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Short Hair on Women: Sexy or Socially Unacceptable?

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April 2012 (top) May 2012 (bottom)

April 2012 (top) May 2012 (bottom)

Is Short Hair Unattractive?

Why isn't short hair on a woman considered sexy? I don't need any convincing—I find it very attractive! But, sometimes I feel like I'm the only one.

This really baffles me, because I feel like we have made some progress. When I say we, I mean we as the human race. And, when I say progress, I mean in areas of acceptance, free-thinking, equality, what is socially accepted and generally viewed as "acceptable" and even attractive, etc. We're not there yet, by any means. But, I feel like short hair on women is something that should be on the list of socially-accepted norms. I know there are more important things to fight for and about, but this is still an issue for some in today's society.

To some, short hair on women is unattractive, unacceptable, and unnatural.

My hair over the years (2007-2011).

My hair over the years (2007-2011).

But What Do I Know? I’m Just a Girl.

I've had my fair share of short, short haircuts over the years. If I had to guess, I would say I have had more than 6 but less than 12. Well-- it depends on what you consider short. If what I consider mid-length is what you consider short, then I've had far more. And if that's the case, it doesn't change anything other than maybe giving me more experience or perspective than I previously thought. I live in a hot desert and inherited very thick curly hair from my mother. There are times when I would have loved to wish my hair away and so I've gotten it cut-- sometimes short, sometimes shorter. There are times when I have truly wanted to shave my head bald, but haven't yet (one social norm at a time). If I did, most of my friends/family/whomever on Facebook would wonder what statement I was trying to make or why on earth would I ever do such a thing. These reasons have nothing to do with why I haven't gone bald yet-- just simply saying. On a side note, I feel like society only associates a woman's bald head with chemotherapy/cancer and Britney Spears' meltdown. What do you associate a bald woman's head with?

Are no famous women fashionably bald or bald by choice?

Can you name a female known for sporting a bald head besides Sinead O'Connor? Let me rephrase that. Can you name one who was bald simply to be bald and not for a movie? Otherwise, yes, I think of Sigourney Weaver and Natalie Portman, too. Anyone else?

And why do people automatically associate short haircuts with being a lesbian?

I'm sure people have assumed it about me. Heck, I have been mistaken for a lesbian plenty of times and they usually happened when my hair was longer than it currently is. I can only imagine what people must think now that my hair is almost shorter than my husband's. But I don't mind. I'm not upset or offended-- the only offense is the stereotype and underlying cavern of double standards.

I'm not trying to blaze any trails. Nor should I have to. I'm being me, and in the course of such, I will probably offend and inspire. Regardless, short hair for women has been around longer than me. Every decade, from this one all the way back to at least the 1920s, has had some form of short hairstyle that was fashionable, if only briefly. The subject matter seems so antiquated and yet here we are. I remember as an 8-yr old I saw an issue of COSMO at the grocery store with the headline, "Why he likes your hair longer," and wanted my mother to buy me the magazine so I could read it. She didn't and a few years later, I realized why.

my paternal (L) & maternal (R) grandmothers rocking some semi-short hairstyles during the 1930s

my paternal (L) & maternal (R) grandmothers rocking some semi-short hairstyles during the 1930s

What I Thought About Hair as a Kid

Even as a kid, I knew the boys in my class had crushes on whichever girls had the longest hair. I was tall and always got 100% on my spelling test, which at the time seemed to pale in comparison to a long beautiful ponytail, but remained handy my entire life to date. I also remember being fascinated with the girls who could almost sit on their hair and perhaps needed it in the winter to keep them warm because they weren't allowed to wear pants. I thought they had to be so much more mature than me to have the patience to grow their hair long. This wasn't the case at all, of course. It was a religious school and while we believed in the same God, theirs (or their code) demanded long hair and mine somehow didn't mind.

short hair as a little girl and on my wedding day, 1985 - 2011

short hair as a little girl and on my wedding day, 1985 - 2011

I recently got a very short haircut.

Fast forward to the present day: I recently got a very short haircut. I had been putting my hair up or back for months and while my hair was barely past my shoulders, I needed a break from my naturally thick and curly hair.

I mentioned to my husband that I was considering a short style. I asked him what he thought. Now, I'd like to make it clear that I don't have to ask my husband for permission to do anything. I was simply considering that we are trying to conceive a child and I'd like to maintain whatever physical appearance that my husband is attracted to. I'm too realistic or considerate for my own good, sometimes. Of course, he reminded me about a haircut I got almost 10 years ago before we began dating. It's a pretty cute story actually.

