The Psychology of Haircuts

After I cut my hair last week, my so-called friend Andrew said: “I think you looked better with long hair. You look like a 6 year-old now.” I had to kick him on the shin to help him understand how rude and mean what he’d just said was. He replied that cutting hair was as revealing of my childishness as the kick I just gave him.

I hated his face then, but what he said got me wondering about the psychology behind haircuts.

As a child and teenager, I always had long curly hair. If you see a photo of me at age 7 and another one at age 16 or even 20, my hairstyle looks exactly the same. Long hair may be glamourous but to me, it’s always been a reminder of my childhood.

My standard long-hair style

I cut my hair very short for the first time at 21. It was a radical change. I liked my long hair but I suddenly felt a pressing need to cut the connection I still had with childhood. A change had started in the inside and I needed a way to express it on the outside. I wanted my short hair to scream: “I’m a grown up now! Take me seriously!” In retrospect, I think I had cut my hair too short then. It looked all right but not as good as it would have at other lengths. I remember the reaction of a guy from work: “Is your boyfriend okay with this? It takes away all the feminine side of you, I wouldn’t be happy if my girlfriend turned up with short hair.”

Hair is such an important feature for women; I always took good care of it because I knew it was an attractive component of my looks. Still, I didn’t regret the cut; I was able to feel pretty without my long hair.

I let it grow again and soon my long curls were back. I didn’t think about it for  a while until another period of change made me cut it again three years ago. I had just been through a rough time and was sick for several weeks. When I got better, I wanted to make a new start and erase bad memories. My hair felt heavy on my shoulders because it had been growing all the while I had been sick. I felt an urge to get rid of it to let it grow again during happier times.

I didn’t cut so short this time. I just told the hairdresser: “I want to cut as much hair as possible, I trust you to do something nice.” And he did. Nick, my fiancé, loved my new look and still does- he often demanded I cut my hair after I let it grow once again.

I resisted because I wanted to keep my hair long for our coming wedding. For many women, long hair is a princess-like feature. Cinderella, Sleeping beauty, Snow White, Ariel, they all have smooth long hair. Naturally, I wanted to look like a princess at my wedding. Recently though, I went through a de-cluttering spree– I got rid of old clothes, accessories, tidied up my papers and the rest of my life. Again, a pressing need to cut my hair came from the inside, as another act of de-cluttering.

Third haircut

This time, I had neither bad memories to erase nor any need to show the world I was a grown up. Rather, I wanted to reach clarity in my head and in my life. Cutting my hair was just the visible extension of the work I had started in the inside. With shorter hair, I also feel more dynamic, more active.

There may be much more to a haircut than it seems. A whole succession of events and feelings often leads a woman to cut her hair. So next time a girl you know gets a haircut, pay attention to the change that might have happened on a deeper level.

45 thoughts on “The Psychology of Haircuts

  1. Bonjour Cécile, I am researcher of psychology and a writer from india. I have come across this post at this very moment. I was wondering –

    1. If the change in feelings was related to some anger or resentment towards the males that finally led to a hair cut?

    2. If the feeling of projecting your identity before your family or other close relationships was in your heart that finally led to a hair cut?

    Different girls think differently but you have been honestly expresssive in your post, so I felt that you can analyse and answer.


  2. Honestly, you really look like Audrey Tautou with short hair. Believe it or not, when I read your posts, I incorporate Tautou’s accent into the picture as if you are talking to me in your beautiful french accent. Are your voices similar? Oh, hair cut stories?! I have so many. I was born with no hair on my head, had long curly hair beyond my waist by the time I was in 2nd grade, chopped all of it in my 4th grade to something along the lines of your 3rd haircut, grew it all out through high school (because we had to braid our hair up and we had a school uniform). Whenever I entered a new year, I would chop bits and pieces of my curly hair because I really wasn’t interested in my ‘curly’ hair. All through my life, my cousin would always say that girls would die for my natural hair back home (she lives in the USA), but I didn’t believe her. It’s only a year back that I’ve come to peace with my hair once I started taking care of it, gave it a worthy hair cut, fed it some love and BAM! I love my hair now! Very much. Wow, my hair has been innately connected with my self-worth. It’s only when you feel that self-love could you love your hair and it’s only when your hair starts responding could you feel self-love, self-worth and reassurance of the good in the world.

    Thank you, Cecile….Lovely post. And you sure are tres chic. (Yikes….my french is very weak. I had a few beginner’s classes – two years of high school and two years of undergrad)

    Love, XOXO

    • That’s so cool the way you can imagine my voice and my accent as you read my posts :-)

      I also didn’t like my curly hair very much when I was younger. I was envious of girls with smooth straight hair. I actually straightened my hair all the time until boys told me they preferred the curls :-)

      I’m sure your hair looks beautiful, black and curly- would love to see a photo, I couldn’t find any on your blog. Good point about loving your hair the way it is being connected to self-love, self-worth, etc. I felt the same way when I finally accepted my hair just as it was and stopped trying to make it look different.

