Ok yes fine, I got a haircut: on ditching your signature style

Updated Oct 12 2015
After I off-handedly changed my Gravatar over the weekend, several Offbeat Empire commenters asked if and why I cut off the pink-tips off my hair recently. As one commenter said, "HAVE YOU CUT THE PINK OFF YOUR HAIR!!!?!?!?!?!?????? What!? When!? Why!?"

These days, I mostly keep my personal life private, but heck: I guess it's sort of a big deal to cut off the pink tips that have defined my head for the last seven years, so fine… I'll talk about it.

I went pink in 2006, when I was working hard to establish a personal brand around being an author and media commentator. It felt important to prioritize being easily recognizable. Seven years later, my authority in my industry is well-established. The Offbeat Empire business brand is completely separate from me as a person — to the point where I'm genuinely baffled that any offbeat readers noticed. Not only is there no need for me to be any sort of recognizable personal brand, but I actually get a little uncomfortable when I get spotted out 'n' about. Priorities have shifted, and that's cool.

Last year my geighbor (who works in the fashion industry) gave me a pivotal piece of advice when he told me, "With a personality as loud as yours, loud hair is redundant." I definitely feel less urgency to prove myself in terms of how I look. I mean, personal style is still a form of expression that I really enjoy (and will likely always be a priority for me), but I'm happy to take a little break from having hair that strangers on the street want to talk to me about. I can let my loud-mouth and my career do the talking for me — the pink hair cherry on top may indeed be redundant. I cut it off in part to test if that feels true.

(Also, have you ever noticed how many wedding bloggers have pink hair? If the pink was once a personal brand differentiator, it isn't any more.)

We ran a post a while back about the concept of age-appropriate style, and I don't think I'd ever say that the pink hair is age inappropriate. Hells, the bright rainbow color dyes stick the best to grey hair — have you fucking seen Helen Mirren recently?! For me, getting rid of the pink is less about aging and more about my priorities shifting. For some people, age can have an impact on priorities… but I think if I were in the process of establishing a personal brand today, I would probably go for something equally as bold as the pink hair.

All that said, I did have a sad moment when my family and I crossed paths with this adorable hippie/punk couple on the sidewalk a couple weeks ago, and I wanted to be like YEAH FIST BUMP YOU GUYS ARE AWESOME, and I had this moment of stepping outside myself and thinking, "we're just the boring brown-haired middle class white couple in our late-30s pushing a toddler in a stroller." ACK! Easily-recognizable subcultural identifier, I miss you!

hair historyMy hair was pink-tipped for the longest it's been anything ever — over the years it's been short, long, brown, blond, dreaded, extension-ed, rainbow colored, red, blue, purple, etc. x 500 bajillion. When I cut off the dreads that I had from '99 – '01, I would go out to parties and have people not recognize me. It was half disappointing (no one saw ME, they only saw the hair!), and half exhilarating (clean slate, bitches!). As I did back in 2001, I may grow my hair right back out (and may end up with pink tips again, for all I know), but stagnation freaks me out, so it was definitely time for a shift.

Let's hear from other Homies who've ditched their signature styles — did it mess with your sense of self? Did you regret it? Was it exhilarating?

  1. Its kind of strange, my signature style is that my hair is messy. Its been long, short, and everything in between but because of how curly it is its always messy. I did give up rainbow colored hair a few years back for a good job, now that I'm on my way back to school (hooray!) I realize how much I've actually missed it and cant wait for some freaking purple.

    I adore your hair cut by the way πŸ™‚

  2. Man, hair colour always feels like such a strange change. I have a lot of respect for people who can dye their hair a new colour every month. For me, it was years before I was willing to dye my (naturally dark, dark brown) to a red, and actually use the permanent colour it took to make an obvious change. And then over Christmas, I let the hair dresser talk me into getting blonde streaks… And the change still freaks me out. My hair is not supposed to have blonde, damn it, it's supposed to be dark!

    I've since been talked into the idea that the change makes my curls stand out better, but it's weird to me still.

    • I have naturally dark brown hair that is often red. When I was about 25, I decided to dye it a medium blonde. It looked really cute, but I didn't recognize myself when I looked in a mirror. After a month and a half of not knowing who the hell that girl in the mirror was, I dyed it back. (I still think it would be cool to color it a really pale blonde, but I doubt I'll do it. Too much trouble to grow out.)

    • Sorry, I know this post is a few months old but I had to comment. Also, I can't sleep.

      My natural hair color is a very dark brown, almost black. Since about middle school (I'm 26) it's been all lengths, and plenty of different colors. Mostly various shades/tints of brown or auburn, with or without coloured streaks, but I've had blonde highlights and at one point brown hair on top with blonde underneath. Last time I got my hair cut, the shortest it's ever been, I bleached my hair a very lovely mid/light blonde.

      It was weird to everyone. I was told it didn't suit me by a friend*. Even though he knew it was going to happen, I did it late at night while my boyfriend was asleep and he panicked a bit in the morning when he woke up with a blonde next to him. The dog didn't recognize me at first.

      This was 2+ years ago. I love the way it looks, I feel prettier and like it fits me better. I don't look as pale and/or sickly as the super dark hair made me look. I still picture myself in my head with longer, darker hair. I draw myself with longer, darker hair. A friend made a bitstrip of us and I didn't recognize that the blonde with the 'boxie' cut was supposed to be me.

      I think the whole point of this was supposed to be that I totally get the "My hair isn't supposed to have blonde, damn it" bit.

      *I can't really blame them, I guess. It took a couple of bleaches to get away from the "MY HAIR IS DARK AND WAS BLEACHED" yellow coloring.

      • Heh, I've actually dyed my hair back since that comment (I too am still awake and following really old comment threads!). The blonde was just too bizarre, and while it eventually kinda blended better, I never really liked it much.

        I ended up dying it all over a deep ruby red. For my wedding, even, but dark brown/red is just what my hair should be. My friend even made me us a cross-stitch for our wedding, and did my hair brown with red streaks. At the least, the blonde has given me some nice looking highlights now.