My friend Nicole and I in college  (and my short hair), 2003

My friend Nicole and I in college (and my short hair), 2003

My College Haircut

In college, I decided to get a haircut that would be very short when compared to the shoulder length hair I had at the time. It wasn't my first short haircut by any means. But, I had recently become friends with a guy who I was really beginning to like (spoiler alert, he became my husband). I knew at the time that he wasn't a fan of short hair on women. Since we were just friends, I didn't really care and I got the haircut I wanted. I didn't really think much about this information until the time came for him to see my haircut. I panicked a little because I didn't know if he previously found me attractive and if he did, would he still? I realized I was really beginning to have feelings for him. I warned him ahead of time that it was short and when he saw it, to his and my surprise, he really loved it! Later that night, he had expressed how he felt about me. He said the moment he saw my short hair he knew he loved me because I was still just as beautiful to him. He mentioned he was a little worried about how my hair was going to look, but when he saw it he loved it because he realized he loved me.

My mother—wedding day with long hair in '68 (L) & pregnant with me with short hair in '83 (R)

My mother—wedding day with long hair in '68 (L) & pregnant with me with short hair in '83 (R)

So I went to my hairdresser the other day as planned. I've been seeing her for just under two years and she knows my husband. When I told her how to cut it she wanted to make sure I meant it, since she never cut my hair that short. She knows my husband and asked if he knew. I told her our "I love you" story for the first time and as a stylist, she could appreciate it. The woman in the chair at the station next to me chimed in that she and her husband were fighting and that she was "spending his money on a haircut that would piss him off." It definitely put a damper on the mood I had just set with my cutesy story. As my stylist began to lop my hair off, the woman again chimed in that "as much as she wanted to make her husband angry, she'd never cut her hair like mine because he'd divorce her." It was awkward. If my visit that day was going to break into song and dance about my new 'do, the only thing that was preventing it from happening was this woman next to me. What do you do or say? I could have said something rude and maybe I should have at least told her to mind her own business, but I didn't. I gave her an awkward laugh and nodded. Maybe she was being dramatic, in fact, I think she was a little drunk, but everything she said is true.

  • I have done crazy things to my hair when I had some life-changing event happen—especially if anger was involved.
  • And a good chunk of men hate when women have short hair—they forbid it.

Ugh. "Cute?"

When my hair was finished, everyone told me how "cute" it was. Not sexy. Not hot. Cute. Even the maybe-drunk woman next to me told me how cute it was on me—did she think we shared a moment of connection and felt obligated to compliment me? I was still holding back my death stares which was hard to do without the guise of all my hair. I was quite happy with my hair but didn't find it as cute as everyone else did.

I think I can pinpoint when my love affair with short hair began. 1995. The Sabrina remake was released. Julia Ormond looked like a mousy, '90s, perpetual preteen geek (oh how I can relate!) but goes to Paris and cuts off all her hair. She comes back and boys are tripping and causing accidents just to look at her. Granted, she had also started dressing very chic, but her short hair was stunning. This movie taught me that if you're awkward and wear glasses (which I was and did and still am and do), just get a sexy haircut and ditch the glasses so Indiana Jones can fall in love with you. I immediately went out for a sexy haircut that turned out to be everything but sexy. It was a nightmare of a bowl-cut that people called "cute." But the last thing I needed to be was a sexy or stunning 10-year-old, so the universe had a way of working that all out for me.

Women with Short Hair Cuts - Sabrinas, Audrey and Julia, 1954 and 1995 respectively

Women with Short Hair Cuts - Sabrinas, Audrey and Julia, 1954 and 1995 respectively

Short Hair in Modern Media

Every Sunday for the last 6 months or so, I have had the urge to get another short haircut. This is mostly due to watching Once Upon a Time when it airs on Sundays and seeing Snow White's contemporary hairstyle. In one episode, she was kidnapped and tied to a chair and I didn't even realize it was her for a few minutes into the scene. I thought it was a younger boy character from the show. I felt terrible and began to rethink my hair urges. I remembered a time as a teenager when a man mistook me for a boy and called me "son" at the grocery store. My dad got a chuckle out of it that night, but I didn't. I wanted to avoid that embarrassment at all costs. All these years later, I can't quite remember how truly embarrassing it was. I thought I was over it.

