Getting The Chop: The Psychology Behind A Dramatic Hair Cut
“I wanted to make a statement,” says Stevie Ford of Top Shelf Beauté. “[He] was my high school sweetheart. The first break up, I cut my hair really short and the second time we broke up, I dyed my strawberry blonde hair a dark brown.”
Ford isn’t the first person to dramatically change their appearance in the wake of a painful relationship breakdown. Far from it. The post-breakup hair cut is almost a rite of passage.
But this phenomenon isn’t exclusive to just breakups. For Talisa Sutton, founder of Badlands Studio, it was the birth of her daughter that inspired a whole new look. “I spent my whole pregnancy growing out my hair, and while I loved the length, once Lúa was born, I felt like it was time for a change,” Sutton tells Gritty Pretty. “A chop signified the beginning of a wonderful new chapter – and there is less for her to pull on now!”
So, why do women (and some men) feel compelled to chop off their hair following a significant life event?
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According to Tara Hurster, psychologist and founder of The TARA Clinic in Sydney’s Bondi Junction, it’s normal to change our appearance as we grow. “When we are experiencing a lot of change in our life, changing our appearance can be a way of having something you can control amongst all the things outside your control.”
For new mothers, “Beyond the potential practical aspects of short hair being easier to handle, birth can be a powerful experience and some women may see themselves differently after experiencing such an impactful event,” says Hurster. “This may lead them to want to have their external appearance showcase how they see themselves internally.”
The good news? When done right, a new hair cut can boost self-esteem. “When we receive compliments or attention from others it can help to lift our confidence,” Hurster adds. “A new hairstyle can definitely leave people feeling powerful, strong, sexy and proud.”
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Anthony Nader, founder of Sydney’s RAW Anthony Nader, has seen it all. “My salon team has definitely had some of these ‘post’ [i.e. post-breakup, post-baby] examples sitting in their chairs over time, that’s for sure,” Nader says. “We all know the signs to look and listen out for when these times arise.”
His advice? “Go to a stylist that you can trust first and foremost, and one that knows you and your lifestyle best. There could be a number of factors that you may not have considered. Does [the new style] require blow drying every day, and have you got the time for this? You may want the same full head of foils as your girlfriend, but is this colour going to work with your skin complexion?”
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Before you sit down in the hairdresser’s chair and mutter those three magic words – “chop it off” – give yourself a few days to mull it over, first. “With regards to a breakup, wanting a fresh start or new look can help with the grieving process and give you permission to see yourself differently,” says Hurster. “I would encourage you to sleep on the decision for a few days to ensure that it is your internal voice talking, rather than rash emotions.”
According to Hurster, it’s important to take a moment and consider the purpose of the change. Is it to get back at someone? Is it an attempt to please someone else? Or, is the new ‘do an exciting change? If the answer is the latter, Hurster says, “Go for it!”.
They say a change is as good as a holiday; a mini makeover gives hairdressers a chance to be creative and explore on-trend hair cuts and colours. However, communication is key, explains Nader: “You and your stylist need to break down the consultation so there is absolute clarity on both sides before the tools get picked up.”
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Suffering from a case of post-chop regret? Keep calm and remember: hair grows back. You have two options here. Option one: book another appointment with a reputable stylist to discuss your options. Or, as Hurster suggests, “Embrace your new look and run with it! The way to do this is stand tall, hold your head high and lean into this new you with confidence and poise.”
Tell us, when was the last time you dramatically changed your hair? Would you do it again?