June 30, 2012

What's up with the sidecut hairstyle?

In The Art of the Personal Essay, Phillip Lopate writes, "To essay is to attempt, to test, to make a run at something, without knowing whether you are going to succeed.... One would like to think that the personal essay represents a kind of basic research on the self, in ways that are allied with science and philosophy."

Getting used to the new do
On Wednesday, three days ago, I changed my look by shaving off the right side of my hair. I am far from the first woman to try the sidecut or undercut -- in fact I am far behind the curve, if anything.

In recent months I had seen two women sporting this hairstyle on The Voice and Duets (yes, I freely admit to watching reality singing competition shows), Lindsey Pavao and Jordan Meredith.

Cyndi Lauper and Salt N Pepa had sidecuts in the 80s. More recently UK model Alice Dellal took this look to the catwalk, while Rihanna has looked pretty fabulous with both her long and short versions of this look.

While it's hardly a unique hairstyle, perhaps even mainstream, shaving a part of your head looks and feels a little radical.

I didn't do it on a complete whim. The right side of my hair is not as full as the left, which has been annoying me for a few years, and I had joked that a sidecut would rid me of that problem.

Before going ahead on Wednesday with this drastic cut and shave -- after all it will take a few years before the shaved side will grow back to shoulder length -- I did some googling to make sure it was what I wanted and, if so, to pick up a few tips on how to do it.

It's not hard to find info on the one-sided headshave, sidecut or undercut. (There are plenty of opinions about this hairstyle too which you probably won't care about if this is what you're interested in doing.)

I watched a few videos on Youtube of women doing their own sidecuts which, aside from some useful practical tips, also give you an idea of the range of the emotions you'll go through during and the process.

Somewhat to my surprise, Tim was supportive and encouraging.

Now that my sidecut is done, I can't believe I did it; I like it, but it stands out without a doubt and I cannot help but wonder why I chose to do this.

It's only hair, of course, but growing the shaved part back to blend in with the length of the rest of my hair will take forever, especially with my curls. So, unless I go for the full head shave -- which I certainly don't plan on doing again, though I did, and enjoyed, that carefree do a little over a decade ago --  I will have my new sidecut for a while to come.

I did it because A.. I simply felt like it and B. I could. It was a gut feeling; even as I changed my mind a few times after choosing and putting the section I would cut, and then shave, into a ponytail, I still couldn't stop myself. Tim recommended I go for it, somewhat to my surprise.

Like the woman in the video, I first cut a shorter part of the ponytail - that brought it from shoulder length to just underneath my ear, getting rid of about 5 centimetres of length. Here I paused and considered stopping there, and simply bringing the rest of my hair in line with the new length which would have been a very high bob.

I knew I wanted the sidecut, even as I was scared to do it.

Tim recommended I proceed as planned, so I did. Then there was no turning back.

Relax, it's only hair...
The sidecut felt liberating and terrifying at the same time. Cool, I did it! Why did I do this? I don't recall a specific trigger for change that day, though the month of June has provoked much introspection. It is probably a symbolic culmination of everything I've thought about in the past month.

It's only hair. But hair is important, and I'd like to explore the reasons behind choosing my new hairstyle because I think it will help me understand a few other things.

"Our hair is one of the first things others notice about us and one of the primary ways we declare our identity to them," Rapunzel's Daughters: What Women's Hair Tells Us About Women's Lives author Rose Weitz says in a 2004 Arizona State University article.

"It is personal, growing directly out of our bodies," Weitz, a sociologist at ASU, wrote. "It is public, on view for all to see. And it is malleable, allowing us to change it more or less at whim. As a result, it's not surprising  that we use our hair to project our identity and that others see our hair as a reflection of our identity." 

"If you want to understand the importance of hair, talk to a woman who doesn't have any. You'll quickly learn, as I did, that losing one's hair can feel like losing one's very self," Weitz writes in Rapunzel's Daughters. "Sometimes that's the point. In other times and places, Bhuddist priests, Catholic nuns, mental patients, prisoners, and soldiers have had their heads shaved to strip away their identity."
...
"For nuns, priests and (volunteer) soldiers, this can be a welcome change, marking a fresh start as a longed-for future turns to reality." 
...
When I decided to cut my hair from well over shoulder-length to as short as it can be cut with a pair of scissors at the end of 2000, I hadn't given my motivation much thought. It seemed like a cool change. It was just hair. Right? Wrong.

"Women who more freely choose baldness speak even more positively of it as a means of finding and expressing their identity, or of ridding themselves of a hated problem -- be it wayward hair or men's attentions," Weitz also wrote. "The sheer glee with which they recount the experience of shaving their heads suggests that maybe we should all try shaving our head at least once."

Hair pinned up
As I learned following my hair cut, followed by several short shaves, about 10 years ago, a woman with very little hair becomes a different person, changes her identity, whether she likes it or not.

I plan to explore my drive, a woman's motivation, for the partial shave in writing through a personal essay, as defined by Lopate above, "a kind of basic research on the self, in ways that are allied with science and philosophy."

1 comment:

Margaret Miller said...

I'd like to read your essay when it's finished!