  3. I understand the psychology of women cutting off their beautiful hair more than I understand why many guys mourn the change. All I know is that seeing a gal with beautiful flowing hair is a morale booster! LOL

  4. Definitely AGREE! Je suis aussi passée par une très longue période cheveux longs, puis très TROP courts, et pendant le tour du monde, ai relaissé pousser long. Aujourd’hui, de nouveau un carré plongeant : nos humeurs, nos envies, notre santé, notre bonne humeur sont là-dedans, non?!?
    J’espère que le mariage a été sublime et je vous souhaite beaucoup de bonheur, cheveux longs ou courts! ;-)

    • Merci pour la visite Jul’! Le mariage n’a pas encore eu lieu, on a du mal à arrêter une date car nos projets évoluent… (on va peut-être s’installer en Nouvelle Zelande, as tu visité ce pays durant ton tour du monde?

      • Je n’ai pas fait la Nouvelle-Zélande pendant le tour du monde mais l’année précédente avec une amie qui faisait le sien : c’est un pays absolument sublime (tu te crois vraiment dans “Le Seigneur des Anneaux” parfois!), parsemé de paysages magnifiques et de gens géniaux. Si vous y emménagez, vous ne serez certainement pas déçus! Bon préparatifs, que ce soit ceux du mariage ou du déménagement!

  5. You are a knockout with long hair and even more so with the shorter. Yes, When my daughter walked out on her oppressive job the first thing she did is have her hair cut. And I recall cutting my own hair at turning points.
    Excellent post and I will look forward to reading more. Thank you for following and I return the compliment!

    • Thanks! Glad to know I’m not the only one getting a haircut at turning points of my life :-). I saw a comment of yours on Truth and Cake’s last post and it made me want to check out your art… I’m pleased I did and I’m also looking forward to seeing more of it!

  6. I am not sure how I have been missing your posts! Oops!
    I just cut off my loooooong hair and it is super short\, but I love it! The only thing I didn’t realize is that I would have to cut it more often to keep its shape or have to spend a lot of time making it look good. I love your hair short! Go curly hair! Mine is fine and curly too!

    • Thanks Susie! Glad you found your way back to my posts… and that I found mine to yours- stupid WordPress reader!

      When I had long hair, I could go to the hairdresser only once a year but if i want to keep it short like now, I’ll have to go much more often. I need less time in the morning to make it look good though… less mess to entangle :-)

  7. Pingback: Long Hair – Yay? Or Nay? Gay, Bi or Straight? « The Musings of Lady Gwendolynn

  8. Great post! I very recently have gone through a transition in my life and coincidentally it felt like a good time to get a hair cut! Haircuts are a great way of changing our outside look to go along with changes on the inside.
    The first time I made a drastic hair cut was in my junior year in high school. I was recovering from a troubled time in my life and was finally making a complete 180′. So I walked into my hair salon and told my stylist, “Cut it all off” a la Halle Berry. I was nervous about the feedback I would get, but I walked into school the next day as a new person.
    Kudos on the haircut! :)

    • Thanks Tanya. I’m glad I wrote this post because I get to read all sorts of hair stories now :-) It’s strange how cutting your hair short feels like getting rid of bad memories, taking a new start. And then when you feel like a new person, everyone else’s opinion doesn’t matter so much anymore.

  9. Don’t be misled by the selective photography! She does look 6 years old, especially when she’s pouting, frowning (sans forehead muscles) or prancing towards the shuttle in a game of badminton.

      • He is! He really is! I just got an email from my mum, she said she liked the post but that she didn’t understand why Andrew was so mean! I think it’s because he likes me and shows it in a childish way ;-p

        • My mom used to say that when I was still in elementary school and boys were mean to me. Guess that kind of behaviour never changes. ;)

  10. The first time I cut my hair short was when I was 11. I left elementary school and wanted to look like a big middle school kid. I did the same thing for high school! The last time was during my break up with my son’s father. He loved my long hair so I cut it all off to make him mad. Not very mature, I know. I love my long hair though now. My hair inspiration is Kate Middleton. :-)

  11. That’s too funny! I’ve been contemplating the idea of cutting my hair (drastically) for a while now, but I’m highly reluctant (because my hair sucks… at any length). The need for change in general is pretty apparent though in my life. Well, you’ve read the posts, you know what I mean. :-)

  12. I think your hair looks cute short. I agree, cutting hair has got psychological significance for women – I did it too, during a time of intense change. But my hair’s one of my only ‘beauties’ so I guess I’ll hang on to it long.

    • Aw thanks! I used to believe my hair was one of my major assets but then my boyfriend likes me better with short hair! It’s all a matter of taste I guess.

  13. What an insightful post! It’s so true how there are usually reasons behind haircuts. Right before I graduated high school, I chopped my hair off to resemble Reese Witherspoon’s in “Sweet Home Alabama.” My life was about to shift dramatically when I moved away to college. Looking back on it, my hair was step one in the process of beginning a new life and I never even realized it.

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