  3. I have had various haircuts over the years, but it has been long more than it has been short. When I got married last June, my hair was down to my waist. Then, two weeks after the wedding, I shaved it off! Nobody recognized me at my high school reunion the following week, for sure. Since then, it has been slowly growing back in, and I am undecided about whether to shave it again or not. I did love the freedom.

  4. I had waist-length curly hair that would often get fondled by little old ladies because it was just so different. After a while I finally hacked it down to chin-length. OMG I tell you I will never go back I love it so much, ha ha πŸ™‚ Not only is it way, way easier to deal with on a daily basis, but I love the way it bounces now. Changing up your look can be a great thing; even when it gets rid of one signature look, it creates another.

    Your new hair is super cute by the way!

  5. "we're just the boring brown-haired middle class white couple in our late-30s pushing a toddler in a stroller." I know that feeling all too well Ariel.

    All through my teens I was a hair model for hairdressers and I have had all kinds of crazy hair, plus I am little bit older than you so my crazy hair days are from the 80's.

    In my twenties I slowly started reigning it in a bit and at some point in my thirties I decided to go back to my childhood hair colour of strawberry blonde.

    Part of me feels so boring and ordinary, I smile when I see teenagers or twenty somethings with great punk hair. They probably think I am smirking at them but really I am wistfully smiling, I miss those days of spending huge amounts of time inventing new hairstyles or deciding what colour to dye my hair next. I did add violet purple streaks to my hair for my wedding and that was fun but it doesn't feel quite the same as when I was younger.

    Now all my artistic endeavours actually go into my artwork and attention and admiration from people come because of art instead of the hair, which is really fantastic to have people appreciate the things are create, but part of me still thinks about having fun colours and hairstyles again one day.

    • Now all my artistic endeavours actually go into my artwork and attention and admiration from people come because of art instead of the hair

      I think that nails it there. It IS nice to have creative outlets other than my hair…

  6. I've been dying my hair the same shade since high school: [brand redacted] medium golden blonde. Occasionally I've tried out other brands that are supposed to be less, y'know, poisonous, but I always end up back with the old faithful. My blonde hair suits my coloring and is definitely part of my personal identity, so I'm already feeling anxious about what's going to happen a year from now, when we start trying to have kids and I have to go back to my dull, mousy dark blonde hair, at least for a little while.

  7. I'm at the opposite stage. I've spent years dying my hair auburn, that it was a bit out of my box to dye the ends purple. I've had so much fun with it though that I might keep it for a while.

  8. I used to have dark brown, curly hair. For the first twenty-one years of my life, that was all it was. Long, curly, dark-brown. Most people recognized me by my hair and they loved it!
    But frankly, I didn't. Sure, it's nice and all, but I found it too dark (especially in combination with my brown skin), and my curls are lost in the darkness and shadows. Though this hair has been mine all my life and it grows that way naturally, it just wasn't "me".

    So, I bleached it and dyed all of it a bright turquoise blue, my favorite color. I loved it! Finally, hair that looks amazing against my skin tone! The color turned out to be multi-hued, varying between bright blue, turquoise, and green. While an unintentional effect, I liked it even more! It makes my curls really stand out, resembling rippling Caribbean waters. I felt refreshed, and most importantly, I felt like "me".

    But most people were horrified and angry that I had "ruined" my already beautiful hair. Some people accused me of doing it for attention, others threatened to sneak up behind me and cut it all off! People would interrogate me about it, giving me mini-psychiatric sessions, trying to find out what "horrible trauma" I had experienced that would drive me to make such a drastic change. Others would go on a religious tirade, telling me that I should have left my hair the way God intended, that God never meant my hair to be blue, and I was therefore "sinning" by rejecting His gift of naturally dark brown curls.
    Too bad I'm agnostic!

    Week after week, people would ask me when I was going to "change it back", as if I was suddenly going to get tired of my awesome new color.

    But I didn't regret it then, and I still don't regret it now. I dyed my hair back in December of 2011. Today it is still a lovely shade of turquoise, and I thoroughly intend to keep it that way. My hair has grown a lot since then though, so the top portion is back to being dark brown. I'll have to fix that. πŸ˜›
    Most people don't bother me about it any more, but I still get a couple of people asking when I'll cut off the blue part or dye it back to brown. I tell them "NEVER!" with a wide grin, and watch as they sulk away disappointed.

    • While I will never dye my hair permanently (I actually really like my natural color) I dyed my hair a (natural) red with semi-permanent dye and had people go up in arms about it. It wasn't that it wasn't flattering (people I met after I dyed my hair thought I was a natural redhed and were flabbergasted when I told them I was actually blonde) but that everyone knew me by my mid-back blonde hair.

      Ask anyone to give a description of me and it will be "she's tall, long blonde hair" (which is sadly enough to distinguish me from everyone in my grad program) so some people were definitely weirded out.

      I'm still considering dying it again…

      • Man, I could have written this exact post! I've always been known as the tall blonde (6'4", as if blonde weren't identifiable enough) but when I've gone strawberry and red (supposed to be auburn but cheap dye made it turn little mermaid red… Which was kind of rad), people thought it was natural bc of my pale skin. Less so with the little mermaid hair, but it did happen. Of course, after I dye my hair, it fades to pink and then I have to dye it back to blonde because even temp color won't leave my natural color alone.

        I want to do purple streaks next. Anyone know a way to not ruin my blonde color forever? Wondering if I should just go with fake clip extensions…

    • People can be so weird about other people's hair. My hair grows very fast naturally and is very thick. It only takes me a couple of years to have very long hair, but it's heavy so I tend to chop it off every couple of years. A lot of my girl friends freak and ask me why I would cut off all my hair and I've had men tell me that they prefer women with long hair. Umm… I'm not trying to impress any of you, I really don't care if you approve of my hair cut. Some people are so afraid of change it freaks them out if someone around them is not. By the way, turquoise is my favorite color and your hair sounds awesome πŸ™‚

    • Oh my goodness, I would love to see pictures of your hair because it sound SOOOOOOO beautiful!

