There's something refreshing about a haircut, isn't there? From BBC's Naga Munchetty to NBC's Tamron Hall, women everywhere are confidently sporting short styles, reminding us yet again of the Halle Berry era, when short hair was a popular trend. And why not? Short hair is not only stylish but it is also fresh.
No wonder 12 Year's a Slave'sLupita Nyung'o has wowed the world with her cropped natural tresses.
Still, cutting one's hair is a big deal in a woman's world. A few years ago, a distant friend of mine nearly had a breakdown when her daughter cut her extraordinary long hair. And come to think of it, when a friend with the most wonderful lengthy locks got her first hair cut back in college, everyone gasped. But they're breathing again; it grew back. Surprise, surprise!
Years later, even after umpteen haircuts, I still balk during the process. When my hairdresser told me a few weeks ago that she wanted to trim my hair at our next weekly visit, I agreed quickly: the ends were splitting; breaking, owing to a whole lot of stress.
But a week later as I sat in her chair, her steady hands skilfully wielding the tiniest of scissors, I squirmed at the pruning. Yet after the cut, when I looked into the mirror, I saw instantly that I not only looked better, but felt revived, too.
And lo and behold, the new wrinkle lines that I had noticed underneath my eyes earlier that morning were seemingly gone and I no longer sat slouched but ever so upright. Cautiously, I adored my new look and shot off to Harvey Nichols to pick up a few beauty products.
This got me thinking about the politics of hair, particularly long hair. Why is it seemly preferred in general to short hair?
A little digging around suggests that the long of the short is this: the politics around long hair reach further back in history than other hair-related discussions, and affect women from different walks of life.
The Bible references long hair in 1 Corinthians 11: 15 (KJV): 'But if a woman have long hair, it is a glory to her: for her hair is given her for a covering.'
Not to mention Samson's story, in which hair was the essence of his strength. But that's a man's story. Fast-forward thousands of years later, and this celebration of long hair has been perpetuated in fairy tales such as Rapunzel, in dolls, in different media, and so on. Flipping though my own magazines, I found nine out of ten of the cover girls sporting long hair.
And thumbing through a few novels, it didn't take long to come across luxurious long hair. Even I used long hair as a hallmark of Lil Lee's beauty in The Barrenness.
No wonder long hair is seemingly advantageous to short. We do tend to ham it up. Thus, having been celebrated for thousands of years, and explicitly so in one of the most read books of all time, it stands to reason that it is considered preferable, and therefore to a woman's advantage.
But perceptions are not necessarily the real deal. We've all seen long hairstyles that look tired and frazzled, or don't suit, or perhaps have even worn them -- short ones too. In reality, neither long nor short hair offers an advantage; it is all about the style and the individual's ability to carry it off.
'Long hair doesn't suit everyone, any more than short hair does,' says one acquaintance with naturally long hair. 'I've had short haircuts that just didn't work, but yours looks great. It actually makes you look younger.'
I'll have to take that as a compliment, since I said so myself. Anyhow, another acquaintance, who fluctuates from extensions to short cuts, regards her hair the same as she does her fashion.
'It is all about trends, rather than stereotypes or political beliefs,' she says. 'I do what suits, what is stylish, and of course healthy.'
Hair experts agree. Putting politics aside, a top UK stylist admits that trends come and they go, but some do last longer than others, such as the preference for long hair ... or blonde hair for that matter.
A few years ago everyone had to have a GHD, made with ceramic blades, to straighten their hair (oh yes, the Holy Grail of hair straighteners), then a Keratin, a treatment for defrizzing and smoothing hair. Now many women are dip-dyeing their hair or highlighting the ends, and others of African descent are enjoying the trend of not straightening at all for one reason or another, whether to give their hair a break from chemicals, or their chequebooks a break from the cost. Others never needed to relax in the first place.
In any case, however, hair has to be maintained, the celebrated stylist says. That means trimming, moisturizing and treating it regularly, regardless of texture, colour or length for that matter.
That is the key to being trendy as far as hair goes. And that's the short of the long of it; nothing political about it. Relax! It's only a haircut.