Cute cuts for short hair - Mary Margaret from Once Upon a Time on ABC and Heather Says

Cute cuts for short hair - Mary Margaret from Once Upon a Time on ABC and Heather Says

Snow White with long hair and Mary Margaret with short

Snow White with long hair and Mary Margaret with short

Can Short Hair Be Sexy?

But then I noticed some stereotypical behavior in myself. In the days following my haircut, I have gone out of my way to wear only tight-fitting tanktops that accentuate my bust. I have also made it a point to wear feminine earrings and more makeup than usual. I got the short haircut for desire and comfort but found myself putting more work into my appearance to highlight other areas of femininity as compensation.

So, in our present-day culture, why isn't short hair sexy? Why isn't it sexy on its own? Why isn't it feminine? Why am I a statistic of a stereotype that I thought I was trying so hard to break down? On another note...

It's a shame that short hair is for dying when it really should be for living. Most older women I know keep their hair shorter as they get older either due to thinning or simply because short hair typically requires less upkeep. I enjoyed having long hair-- especially the compliments I would get from total strangers. But in order to keep it beautiful and under control, I was wasting quite a bit of time every day. At the end of the week, it added up. There were many hours spent on my hair that I could have spent elsewhere. It was an eye-opener and I personally felt like I needed to reallocate the time that I was spending.

Heather Says: The trick to short hair—or anything really—is being comfortable in your own skin. The freedom that comes with this can be intimidating to a society of others who aren't comfortable in their skin and then make it uncomfortable for everyone.


barkley on June 18, 2014:

Then, never,ever complain about a guy with long hair. When it comes to fashion, the ball is always on the women's court. Men deserve the same diversity as women. And for god's , enough with 3/4 sorts for men in and out of the water. Short shorts for men were popular for ages, now boarder shorts are oppressing us. Baggy pedal pushers in 90 degree temps...really?

Joshua Patrick from Texas on December 17, 2013:

I fell in love with Amy Adams' short haircut in Night at the Museum 2. However, I generally prefer longer hair on women. I think it mainly depends on whether or not the short hair compliments her facial and/or body type. Emma Watson is gorgeous, but I hated her initial super-short cut (once some of the length returned, it was much more attractive).

RJ on August 26, 2013:

I see plenty of women who look "badass", and when I do, I turn my head and look elsewhere. The women who wear beautiful long hair are everywhere, thankfully.

HorribleHubby on February 16, 2013:

I consider myself a feminist. I enjoy strong women, like my wife, who are free to speak their mind. We are raising our daughter to be that kind of person. My politics are green and I find conservatives incomprehensible. My wife, throughout most of our marriage has been deadset on having very short hair.

I find that short hair on women makes them look like men, and is sexually unattractive. I have to lie about it all the time but that is the way it is. At the age of three someone told me girls have long hair and boys have short hair and it burned into my synapses and there doesn't seem to be anything to do about it. There it is.

Some months back, during a difficult patch, I confided in this with my wife and she made a go at growing out her hair. She complained about it everyday, about how terrible it looked, but I honestly thought it looked better. Then she developed an itchy scalp and called me in desperation the other day, wanting to have a haircut. Putting on a compassionate front I said, "You should do what makes you happy."

Then when I saw it I could hardly look at her. The hairdresser gave her a cut that would be good if my wife was going to run a government department but which I couldn't stand. "Do you like it?", my wife asked in tears this morning.

For once I couldn't lie. "No, I don't like that haircut. " That comment caused a lot of ill will and I feel completely superficial. I'm irrationally angry about it.

Short hair = bloke. I don't know how to get away from it.

BeverlyWhite on January 06, 2013:

Sorry to say she is a beautiful girl but the short hair totally ruins her looks she had beautiful hair once upon a time !!!!!

Sondra Rochelle from USA on October 27, 2012:

I've worn my hair quite short all of my life except for a short period of time in my 30's. I find it is more attractive for my face shape and so much easier to care for than long hair. Frankly, I've never had problems attracting men and my husband loves my hair short...says long hair "just gets in the way" LOL! When I think short hair, I think Halle Berry...she definitely IS sexy! Very interesting hub and voted up.

Ron on July 31, 2012:

There is nothing "bigoted" about finding long hair on a woman sexy. For me, a woman with luscious long hair turns me on every time. I'm not ashamed of it, any more than the guy who loves ample bosoms or shapely legs is. We love what we love!