      I've done a few minor dye jobs over the years–usually just to darken it a little and give it a little reddish-ness. Doing henna at current. That's about as bold as I get, though some people seem surprised by my absolute willingness to go from growing my hair fairly long to chopping it all off (I go in a cycle, probably about 2 years in length). I keep it super-short for a while, then grow it back out (as I'm doing now), then after a while, I get bored with it past shoulder-length and chop it back off again.

      • Here is a pic of my hair from my instagram…


        The colors are a bit weird… but that's instagram for ya. I don't have any other online accounts where I upload pictures, so yeah. πŸ™‚ The hair color fades out to shades of seafoam green over time. I dye it back to bright turquoise once the ends start turning blonde.

    • Firstly: Kudos to you for keeping up with the turquoise hair! It's one of my favorite colors, too, and I love how you managed to end up with a multi-hued dye. But I love my natural color (a few shades lighter than dirty blonde) too much to do my whole head like that. I've been considering streaks, though, so that'd be cool.

      Secondly: As a Christian, I have to say THANK YOU for taking the time (and dare I say consideration?) for capitalizing the Godly pronouns even when you're agnostic. There's so many *Christian* writers who simply don't bother to do it. There's so many editors and publishers of freaking *Bibles* who don't bother! It really grabs my attention when a writer does bother, and I usually go around smiling and feeling happy that said writer capitalized for an hour or two.

      Why, yes, I'm a bit of a grammar snob. How could you tell? πŸ˜‰

  9. In high school I had cherry red streaks in my hair. But I had a falling out with my stylist at the time (ie, she freaked out on me in the salon full of customers) and just gave up on the colour and dyed it to my normal colour. That wasn't a huge deal, but I also used to have a long ponytail since I was 7 and chopped off 15 inches in September and now sport an intense angled bob that's nearly shaved on my nape. Now that took some getting used to in the mirror! I'd love to sport some bright chunks of colour again but with my professional job where I meet with clients prevents that.

  10. I'm definitely cringing at the "pink haired wedding blogger" stereotype. But I waited almost 30 years until I felt confident enough to finally go pink. Since then, I went from pink, to brown, to red, to pink and white, and then back to all pink.

    But I have a hard time keeping a signature look, since I get bored easily. So I guess I'm just going to enjoy the fuck out the pink hair until my next "I'm bored!!!!" time comes.

    I'm totally going to be bummed out when people stop recognizing me after I don't have pink hair anymore. πŸ™

    • To be perfectly honest, I'd be more likely to recognize you by the hat you're wearing in your gravatar than by your hair. :p

      • That's funny! I recently thought about how I like my bunny hat gravatar for that reason: I can change my hair a million times an no one will know!

    • I still think pink hair is lovely and overall not that common. Good for you for being confident and sticking with what you like, stereotypes be damned! We'll still recognize you when you get bored and decide to go on to the next thing. πŸ™‚

      I used to have pink streaks in my hair and then blue ones. I remember dreaming about coloring my hair and dressing how I wanted freshman year in high school, but it took me until my senior year before I finally built up the confidence, so I feel ya. Being shy, it was scary to do things that I knew people associated with attention-seeking behavior. After I graduated, I stopped because of work. I still miss it and my size 4 gauges. (Being able to see through my earlobes made me happy in a way I can't explain.)
      I don't feel like I have had any type of signature style since then, although I've been thinking lately about how to remedy that.
      One thing I did to identify myself is change my name. I started going by Raven when I moved to Texas 9 years ago. Since I still love the name and go by it somewhat regularly, I've been thinking about changing it legally. But I haven't been able to come to a decision. Ironically my teenage fear of being called a poser for coloring my hair unnatural colors or dressing gothic never came true, but I did have a boyfriend (now ex) who called me a poser and regularly made fun of me for choosing a different name as an adult. Fortunately my husband and closest friends are a lot more accepting.

  11. I first colored my hair pink 6 years ago after some major emotional upheaval. I was is a "life's too short, just go for it mood" and so I did. It was amazing to me how something as trivial as hair-color could have such a major effect on my life, but it did. I instantly felt more like myself and my confidence soared. I never thought about it as a way to garner attention, I'm really pretty shy, just a way to be true to myself. It makes it easy when meeting new people ("I'm the girl with the pink hair") but, also the unwanted attention from sometimes well-meaning and sometimes inappropriate strangers ("Does the carpet match the drapes?" (yeah that happened) "is that natural?" (srsly?)) gets a little old, I must admit.
    6 years later, so much has changed- I gave up NYC for sweet home Alabama, happily traded my artsy career for a 40 hour a week "real job", my hair styles have changed and matured, but my signature pink streak remains. I have a hard time imagining living without it. Would I feel the same? Would I even recognize myself? Am I just hanging on to this one final piece of my old life? Or, am I, just I have always assumed, staying true to me. regardless of other people's expectations?

    Part of me thinks I'll keep it til I'm an old lady. (Helen Mirren is my effing hero right now.) But who knows, I suppose only time will tell…

  12. I have worn my hair short for years. I cut it all off in 2010 after growing it down to my waist and missing it being short and easy (but short hair is almost never easy). Last year I trained to run a half marathon, and ended up growing my hair out just long enough to pull into a ponytail, and when we got engaged realized my very very very fine hair needed to be long enough for an updo to support a bright red hairpiece. Short kicky hair is my signature, and while I've loved being able to pull it up, wear a bun, and do all sorts of things I cannot do with chin-length hair, I miss my short, signature do.

  13. I've never really had a "signature style" for all that long. I had long hair in junior high, but then chopped it off and had short hair for a few years. Then back to growing it out. Then chopping it super short. The closest I've had to signature was having a streak at the right front for a while. I've done it 2 summers in a row and this past winter I left it there when dying the rest of my hair. But for me it's all about changing things up hair-wise. I used to change my hair cut every 3 months. These days I tend to find something and stick with it for longer.

    I have glasses but usually wear contacts so I throw people off when I pull out the glasses.

    The rest of my clothes did undergo a pretty significant shift when I got a regular job after being a grad student for a long time. Suddenly I sort of needed work wear. So the jeans were supplemented by dressier pants, the t-shirts were replaced somewhat. Now I will tend to wear a geeky t-shirt and jeans on the weekends or evenings, but at work I'm in dress pants, sweaters, vests, and other more traditional work clothing. I've never really had a "style" though so I guess for me the changes have always felt pretty organic.

