she looks pretty but she’s bald now so…” as if the sole fact that she no longer had a voluminous set of curls meant that she had automatically been stripped of her evident and natural beauty. I pondered this remark, and for some time I even doubted whether my ego could handle the scrutiny I would undergo if I changed my look.
But after I shared a picture of my first buzz, I received an incredible amount of support from my friends and family, as well as a fair share of doubtful and politely inquisitive remarks. Many wondered why I had decided to go for the big chop if I clearly had good, growing, chemical-free hair, as if the only motivation to shave it all off was to repair some sort of follicular damage. Ultimately though, regardless of what anyone said, I knew that a fresh cut was worth receiving unpleasant comments from those who didn’t share my vision.
We’re getting ahead of ourselves though, because the third step, following the decision -making, is planning, because in the business of hair, preparation is key. Before you go ahead and undertake the big chop, it is important to find a grade “A” hairdresser or barber who will be able to reproduce your carefully planned hairstyle. I made the mistake of skipping this crucial step, and almost went as far as borrowing my brother’s electric razor to do the job myself. Luckily, I have a mother who cares for my well-being, one who politely informed me that that was perhaps the most irrational plan a first-time big chopper could make. So, half an hour later, I walked into the nearby barbershop and asked the kind barber to shave it all off as he saw fit.
And this is when we arrive at our fourth and final step - embracing the shave. And trust me when I say that no amount of self-doubt compares to the moment when you’re sitting in that hairdresser’s chair, back turned away from the mirror, while this stranger proceeds to removing years of hard -earned hair growth in a matter of minutes. After they finally turn that swivel chair around, you realize that you’d never intently admired your facial features until that very moment, when every inch of your mug is highlighted from the lack of veil that was once your beloved hair.
Walking out of that barbershop, I watched as the line of patiently seated male customers examined me as I exited, leaving behind all the strands I came in with, dead on the floor. When I got into an Uber, I noted how the driver looked at me extra long as I hopped into the backseat (it wasn’t until later that I realized his bewildered look was probably due to how aggressively I hailed my ride before I got in). Nevertheless, for the following week or so, I remember thinking that all eyes laid in my direction were solely focused on my baldness thinking, “she would look so much more beautiful with longer hair.”
So far, what I’ve learned from this experience is that to cut one’s hair is like shedding a part of oneself. My goal while shaving my locks wasn’t to repair any damaged ends or to demonstrate any form of rebellion, I simply cut it because I felt like it; because I looked at short haired girls with admiration and wanted to join the league of unbothered bald beauties. But ask any female who takes the drastic step of sitting in that hairdresser’s chair, of bearing the terrifying sound of an electric razor skimming the tips of her trembling ears, and she’ll tell you that no matter the outcome, she’s walking out that door a different person. Without the comforting feeling of being able to disguise a bad hair day with a bun and a few bobby pins, the bareness of a bald head leaves you feeling naked and vulnerable. But if you can look past the stares (real or imaginary), if you can trump those offhand remarks and that self-criticizing voice that wants to envy some hair-to-her-bum Amazonian, then that intimate feeling of waking up every morning and caressing your bare scalp with your fingertips will feel that much more magical and liberating.