Barbs Who Blog

What to Know Before Cutting Your Hair Short

Sheena Lister
What to Know Before Cutting Your Hair Short

I will never forget the day I cut my hair short. I’d had long hair my entire life. It was down to my butt by the time I was five years old. I wore it very long all through my elementary school years and into high school. In college, my long black (box-dyed, ahem) hair was a huge part of my identity. If I’m honest with myself, it was a source of pride, and not the healthy kind. My hair is quite thick, and I loved how voluminous it looked when I took the time to style it. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t like the attention it got me at at times. I also knew it was a security blanket and played into all the perfectionist tendencies I’d been praised for my entire life. My attachment to having long hair was indicative of an overall standard of conformity to which I held myself. (Read: I was deeply insecure.) Funny story: I literally didn’t know how to dance without running my fingers through my hair/flipping it around. It’s comical to look back on now, but I genuinely had to figure out what in the world to do with my hands while dancing. But I digress…

In 2014, I moved from a town with a population of about 150,000 people to Minneapolis, MN, which felt like the “big city” at the time and felt like a very big deal. I started working at a little sandwich shop walking distance from my apartment. One of the women at the shop had a pixie cut that suited her so well. Did I have a huge crush on her? Yes, yes I did. But I also envied her hair and the freedom that seemed to come along with it. I would ask her how she had the courage to cut most of her hair off and she just kind of shrugged. She seemed so content, so quietly confident.

So I did what anyone would do - I obsessed over the idea of cutting my hair short for about a week. I created a Pinterest board. I started noticing short hair everywhere I went. I had dreams about cutting my hair. And every shift at the sandwich shop, I would look at Mara’s hair and get this feeling in my belly. Like I was ready to let go. I was ready to go short. I narrowed down my options on Pinterest, and made an appointment with a stylist I’d never seen before.

After my appointment, I got in my car and took about 20 selfies on my phone (which probably filled all the memory phones had at the time). I couldn’t believe I had done it. I was proud of myself and I felt incredible, to put it lightly. There was a small voice in me that was nervous to show my partner at the time. I hated that it was there, but keep in mind I was so new to going against the grain! Although we’re no longer together, I’ll never forget the moment I walked into our apartment. He walked over to me slowly and just held my face in his hands with a look of pure love and incredulity on his face. He loved it too. I didn’t need him to love it, but it cemented that feeling in me that was shouting, THIS is the real you. You aren’t meant to conform. You’re meant to live free of societal expectations.

Now, I had a phenomenal experience having my hair cut short for the first time, and I’m so grateful for that. I also know that’s not always the case! While I deeply encourage anyone that wants to #GoBarb to do so, I understand that it’s a big decision with multiple factors at play. So, I chatted with a few experts in the hair space to better understand what to consider before going short. Hopefully, this will help you answer the question “Should I cut my hair short?”

My original pixie cut, circa 2014.

What To Consider Before Getting Your First Short Haircut

G Tournai (they/them), Hair Artist & Owner of G TOURNAI Hair & Creative Studio: You have to be doing it for a reason. Your internal self is asking for this freedom. If you've wanted to do it forever but you've been too scared or nervous or anxious - this is your sign. It's the most liberating feeling.

Katee Kroeplin, Hair Stylist at Sweep Salon: When deciding to do a big change or even just shorter than ever before, I always like to ask my client a few questions before we start. Why do you want to go short? Is this a personal evolution goal/a life event that has inspired the desire to or is it just something you want to try?

Being able to tell your stylist what this cut means to you will help them create the perfect cut for you confidently. It’s okay to feel nervous before your cut, but your ‘why’ should feel a bit bigger than your fears! It’s also okay to take time to really consider this decision. Not everyone is an Aries that is going to make this decision nearly overnight like I did. Give yourself the time you need, so you feel really excited going in rather than scared. Like G said though, if you’ve been on the fence about it for a while, consider this your sign. #GoBarb!

What To Know About Styling Short Hair

Katee: Keep your current lifestyle/routine in mind. Do you already take the time to style daily, washing/blow drying/heat styling? If so, then all you’ll need is advice from your stylist on how to  style your new cut. However, if you don’t currently style daily and tend to let your hair air dry, then consider asking for a low maintenance cut catered to your hair’s growth pattern and texture.

G: With the right stylist, the same cut can be fun, professional, messy, textured, sleek... the possibilities are endless, which makes short haircuts more versatile than you think!

Being realistic with yourself about the amount of effort you’re willing to put into styling and communicating that with your stylist/barber is key. This way you won’t end up with a cut that isn’t manageable, which could easily lead to feeling regretful about your decision.

The right products matter too! For many short cuts, a moisturizing pomade can be used for volumizing, texturizing, piecing/shaping, general styling, air drying, and more. 

Woman with short blue hair pixieside profile of woman with short orange hairperson with short green hair taking a selfiewoman with blonde buzz cut

A smattering of short cuts over the years.

Do I Need To Prepare Myself Emotionally? Will It Take Awhile To Get Used To?

G: There are a lot of people that aren't comfortable on the first look. But that's because there's always going to be an initial shock factor, especially if you've had longer hair or the same hairstyle for a long time. You might love it, but just aren’t sure how to react. There may be a lot of emotions running through your head. That said, it's rare that people regret it - later, they usually realize how comfortable it actually is and their personalities end up shining brighter because they live with more confidence. The first look feels dramatic, but once you allow yourself to adjust into this new version of yourself and settle in, you realize the freedom quickly and it can be addicting.

Check in with yourself - are you someone that quickly embraces change or does it take you some time to get used to a new look? Your short hair may follow that pattern, but most people find a new found freedom from cutting their hair short.

How Can I Trust I’ll Get The Cut I Want?

Katee: If you have any pictures of haircuts you see on social media or elsewhere that inspire excitement or curiosity, save/screenshot them to show your stylist. These are wonderful tools that help both the client and stylist co-create a cut best suited.

G: Photos. Photos are your best friend. Even bring multiple! Talk to your stylist about what you're willing to do to achieve that style. For example, will you need it to be wash and go? Are you willing to take some time to style it? Are you open to having to blow dry every day? Are you okay with using product or do you hate product?

These are all great questions to ask yourself and discuss with your stylist. Make sure you’re honest about how much effort you’re willing to put into your new ‘do!

What Else Do I Need To Know?

Keep in mind that the people in your life might react differently. Some will be so excited for you, and others might be surprised or have a reaction that can feel a bit disappointing. Anytime you go against the norm in life, people will have their varying opinions, but this choice is yours and yours alone. Leading with confidence can help manage how others respond to your new look - walk proudly and boldly, and the people meant to be in your life will support the upgraded you!

Blog Contributor: Hannah Gerber