  14. Daughter of a hairdresser, I have had all manner of styles (and the damage of 80s perms!). In junior year of HS, I cut my hair above my shoulders and it has been in a range of ultra pixie to flippy shoulder-length ever since. What defined me most was the constant shift of color first within the acceptable-by-normal range (platinum thru black), then experimenting with bangs and streaks of blue, purple, pink, red red, and green at different times. I had blue/purple bangs for almost 2 years because it felt most me. Now I am allover washed out red. Every time I change it, I get a thrill of newness– which is probably why I change so often. I get the "my hair doesn't look right" itches and off goes inches.

    As with everything else, however, I think the root of my "self" is solid and outgoing enough without the signature hair color. Now, the tattoos and motorcycle may have something to do with my lack of married white suburbanite in her 30s, but she's in there too somewhere.

  15. I spent 3 years branding myself as a Platinum Blonde Pinup / Domestic Goddess for my book and blog. But in November, I quit my Ultra Conserative day job of 6 years and my hubs and I moved across the country.

    I also decided to dye my hair BRIGHT F*%$# OFF RED to celebrate my new found freedom. Then I decided to finally grow my roots out to a natural color/ombre look. I have a nagging suspicion that going nearly (mousy?) brunette may hurt my careful branding… but since I've always dyed and cut/shaved my hair differently, the blonde was beginning to feel like a box I put myself in.

    I haven't really outed myself yet with an avatar change… thanks for the post, it's encouraging! πŸ™‚ also I think the shorter hair looks really good on you!

  16. I chopped my waist-length, good-Pentacostal-girl hair into a 1/2 inch long pixie during college, and people who had known me for years didn't recognize me. It had a lot to do with the shifts going on in my personal life (growing up, changes in my faith, fighting with my parents constantly), but it was also the one "crazy" thing I allowed myself to do after a stressful semester and taking the MCAT. I loved having short hair, but it got too expensive to keep up with once I started grad school. Now I'm enjoying being able to braid it again!

  17. Thanks for sharing your thought process! I think your new hair cut looks really good. You rocked the pink tips as well. I thought it was interesting that you were baffled that people noticed! I noticed, but after struggling on what to say (I overthink these things) maintained my usual silent status-quo. So I'm sure plenty many other people noticed too.

    I agree that OBE is well established, but I feel what has made the OBE sites part of the few that I regularly visit and have for around three years now is your personality as well as the thoughtful community you've created. While I think there are many interesting articles on OBE and I completely understand the need for you all to have your own private lives, my favorites are usually when you, Megan, or Stephanie decide to share bits and pieces about yourselves. Maybe it is easier to feel connected to an online community when it feels like there are real people on the other side, even if it is one sided? When Stephanie shared that she writes for xoJane, I was excited to go over there and read more lovely articles written by her (and had my love for all things OB further established when reading the comment section on the site – yikes!)

    I remember when I took the Bridechilla course, a big draw was that you were going to be a part of the video chats. It made me feel like a squeely fan girl! I don't usually get into the celebrity crush thing, but if someone asked me, you'd be it. I'll stop now before I sound really creepy, if it's not too late. πŸ˜‰

    • Yeah, online privacy is a very odd thing and something that definitely has shifted for me many times over the years. I started blogging in 2000, and everything was out there (but then again the blogging world was tiny back then).

      My online world changed dramatically in 2009 when I switched my personal blog to a private, members-only site. I got sick of the harassment from longtime trolls telling me I was ugly, fat, stupid, etc etc. I got sick of feeling scared of beng attacked every time I posted about difficult stuff. It started freaking me out that people who might know me through my then-job at Microsoft would have access to reading about my very personal issues like infertility. I want to respect my family's privacy, too — not just my husband, but also my son.

      That said, there are times when I think I've become too guarded online. The pendulum swings back and forth…

      • I have to agree with Raven. I was drawn to the Empire after reading your book and falling in love with your voice as an author, and your personality. I feel that there is still a lot that around the Empire. It may be separate from you, but you've left your imprint all over it.
        I love every post I read, but it's those bits of your personal life that connect with mine that really engage me. When you mentioned Shambhala being your favorite music festival, I was giddy because it's mine too (where I met my husband).
        I just recently read that you were a big part of the reason Philo decided to start hooping.org…. The (only) other website I religiously check each day and I felt so happy and satisfied with the connection. I love when my worlds intersect. It creates a wonderful synergy in my mind.

        With respect to the pendulum swinging, I do the same with my life, but eventually things settle into balance πŸ˜‰

  18. I cut off my hip-length hair this year. It feels great but I get a little pang when I see a picture of my mermaid hair looking especially magical… although those are usually buried in 234 pictures of my mermaid hair tied up in a heavy, messy bun, so it's hard to get too nostalgic.

    I have never dyed my hair because it has red streaks that I have always loved and been afraid to lose. However, I have been planning to have amazing rainbow-sorbet colored hair as soon as I go grey. It's a win-win.

    • I did the super long hair thing for a while in college, and I think I only let people take pictures of me when I had it unbraided and wavy. Whenever I've tried to grow it out again, I end up pulling it back with a clip or ponytail holder every. single. day. So I finally went for a pixie cut about 2 years ago, and I think I will never grow my hair out again. It freaked out my friends and family at first, but I am so in love with my new style that I can't really imagine trying to grow it out again!

  19. I don't really have a signature hairstyle (for the last 8-ish years I've chopped it off about every second year, donating 12+ inches every time β€” and the last time, nearly 3 years ago, I buzzed it to 1/8" β€” it's about time to chop it off again now…), but I wear skirts a LOT (all summer, and most of the time in the winter), so I get a lot of comments from friends if I wear pants.

    When I first started wearing skirts a lot, it was really weird for me β€” I'd been wearing jeans 98% of the time for a bunch of years at that point, and I usually only wore skirts for dancing (it's just more fun to twirl in a skirt!), but then I decided that they were really comfortable and a lot of fun to wear other times, so I started wearing skirts to school.

