How The Pandemic Inspired Me To Drastically Cut My Hair — And Take Control Of My Life

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5 People Reveal How The Pandemic Inspired Them To Drastically Cut Their Hair — And Take Control Of Their Life
Self

Cutting my long locks in the wake of COVID-19 led to a discovery of a new grade of hair and a fear that my new short style wouldn't be accepted in the dating world. 

For two decades I had permanent dreadlocks, a style that usually can only be removed by cutting off the majority of one’s hair. Seeking a change and knowing I couldn’t maintain my locks during the pandemic, I lopped it all off. 

The result was both elation and terror looking at my new 'do. Omg, what have I done? was the big question, followed by the harrowing thought I’d be considered unattractive to people who prefer long hair. I soon discovered I wasn’t alone with my fears as I spoke to others who also chopped off all their hair during quarantine. 

As a 48-year old Black woman, I’ve had a life-long struggle with my hair. When I was a young girl I had to endure hot-combing in order to “tame” my thick, head bush. Relaxers in my teens were a nightmare of chemicals designed to break down what seemed like a bird’s nest. 

At 25, I chose to grow dreadlocks, a natural style requiring minimal maintenance. It seemed like I finally found the perfect style for me. 

However, 22 years later, after traumatic events, including a bitter divorce, I ached for a change. I believed my hair was holding in decades of bad energy, so I decided to make the Big Chop. I cut my shoulder-length hair off with only an inch of virgin hair left and styled it into a little afro. I wanted to start again and build healthier roots for my scalp — and more importantly, my soul.

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What took me by surprise was the amount of criticism I received from family and people I dated after I cut my hair. They lamented my lack of long locks. 

The most hurtful comment from a male family member who said, “You look like a man." I became beyond self-conscious when looking for a potential romantic partner. My anxiety worsened when folks would check out my social media pics and videos and rudely comment, “Where’d your hair go?” 

Andre Tinnie, a natural hair expert and stylist based in Brooklyn, NY, has performed his fair share of life-altering cuts. “My clients normally feel a sense of relief, liberation, and that a burden has been lifted off their shoulders,” Tinnie says. But others had different reactions. “[Some clients] had total regret at first, then after a few weeks they embraced the change.”

In true fashion when sitting in a hairdresser’s chair, a form of therapy happens. Tinnie has had plenty of discussions with women who were afraid their partner wouldn’t be attracted to them anymore.

I can relate. Even though we were divorced, my ex-husband felt the need to share his thoughts on my hair change — though I never asked him for his opinion. His comments made me wonder if I’d find another partner who would accept me as I am. 

Wondering if I was alone in my fears, I talked to several people who detailed how a major hair change impacted their lives. 

Stephanie Murray, 52, decided when she left her abusive husband, change was needed. “I have naturally red hair and he hated redheads. I was blonde the few years I was with him and he liked my hair long. As soon as I left, one of the first things I did was cut off 12 inches of my hair into a long bob. After a few weeks, I cut my hair short and went back to my beloved red color. I felt relieved,” she says.

Murray was lucky to have support from family and friends. When her hairdresser told her those who make major decisions about their hair “is a sign of taking control of your life,” she listened. During the beginning of the pandemic, Murray ordered custom hair color. “Looking pretty changes how I feel about myself. When my hair looks beautiful, I feel beautiful!”

Tracie Baldwin, 42, was also confident about her choice to change up her hairstyle. “The hardest decision I’ve made was to apply for divorce; not get a haircut,” she says. Friends called her "brave" but Baldwin didn’t see it that way. “Jumping out of an airplane or having chemo is an act of bravery. Cutting your hair is not an act of courage. People believe that, but I don’t agree.”

She didn’t worry about dating with short hair but recalls one man who didn’t like it. “He said women shouldn’t have short hair. I didn’t realize he was dating my hair.” 

Above: Tracie Baldwin, before & after

Warren Green, 50, says he was nervous when his wife decided out-of-the-blue to change her hairstyle. “I woke up from a nap and heard my clippers. I thought she snapped,” he says.

But he quickly recovered from the shock. “The only negative I witnessed was our dogs looking at her oddly. I honestly think she looks good with short hair. Men have too much to say about what women do with their bodies and hair. I can't speak for all men, but I prefer a woman who wears her hair how she likes.” 

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Julie Piller, 50, had a noble reason for making the chop: She cut her hair to donate to those in need. “My hair grows really fast and when it gets really long, it’s unmanageable. I’d pull it back into a ponytail every day until I discovered I met the requirements to donate, so I did.”

Piller chose Pantene Beautiful Lengths and Wigs for Kids to donate her hair to, however, she had to address a new issue. “Because of COVID, a lot of hair salons were closed so I wasn't able to get my regular haircut. It got so long I was miserable trying to manage it."

Once salons re-opened, she returned to her altruistic intentions. “I had a lot of hair to donate — four 14-inch braids,” she states. Once she cut it all off, post-divorce dating took a turn. The cut “almost felt masculine to me. My close friends said it made me look younger. I didn't know about that. I still felt like a soccer mom with shorter hair. But it’s so much easier.” 

Reactions from men have been mixed. “I received more looks from men with my longer hair than I do now with shorter hair. I haven't been out much because of COVID, so I can’t be completely sure. I think men find long hair to be more eye-catching. With shoulder-length hair, I feel like any other single, divorced mom out there.”

Piller also spoke of one guy who said short hairs get stuck in his socks and wrapped around his toes. Needless to say, she hasn’t pursued that love connection.

Above: Julie Piller, before & after

After religiously perming her long hair, Karen Anglade, 54, transitioned to a chemical-free style. The responses she received were a mixed bag. “My mother's reaction was hilarious,“ she says, noting that her mom commented, "You have a nice-shaped head under all that hair."

“My son hated it. He was 10 years old and didn't think I looked the same. He still doesn't like it, but I ignore him,” she says. There was negativity she also didn’t expect. “My male friends, some I dated, had things to say. I couldn't believe or understand why these men felt that way about something as superficial as hair.” 

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But there was positive feedback, too. “Most of my women friends thought it was quite badass of me to make such a bold decision,” she says. “At the end of the day, I received just as much attention from men when I had short hair as I did with long.”

Today she’s totally comfortable with her decision and enjoys being original.

Above: Karen Anglade, before and after

It took Angel, 35, a year to decide to make the big cut after her hair had major breakage due to continuous relaxers. When she finally took the plunge to go natural, “I was nervous and felt unpretty. I didn't want anyone to see me publicly and needed a style that fit me.”

She admits, “Mostly everyone loved the cut. My mom was the only one who had an issue with it. Her mentality at the time was women are beautiful with lengthy, straight hair. We had to have a long discussion as to why that isn't true."

In the end, Angel says it was, “the best decision I could have ever made.”

Above: Angel, before and after

I’ve realized several things from these Covid haircut discussions. Namely, the decision to make the chop is highly personal and the more support one has, the easier the transition. I now know I’m not alone with feeling conflicted about my new short choices, yet I’m still excited for things to come. 

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Chanize Thorpe is a lifestyle editor and writer, who's spent over two decades traveling the world and contributing to both national and international publications. Her work has appeared in a multitude of outlets from Brides Magazine to Shondaland.com. Find her on Twitter @Chanize.