The long and short of it, or Contemplating the BHAH

Photo by magandafille on Flickr

Photo by magandafille on Flickr

Ok. This isn’t a serious post, but I need some help. I’m usually prone to one of two things – impulsiveness, and over-analysis. In this case, I’ve given myself too much time to think about it, so it’s way beyond any hope of an impulsive decision. What’s my problem?

A haircut.

First, some background. I have healthy, straight black hair and refuse to use anything more than shampoo and conditioner. I towel and then air dry 100% of the time, even when it’s long, as it is right now. I get my hair cut on average once every year. Aside from a $4 haircut in LA six years ago, I’ve never had it shorter than about shoulder length since 3rd grade. I have streaked it red twice, both in the last four years.

It’s now been 16 months since my last haircut and my hair is about 17 inches long (lower-chest level), and practically screaming with split ends. I’m very tempted to go for a BHAH – Big Hairy Ambitious Haircut – namely, chop it mostly off and streak it red again, but several things are curbing my usual impulsiveness:

1. The Real World. No, not the TV show. I need a job soon and that means I’m going to be interviewing, starting in a week. Short hair is fine, theoretically; funky colored hair maybe not so much. What do I want my potential future employers and coworkers to see?

2. Leaving the Bubble. There will be lots of pictures of me in a few months, commemorating the years I spent as a grad student, including photos of me in a funny hat and a formal photo of me to go up on the wall of my department library. What do I want my current friends, mentors, and colleagues to see?

3. The Unknown. Like I said, I’ve only had my hair shorter than shoulder length once in recent memory, so I don’t have a lot of experience with whether short hair works for me. I want to be edgy but I also want it to look good. Given #1 and #2, I’m warier than usual of experimenting.

4. The bottom line. I’m a strange sort of cheapskate. After all, I only get my hair cut once a year, but it could be a $4 haircut or a $200 haircut – I’ve done both. The infrequency is a combination of laziness, indifference, and the fact that I don’t see a need to go more often than that unless I want something specific (if you couldn’t tell, I don’t tend to do much in the beauty department). The occasional expense is because sometimes I want a quality product, especially when I want something more drastic. So while it might make sense to just get a “safe” haircut now and do something more drastic after all the hubbub is over, part of me really resists the idea. I mean, it’s cheaper to get your hair cut once than twice, and cheaper to get it cut and colored in one visit than in two. I don’t like spending more time than necessary on my hair (despite my spending an hour writing this post). Plus, if I’m going to eventually cut it short, I want to cut it short in one go, so that I can donate it.

Alright. So I’m sure I’ve lost 99% of you by now, babbling on about my hair indecisions. For those of you who are left, what do you think? Should I ignore #4 and just get an intermediate cut now, leaving the spiky red boy cut for later; cut it short but color it later; or do the whole shebang? Does short hair even work on me? Should I worry about something else, like my thesis? Help!

Here are some photos illustrating the various hair phases I’ve gone through:

short1 short2
February 2003 – the $4 haircut, kind of a mullet. Man, those were the babyfaced days.
red2 long3
September 2006 – fresh red hair January 2007 – 5 months later
shwu-fp1 long2
June 2007 – 9 months later July 2007 – about as long as it is now

6 Responses to The long and short of it, or Contemplating the BHAH

  1. Euge says:

    Re: #2 — I might not understand the details of this tradition to which you’re referring, so take that into account… But I don’t think this is a big concern, considering you can choose from a plethora of pictures of you with various lengths of hair (as evidenced by this rather thorough blog post).

    Re: #3 — Meh. Hair grows back.

    Re: #4 — I know you’re a student, but you can afford to splurge on a haircut every once in a while :p

    But I think your biggest concern should be #1. Depending on who you’re interviewing for, you probably don’t want to be walking into offices with a short, crazy, red-streaked haircut. Further, depending on the culture of the company for which you eventually work, they might not want you to have that sort of haircut for the duration of your employment. …Then again, you could just come work in the music industry and no one would give a crap what your hair looked like :)

    I’d say if you can fit it in, time-wise, go for the crazy haircut now (maybe in between your interviews and the start of your job?). If not, do the intermediate step and suss out the situation later.

  2. auroracoda says:

    Being a tad over-analytical myself and obsessive about my hair, I can relate to your predicament. :)

    So, after many years of messing with my hair (both my mother and grandmother were beauticians), allow me give my two cents. Which in this economy can mean either absolutely nothing or everything.

    I personally like the look you had in picture titled January 2007 – 5 months later. It’s a good length that will fit well in the “professional” world (whatever that means today). And yet, the shag cut is funky enough to give you that taste for a bit of change. It fits your facial features nicely and gives you a bit of the “grown up” look that you probably are striving for without giving up being unique. Also, it’s a look you’ve had before so you won’t be scaring any friends and family too much with this cut.

    Also, since you seem to have a need for some color change but are a little weary of the red streak, why not splurge a little bit in honor of your up coming emersion into the Job Market? Instead of getting funky red streaks, go for a more “real” look of multi-color streaking that will give you the color fix you need and keep it real enough that you won’t be afraid of what an interviewer would think.

    Although, to be quite honest, unless the person is wearing black lipstick and fish net hose with a mini skirt, the presence of a few chuncks of red streaked hair have never really made much of a difference to the interviewer. I’ve actually gotten a job based off a conversation I had once about the color streaks I had in my hair (we bonded….awwww).

    Good LUCK! :)

  3. steffi says:

    haha there was no chance of losing me anywhere in this post, shwu. very interesting.

    after my latest haircut i discovered that i prefer splurging on them infrequently rather than getting lots of meh trims (latest one was ho-hum) so i think you should go for the glory, even if it costs more, because the experience proves more enjoyable during and after.

    but, having also had the spiky pixie cut (and many lengths in-between that and long hair), i think super short hair’s lack of versatility eventually outweighs the pros of low-maintenance and shock factor.

    so my suggestions are:
    – get a shorter cut than you’ve ever gotten while making sure it’s at a length where you can still do other things to it, like pull it back into a ponytail
    – make sure you choose an edgy stylist with the chops (pun intended) to chop your hair off. i can recommend a few, if you like.
    – don’t dye it if you really think it’ll affect your interviews negatively, but i agree with the commenter above me that it might be positive! i was remembered by all my google interviewers as “the girl with red hair.” besides, do you really want to work where such trivial matters pose a problem?
    – again, pick someone awesome to do it! that way he/she can pick a style/color that’s avant garde without being too punk, and that will last a lot longer than the average cut.

  4. male opinion says:

    Go with “January 2007 – 5 months later” – looks great.

  5. shwu says:

    Thanks for all the feedback! I don’t think I can get a cut shorter than I’ve ever gotten without chopping it off at about my ears, which is probably too short unless I’m going for a complete boy cut (which I’m still a little bit tempted to try – I mean, go big or go home, right?). But it seems there are multiple votes for jan 2007 so we’ll see. Maybe I’ll do a coin flip when I get to the salon. ;)

    Though at this point, I’ve got 3 days and haven’t schedule a haircut yet so it looks like it might not even matter for the first interview. ha!

  6. kitt says:

    You know my vote.

    Shave it off. All of it.

    Relish in how liberating the freedom of having no hair. It grows back.

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