    The summer before I left for university, my best friend and I hit the thrift shop, and I bought a bunch more skirts. I think I wore jeans for Frosh Week, but then I switched to skirts, and wore them pretty much all the time β€” layered long skirts in winter (I can hide an extra five or six layers under my skirt for added warmth β€” actually a LOT warmer than wearing pants!), knee-length skirts in summer (with funky knee socks in spring/fall)… So that's how most of my friends from university know me β€” I'm the girl who wears skirts all the time.

    These days, I bike pretty much everywhere, but I've kept the skirts for the most part β€” I just make sure I wear ones that don't get tangled in anything! The one thing I generally don't wear my skirts for is helping out on my brother's farm β€” I wear worn-out ratty old jeans and t-shirts I don't like for that, since everything I wear on the farm gets dirty/stained and worn hard, so I don't want to ruin my skirts that way. I've gotten used to it, though, so that doesn't mess with my identity too much. πŸ™‚

    • I'm a skirt girl as well. I started wearing skirts maybe three or four years ago mostly out of frustration at finding pants that fit properly and then because they're super comfortable. Now any time I wear pants someone says, "Hey, you're wearing pants." It's just kind of funny.

      • haha, that is exactly me.

        except i went from having never worn a skirt in my life (well, not of my own volition) to pretty much exclusively wearing skirts, and the funniest thing is how long it took people to change their image of me. i had people i know well make "oh! you're wearing a skirt!" comments *years* after i started wearing skirts daily – i guess they just always thought of me as "that tomboy" and didn't even notice the change happening until it was way over.

      • Yeah, I love the "You're wearing pants!" comments β€” it makes it sound like I usually walk around in my skivvies! πŸ˜€

      • Skirt-wearers represent!
        I get "OMG PANTS" reactions from people who've only known me a couple of months, so I know the association is still going strong!

  20. Hi Ariel, I recently re-connected with an old friend I hadn't seen since the days I wore orange snakeskin-patterned flares at university. Now I wear corporate office gear for my job as a political lobbiest and lawyer. My friend and her family saw the photo of me that gets printed with my fortnightly newspaper column and were disappointed that I've turned conservative! When we started hanging out again she said I'm still the same person, but instead of holding placards at rallies I have now taken my protest work to meeting rooms and court chambers. Appearance is just that: appearance. You can rock on no matter what you look like.

  21. My hair growing up was usually long and dirty blonde. Then in high school I cut it all off (boy short) and got highlights. Then dyed it red, then blonde (with an unfortunate washed out pink faze in between these two colors). I grew it out and went back to my natural color in college and when it was really long I chopped it all off in a cute bob and got highlights again. There was a lot of growing my out only to chop it short again, and it was usually brown until I decided it was a really good idea to dye it white blonde right before I moved to Korea where the hair stylists had no idea what to do with my hair. I've spent a long time fazing out the cheap Korean blonde dye I used and growing my hair out. I thought I was going to be working in the schools and wanted to look conservative so I opted for highlights and a long layered cut. I'm suuuuper lazy and would go so long between highlighting that I developed an ombre look (thank god it's in style) and have now found a hairdresser that I only have to go to once or twice a year and my hair still looks awesome. This is good because it turns out I'm allergic to dye on my scalp. After having crazy colored and boldly cut hair for so many years I've been feeling a bit boring and the conservative look seemed unnecessary because I'm working as an artist, not a teacher. I didn't want to let go of my easy-upkeep hair, so I added bright red tips which have now faded to a kind of coral-colored wash. I've had so many signature looks over the years (boy short red, white blonde bob, long and natural) and I've learned to just go with what I feel like doing. People always seem so shocked when I chop off my hair or dye it a crazy color but it's just hair and it doesn't define you as a person. I've never regretted a cut or color and I can say that I've experimented with what works and doesn't work for my hair. I'm enjoying my super long (down to my tailbone) ombre blonde hair with red tips because it's part low-maintenance and part fun. When this style no longer suits me I'll change it, but it won't change me one bit.

  22. Once, in the heat madness that is summer in Florida, I cut my signature waist length hair into some sort of shaggy pixie cut. And I freaking loved it for a long time! I kept it in various styles of pixie short for a few years and rocked it. I loved the reaction I'd get from people who hadn't seen me in a while, the extra bucks I had from less shampoo/conditioner/hair ties, feeling the breeze in my hair and enjoying it instead of worrying how I would ever brush out the subsequent knots.

    But then I started to hate it. I hated having to get it trimmed every other week. I hated not having any options for hair styles other than messy or not messy. I eventually grew it back out and I now look more or less exactly like my over-a-decade-old high school senior portrait, right down to the color since I've also reverted to my natural one for the first time in years. And, of course, I'm itching to change it again! Change is good. Staleness is bad. Reverting to an old favorite after a change is fine too.

  23. I've had green, orange, blue, red and purple hair through the years. I gave up my long purple hair (which was my longest running non natural hair color) because my now ex-husband told me I was too old for it. After our divorce was final, I celebrated by getting a super short pixie and dyeing it crazy red. Unfortunately, I've sworn off the chemicals, so until my hair is all gray and able to be made crazy ass red naturally with henna, it's boring old black/brown for me from now on. And long, because it's just easier to put it up out of my face. I think your hair looks nice. Change is good. I've always been the sort who gets antsy if my hair looks the same for too long.

  24. Not a hair or clothing style, but I had a turbulent time when my truck died. Right out of high school, I bought myself a tiny little beat-up red pick up truck; they put a lien on my motorcycle so I didn't need to have a cosigner, just my name on that lease. It wasn't too stand outish in Virginia where I was living, aside from being female, but more so when I moved up to Boston. I'd decided on a truck because one of my high school friends had one, and I'd seen how useful it was when so many of my friends had to do emergency move outs of difficult homes.

    So much of my personal identity ended up getting tied into that truck. People noticed me when I pulled up somewhere, remembered me when things needed moving, formed opinions of me or cracked butch lesbian jokes about the bi chick with a truck. I spent a bit crying in the driver's seat after our last short drive after the mechanic declared her dead, and struggled over rewriting my OKCupid profile question 'What's the first thing people notice about you?'.

