One of my favorite movies is the 1954 version of Sabrina. It’s a beautiful romance only enhanced by crisp black-and-white film and the charm of Audrey Hepburn. Her character, the fledgling Sabrina Fairchild, leaves Long Island to study cooking in Paris and comes back a glamorous woman. But what always bothered me about the movie is what signals the transition: Sabrina cuts off her flowing pony tail. (For the movie buffs, Audrey’s character does the same thing in Roman Holiday). I mean come on! As a high-schooler, I used to groan at the television as the short-haired, sophisticated Sabrina slowly appeared on screen. That’s the only difference?
I wouldn’t realize until I hit college that a haircut really can be life changing.
Before I hit college, the last haircut I had been subjected to was in second grade. I remember it clearly. Tears rolled down my face for the better part of a half hour as my relentless stylist yanked my hair with various combs and burned my neck with the curling iron. After that, I swore off cutting my hair, and for good reason: the pain wasn’t even worth it. Looking back at pictures of my as a little girl, my hair was always atrocious: rounded bobs and long bangs adorned my circular face and what little forehead I had. I must have never felt pretty, because judging by my pictures, I never was. I decided to keep my scraggly long hair au naturel, thank you very much.
Then, at the age of 18, I moved from the rural Midwest to Boston to go to college and I felt myself transforming from country mouse to city mouse. Just like in all of the fairy tale-esque movies I never believed in, a fashionista took me under her wing and changed my life. She sat behind me in one of my classes and we ended up working together on a lot of projects. One day she looked lovingly at my long hair and mock turtleneck and said, “You have a lot of potential. Let me help you.” We tore up H&M and Anthropologie. The only thing left was my hair. “A bob,” she insisted. “You would look so ’20s hot!” I never did quite get what she ordered.
I set up an appointment at a cute little salon and went alone. I ended up chickening out and only getting about 3 inches taken off and a new side-swept part. It was a start, but my fashionista and I agreed that it wasn’t good enough.
Over spring break, I finally said “Screw it!” and took the plunge. Though my big city tastes were well-developed, I deigned to go to a beauty shop in my hometown for a $13 haircut. “Take it all,” I instructed my beautician. After making sure I really wanted to donate my hair to charity, she finally took it all off. For two days afterward, I was completely stunned without my hair. Then I was totally free.
I went back to Boston for the rest of the spring semester with a newfound positivity. It was just like in the movies: that cheapie haircut was more liberating than I ever imagined. Getting ready in the morning, working out, and about a hundred other things became much easier. Most importantly, for the first time in my life, I felt pretty.
So that’s my hair history. Now this is my call to my long-haired lady friends: don’t be afraid to chop off your tresses! For the longest time I viewed changing my style as a guaranteed failure. I never realized that I was actually holding myself back. Letting go of my hair completely changed the way I feel and act; I realize I can be bold and still come out ahead. In short, I found a whole new confidence that I wouldn’t give up for Rapunzel’s locks.
I finally understand how Sabrina Fairchild felt . . .