GoneFishin on June 11, 2012:

I am a man who appreciates great-looking hair whether it's long or short. When we think of long hair, we envision the models in the Victoria's Secret catalog with thick, flowing waves and bedroom eyes. We don't typically envision the chick at Walmart who has fried, straggly hair past her butt that needs to be cut but refuses a trim because she wants to keep it as long as possible. Likewise, when we consider short hair on women, the first thing that pops into our heads is the ugliest woman with a terrible, masculine haircut. Or, women instantly recall the time they decided to go short and the marched themselves into the nearest SuperCuts and were *shocked and dismayed* when their new short haircut wasn't all they had dreamed and, in fact, a nightmare.

Hair is only one part of what makes a woman attractive. A relatively 'plain' looking woman can look quite good with long hair. Chop it off and she looks 'fugly' and masculine. Not everyone has the looks for short hair or for long hair. Eyes, face shape, bone structure and hair characteristics play a role. Just like not all women are meant for a bikini, some need to keep their hair long to cover up that extra chin or ears that stick out like satellite dishes. Layers, bangs, length and color all must be matched to make the most of what each woman has and minimize her less than desirable features, e.g. big or long nose, strong jaw, big ears, etc.

Some women, on the other hand, possess the right mix of features to literally blossom with a short haircut. They also need a stylist that can create a cut with texture and details that make it look feminine. (Sorry, SuperCuts is not the place to go for your big transformation, IMO.) I was a hairstylist for many years until a motorcycle accident and back injury forced me to change my career (I can't stand all day.) I have seen it all (I think). I've had the women sit in my chair, hand me a picture of (insert celebrity) and ask me to "Make me look like this..." and had the guts to tell them my magic wand was still recharging in the back from the previous miracle. I've said, "Sorry, this is not right for you and you'll regret it." numerous times then consulted with clients to arrive at something suitable if they are seeking a big change and something new. In contrast, I've also recognized women with remarkable beauty hidden behind long, do-nothing hair and urged them to cut their hair short with results that were nothing short of mesmerizing.

The bottom line, a pixie can look amazing on an elfin cutie with big eyes but turn another woman into a prison matron. A bob cut with short bangs can be a really great and sexy look on some women but turn others into a hideous block-head. All women do not look better with long hair but I must admit, most do. Short hair is not for everyone. As with most things, matching the right hairstyle to the right woman is like matching her with the right man. There are lots of choices but not all are a good fit.

Cosmic Bus from Maryland on May 20, 2012:

I forgot one more actress who rocked short hair, Winona Ryder.

Heather (author) from Arizona on May 19, 2012:

Cosmic-- Thanks for reading and commenting. I almost made mention of the Dorothy Hamil cut but the article was so long and figured if I did that I should highlight other short haircuts in other decades. Pat Benatar is gorgeous! I haven't seen Gi Jane or the Legend if Billie Jean, but I have heard of them. I also forgot about Demi's Ghost 'do. I think I much prefer her with the short hair than with the long straight locks she's had the last decade or so (they look very fake to me).

Cosmic Bus from Maryland on May 19, 2012:

Love this! I had an idea for this type of hub as well, when I read one male Hubbers opinion on women with short hair ( it was not flattering.) I love your Mary Margret hairstyle and have been growing out my own super short hair cut to get this style as well, you look very much like her with your green eyes! Her look influenced me to start wearing little ball earrings again as well. I read Ginnifer GoodwIn had a clause in her contract so she could keep her hair short because she loves it so much. Did you ever see G.I. Jane with Demi Moore, she shaves her head for that one and looks great, and then there is Ghost, everyone wanted that haircut. I will date myself by telling you as a kid I had a Dorothy Hamill Camel and as a teen I rocked the Pat Benatar do. There is also a movie called The Legend of Billie Jean, Helen Slater chops all her blonde locks off and looks... well, for lack of a better term ( Bad Ass.) Voted up!

Mimi on May 18, 2012:

My hair length personifies my struggle as a modern day working woman. I want mine short enough to not be a pain to deal with, but long enough to give me some variety for self-expression. I want it low maintenance, but it needs to look like I've done something with it so I can give people the impression that I although I have three kids and a full-time job, I'm accomplished enough to clean house, cook dinner, and have time for myself.

Mary Strain from The Shire on May 17, 2012:

This is cute, Heather (Oops, sorry!) I confess I prefer to have long hair myself, but the upkeep does require a lot of commitment. I've also had short cuts and liked them too. I think it depends on what you like and what your husband prefers.