    I know I'll likely never get another truck, I won't have any excuses to; they're gas hogs, I'm in a relationship that will need back seats in the future, I don't know if I'll ever feel okay driving on the 'wrong' side in my new country, etc. It's still just weird to have gone from the funky bi chick with the truck who will help you carry shit around and be one of the guys, to the bicycle riding, sensible riding layers wearing, 'can I wear these boots comfortably all day?' woman in a serious, heteronormative appearing relationship.

  25. The only time I had a "style" was in undergrad – my hair was spunky and short, and I wore lots of skirts and beads. But over time I got tired of getting haircuts every six weeks, and I found I was more comfortable in pants (sometimes a skirt is just too much airflow, especially in the chilly Midwest… or when you're a woman walking alone).

    I felt a little sad, definitely. I felt like I was giving up my only edginess when I let my hair grow out. But ultimately I've decided that while a good outfit can improve my mood or my feeling of self-worth for a moment, I need to learn to love myself no matter what I'm wearing.

    Plus: strangers love to talk to me, which I don't mind, but attention-getting style of any kind is like a big neon invitation for everyone ever to a) tell me their life story or b) hit on me. So I guess I wear jazzy stuff only when I'm ready to deal with the aftermath, too.

  26. I hear you on missing the easily recognizable subcultural identifier front! I was the drummer in an all girl pop/punk/rock band for a good chunk of my 20's and had lots of super fun and creative hairstyles as well as a general wardrobe to match. Now as someone who is about to become an ordained Episcopal priest I look a lot more mainstream – no more dyed hair and my wardrobe is significantly more neutral-tone subdued.

    I do like being sort of undercover about my offbeat ways, though. There's something that feels pretty good about being "discovered" by folks when they realize that there's way more to who I am than the average looking mother-of-two grad student churchy person.

  27. I think you nailed part of the reason many of us feel the need to alter our appearance in various ways – we want an easily recognizable subcultural identifier! Of course we enjoy the aesthetics of the look we choose, but appearances are one way of telling the world a little about yourself. If you see someone else with tattoos, unnatural hair colors, or a certain style, you'd probably assume you have something more in common. As I get older and settle into a new phase of life (new job, navigating toddlerhood with my daughter), I am finding that these assumptions are often misleading. The other girl with the tattoos and nose ring might suck as a friend. And the "boring brown-haired middle class white couple" might be frickin' awesome!

  28. For most of my life, I was wary of people who create personas through their style. It wasn't about judgement ("punk/goth/whatever is dumb") but my belief that too much exterior "stuff" (whatever it may be) meant a certain inauthenticity. Including highly stylized mainstream looks. So of course, that left me with not too much style and some messy floppy long brown hair. haha I have lightened up over the years and really love to see people putting on their "looks." It's decoration and an attempt to put out whatever you find beauty and/or meaning in. It's fun, it's interesting, it's people, it's life, who cares! Just do what you want! I have been conscious of creating more of an intentional style for myself, one that represents my aesthetic and values. Because honestly, trying to abstain from all style usually just makes you come off as a slob. πŸ™‚

  29. Ariel I totally feel you. I had crazy crazy hair for years…. pink, purple, mohawked, spiked, green, blue, shaved, you name it. Two years ago I shaved it all off, damn near, and have been letting it grow ever since. I've been using the no-poo method ever since then and I haven't dyed it. I hadn't seen my natural brown in YEARS! So now my hair is very generic… long, straight, and brown (but very healthy!), so I basically look like every other brown-eyed brunette white girl in jeans and a T-shirt.

    My coworkers saw pics of my old hair and were begging me to bring it back and they told me I look boring and plain now (not: not in a mean way, a joking way)… I just told them I consider it being "undercover" πŸ˜›

    • I just told them I consider it being "undercover"

      TOTALLY THIS. As much as I miss the subcultural identifiers, there's a huge value in being able to slide between worlds without stomping around and making a big splash. I can sneak under people's freak radars now… and that's fun.

      Also, it's odd to me that now when I'm self employed and could look as weird as I want, I feel like I have waaaay less to prove than when I worked my corporate jobs. I looked way weirder back in my office job days, in part because I think I was pushing against the pressure to be "boring." Now that I can be as freaky as I want, I'm like meh, nothing to push against — might as well stop trying.

  30. I am contemplating cutting my hair (which has always been long) before I have a baby this July. I am hoping I can make it look retro-30s enough to still be a style signifier for me while also being more practical to deal with while being a new mom. In some ways it might be more retro than long hair (which only looks retro when I put in the 2 hrs of time I will no longer have!) but I'm also scared that I'll just miss my hair and hate it, and/or that everyone will just say "Oh, you got the mom haircut!"
    And maybe worst of I'll I think my mother will like it. (She cut my hair in a pixie without telling me at about age 5, which I've never let her live down– that is the only time I had short hair). This just proves my pettiness, but is way less fun than when I dyed it dark purple in college, which she HATED and I've always been glad I did (but not so much because she hated it as because it identified me with the art kid outsiders that I identified with more than the mainstream, but otherwise I always kinda felt I wasn't obviously weird enough for– suddenly I was assumed to be one of them).
    Anyway, its good to see other sharing their changes, we'll see if I am brave enough to pull the trigger on this before my baby is born.

  31. I wore my hair at varying lengths between chin-length bob and mid-back for … oh gosh, nearly 20 years, with the drastic addition of layering in 11th grade, and tended to let it grow then get it cut shortish when it got long enough to be annoying. But a month after getting married, three months into graduate school, I decided it was time to invest a little bit more in my appearance. For the first time ever, I've got a hairstylist who is *mine* and I make appointments ahead of time, and my hair is AMAZING. It is just barely long enough to tuck behind my ears in the front, and short in the back, and totally low-daily-maintenance.

    I still haven't gotten over people asking me almost weekly "did you get your hair cut?" because it evidently looks different enough week-to-week to elicit comments. And the monthly trim and bi-monthly cut means that I actually have to take time to pamper myself, which is good self-care!

  32. My hair is constantly changing colour so it is not a big deal for me but when my other half hacked off his long dark curls for a short summer do. Oh wow! The outcry! We actually posted photos of the haircut on facebook, the saga went on for weeks, now nobody thinks anything of it.

  33. I never really thought I had a style, beyond being "the girl in skirts" for the last decade, until a friend I hadn't seen for ages saw me and said I looked like me again – despite cutting all my hair off and wearing the kind of clothes I have never really worn.
    I guess it's a confidence thing?

  34. I have only once in my life dyed my hair, and I choose a "natural" red color. My plan…I am saving up all of the funky hair color points to start using when I turn 60. I will then dye my hair pink, and no one will tell a 60 year old woman she cannot have pink hair! NO ONE!

    You are not your hair. You are you. Keep rocking you!

  35. It's so interesting to me how much changing one's hair can signify. I mean, think of the old tradition of shaving one's head when in mourning. Hair is one of the few ways that we can express changes that we're feeling on the inside on the outside, even though it's an imperfect medium.

    I remember, years ago now, I went through a pretty big deal break-up. My ex and I decided to meet each other for coffee about 3 weeks after we broke up (we hadn't been speaking, we were seeing if we could do the "let's be friends" thing). When he got to the coffee shop, I saw that he had shaved his head. I immediately wanted to throw up. Even though he said that it was just something that he wanted to try out for a while (but hadn't done because I would hate it), I knew that it meant that the relationship was absolutely done. We never saw each other again.

    • I have cut my hair after nearly ever breakup I have ever had. I loved the feeling of a fresh look to go along with my new single life.

  36. My norm was colored hair, in general, for a long time- most prominently blue. (or pink if anyone remembers my wedding featured here πŸ˜› ) I was a rapidly changing rainbow. My hair changed so frequently I resembled a strobe light, but that changed within the last year or so. Back in august I shaved my head to support my mother who has breast cancer- I've been virgin haired ever since. (except for a very small 1" patch of faded green/blue on my right temple lol it escaped the slaughter and lives to tell all the strange young hairs what life used to be like "back in it's day" )

    I haven't had virgin unchanging hair since…. I think I was ten, so fourteen-ish years. So it's been nearly eight months now of virgin hair….. I miss it. I made myself promise though that I was also going to get rid of another "style" that I've had since I was very young; I'm getting rid of my short hair. I refuse to dye or majorly cut my hair until it is at least 2" past my shoulders. Even then, I generally wont majorly cut my hair.

    Part of me is relieved that I don't stand out the way I used to. But I don't feel like I'm ME without blue in my hair. Needless to say, I've gotten some pretty rough comments from my colored hair- I once had a little girl cheer over my hair, but her mother turned and told her, very loudly, that I must do drugs and sell myself for money. (youknow…. because the color of my hair or skin obviously determines that.) Comments like that crushed me, and I am saddened that they really do affect me enough that I almost enjoy being "normal" again. (If one is ever REALLY normal.)

    However, eventually I will return to my blue/colored/rainbow hair. I will continue to do pole fitness and freerunning even if people judge or frown. I will continue to teach nutrition and learn silks, lyra, and any other cool thing I come across- I will continue to be me; even if my hair color has gone on a vacation for the time being.

    It's odd being "normal", but in the end I know and love who I am; now how many "normal" people can say that? πŸ˜›

  37. I'm at the tail end of a generation for whom bullying was largely ignored, or looked upon by authority figures who could protect children as a character building experience. Worse yet, if an adolescent was artistic or weird and bullied, the attitude was the adolescent was seeking out attention with odd hair color/clothing/etc. and any bullying was her or his own fault.
    Despite this, all through that ugly, lonely time in my life I tried to be true to myself in all things, even my appearance. Most likely because of this experience it took me a long time to be comfortable in my own skin, to not see only flaws in the mirror.
    As a part of that journey I colored my hair. I colored it an awful lot. From about fourteen on. It's usually been a shade of red, from the crayon variety to a brilliant burgundy but it has also been blonde, purple, and blue.
    As I've aged and shifted my profession to a field where most people look very conservative, I've felt a great deal of pressure to leave the wild hair colors behind me "in the days of my bygone youth". So I gave in. I buckled. I surrendered in a way my younger self never would have. I colored my hair brown. Not milk chocolate or luscious dark chocolate or even a rich coffee. Just brown. A shade that was a hybrid of dirty dish water and mouse poops in my opinion, but very age and work appropriate. In no time flat all my little sparklers of silver shed their muddy brown dye and made my new hairdo look as old and tired as it was boring.
    With hair as bland as a night of watching paint dry I stopped wearing my cocktail hats and rhinestone clips. I didn't play around and create fun new updos on the fly before work. I didn't try to polish the professional adult image I thought I'd achieve with the change and I didn't care. It sounds silly but I stopped putting my usual effort in my appearance. I felt no matter what I did, I still wouldn't sparkle or shine and I certainly wouldn't look like me.
    Last week I came to my senses. I decided I no longer cared if some of my family members, colleagues, or even random strangers thought I'm too old or unprofessional looking and colored my hair black and purple. My family loved it. My boss complemented it. Best of all, I see me in the mirror again.
    While my new look is different from my years of signature red, it's still me. Sometimes, a flamboyant hair color is a minuscule part of our overall style that is easily changed or discarded. Sometimes a flamboyant hair color is badge of courage worn by a weird, artsy kid. Sometimes a flamboyant hair color is a reminder for the grown up version of that same weird & artsy kid to still have the courage to be as colorful and fearless on the outside as she is on the inside.

  38. Ariel, I think the short do looks fabulous! Change can be cathartic.

    I've always wanted to dye my hair a "crazy" color, but am applying for full time jobs at the moment. Do brightly colored tips deter hiring managers? They are art jobs (and mainly art companies) so I thought maybe it wouldn't, but I wasn't sure. Anyone have any experience with that?

    • When I was applying for jobs, I would just wear a wig.

      It feels all sneaky, having normal-looking hair with your colorful awesome hair hidnig just underneath! Like a special little secret. Then, if you find out they are accepting of colorful hair, just whip off the wig and be like, "SURPRISE MOTHERFUCKER!"

      • YES! I actually had to switch to wearing a wig at work to qualify for a promotion. So I wear a blonde bob at work, and then when I get home I'm back to a cobalt blue pixie cut. πŸ™‚ It's actually awesome to be able to switch between the paradigms at will.

        • oooh a wig is a good idea, but don't they get itchy? I've only worn one for halloween and maybe it was a bad quality wig, but I was dying to get it off by the end of the night.

          • I buy from wigs.com, and have never had an itchy wig even on a $20 "costume wig" in purple and black. You can use a wig cap to help contain your hair and cut down on any little flyaway bits that might cause itching, although I just use a gel band to keep the pressure evenly distributed and call it good!

  39. I am known for my incredibly thick and naturally curly hair. Even when I dye it or cut it, people mainly focus on the fact that it's curly. A few of my friends also have this weird desire to see it straight…and I've had it straightened before…and I HATED it (I have never felt that I looked so boring in my life).

    The only part I hate about having my hair is that people think they have unspoken permission to touch it because "OMG! Curly hair! Let's pull it and say BOING!" >:( I just want to yank their hair back so hard…! Or give them a noogie to make their hair super-frizzy because that's what happens to mine when it gets touched all day. It doesn't happen so much now that I'm older, but when I was in high school, I thought I'd murder someone. Ugh.

    And for some reason people always think I'm much younger than I really am…partially because my face looks young (and I still break out) and because I just happen to have curly hair (is that youthful looking??).

  40. Your haircut is AWESOME!

    I've had pink hair for six years, and I currently don't have any plans to change it.
    I kinda want to be the grandmother with pink and grey hair, you know?

    I totally understand wanting to be seen for yourself and not for your hair (clothes, general style, piercings, tattoos, etc)–my pink hair has made me more myself than 25 years of brown ever did. I love that people notice and compliment my hair; I consider myself an ambassador of punk color, since I make a point of taking very, very good care of it–I don't let my dye fade, and I keep my hair healthy. πŸ™‚

    I'm glad you were able to cut your hair and stay true to being YOU. My close friend just cut off her dreads for the same reasons you expressed, and it is awesome to see her settle into herself-with-short-hair.

    It's a good thing.

  41. In highschool I had straight, chopped hair with pink and blonde in it. I only had it for a few months but that became a part of who I was. Next came my hippy phase complete with long curly brown hair.

    Now my hair is about chin length and sort of wavy.

    I think I've always asociated who I am with how my hair is. Now that I've done all that I've wanted to with my hair I realized that hair isn't really that important.

  42. I know I am a little behind the ball, but I keep rereading this post and the comments and letting it all tumble over in my mind. Right now I am in the process of launching a food business – which is a tough market – and developing a brand identity for the business. Since I (along with my husband) will be the only servers for a while, and we are going with a sort of offbeat venue (a food trike that we can pedal around town) I am working on ad hoc uniforms that will help complete our look and give us the advantage of being easily identified when we're not right with our product, "Look, it's the pin up ice cream lady!" While it's a very natural thing for me; my day to day style has a rockabilly minimalism to it even when I try to dress modern (lots of polka dots, some plaids, circle skirts, cardigans and suicide curls) my husband has always had a much more mainstream/regular dude wardrobe, jeans and polo shirts. Lately he has been getting a little more into fashion and has developed an affinity for cuffed oxfords and vests that I am loving! and totally using as the springboard for his more vintage looking business wear, but unless we are going to a meeting, catering or hosting an event related to the business his go to move is to that stack of striped polos.

    I am just wondering, as someone who is just now getting out of his one style and exploring new options if having a brand identity grow at the same time is going to corrupt the process for him, and if it's something he might grow to resent 10 years down the road, like it will somehow be a costume he's worn and not clothing he likes. Or it could just be like anyone else who wears suits to work and tye dye on the weekends.

  43. So, it's been a while since you wrote this post. How do you feel? Was your friend right?

    I often have moments of pride and sadness when I see punks with their amazing colored hair, but what I think is, "I can't wait till I can do that again," instead of, "I'm sad that part of my life is over." I love my brown hair, but I can't wait until I've proven myself enough the academic community to sprinkle it with blue and still have my opinions be valued. In academia, it's "Prove yourself. Then go wild."

  44. I too have had quite the roller coaster with my hair. It used to be almost waist length and dark, dark brown in high school. Then I gradually chopped it off to a pixie cut (that did not look good, bangs were too blunt to look right). After that, I grew it out into various stages of bobs, but it never got longer than my collarbone. Now, I have been dying it bright red and I am preparing for another big chop to another pixie, but one that looks a hell of a lot better this time.

    I had a lot of good complements on both the pixie and my red hair, but this will be the first time in over four years I will have it super short. I get bored with my hair and I hate stagnation, so I totally agree and sympathize with you on your need to change it up and start fresh.

  45. My long(ish) hair was what defined me… I loved it more than anything and it was what made me feel "beautiful"… It was my security blanket, and I hid behind it… I chopped off 12 inches of my hair (the shortest it has been since I was in 6th grade — back in 1998)… I donated my hair (colored, but no bleach) to Locks of Love… I'm so fortunate that my hair will grow back, some children don't have that luxury… It is still strange to look in the mirror each morning… I barely recognize the reflection looking back at me… But I love to think it's helped me to show my sparkle that's on the inside πŸ™‚

  46. After a break up when I was 20 I finally had the guts to do a stacked bob I oggled for ages . My favorite hair dresser who is very off beat was thrilled ! 12 inches gone later in the middle of February I cut my hair that was halfway down my back off- I never had felt so free and myself ! But people I'd known for years – my church community were shocked and didn't recognize me. My one friend though affectionately tousled my hair and made me very happy she was the only one who supported me with short hair . I am growing it out again from a series of chops and grow outs to do viking style braids . I tried a nape shave this summer and loved it . I now need it trimmed cause its at an awkward length. To bad barbers don't so women's hair cuts I love my barber who does my nape . Maybe this summer I'll just crop it again …

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