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Why More Women are Choosing to Go for Shorter Hair in the Name of Self-Expression

Flowing hair has long been seen as a marker of feminine beauty. But as the status quo shifts, more women are choosing to go for the big chop in the name of self-expression. Why not take a short cut?

Tops, earrings, Dior. Photo: Fouad Tadros

Short hair styles have a habit of cropping up on bold women. The icon Sherine wore her hair short during her early career, while Yasmin Raeis often returns to her striking pixie cut, a style also favored by Yosra El Lozy. Gabrielle Chanel, however, may be one of those best known for her intersection of style and short hair, with the designer’s fixed bob becoming emblematic of the Roaring Twenties. Depending on which of Chanel’s retellings is to be believed, her style was the result of a pre-opera bathroom gas burner explosion that recovered her badly singed braids from disaster into a daring style moment. Or, as she told French writer Paul Morand, she simply hewed her hair off “because it annoys me.” Regardless of reason, her look remains symbolic of bold women who create their own fortune, with women in 2023 also experimenting with their lengths.

Dress, Louis Vuitton. Photo: Fouad Tadros

“What I love about my hair is that it loves me back,” exclaims Helena Shanin. The 21-year-old Egyptian model refers to herself as an artistic canvas, with her hair being an extension of her self-expression. “Ninety-nine percent of the time, my hair allows me to effortlessly achieve a multitude of styles. It is exceptionally patient and resilient, accommodating my ever-changing moods, alter egos, and the various phases I undergo in life,” she explains. Spurred on by what Shanin calls a challenging time in her life, the model shaved her entire head, shedding her long hair and leaving behind a closely cropped buzz cut. “It may sound a bit strange, but shaving my head actually made me feel incredibly liberated and free. I was so happy with my new look that I couldn’t help but smile when I saw myself in the mirror,” she shares. “What I treasure most about my hair is the memories it holds within. Each style I’ve worn represents a chapter in my life, a record of the great times and the fun moments I’ve experienced while experimenting with different looks. My hair is not just a reflection of my aesthetic choices; it’s a repository of my personal journey, a visual diary of my life’s adventures.”

Dress, Chanel. Photo: Fouad Tadros

Hair stylist and makeup artist R.Kavya says that overcoming cultural norms was something she had to work up to. “I have very curly, dense hair, and all throughout my professional life I was known as the girl with the long curly hair. Being from the South Indian culture where hair is a strong part of our heritage, keeping it long always seemed to be just what I should do. But then I started to question why,” she explains. She says working in the fashion industry helped her build up her confidence, styling other women with modern pixies and bobs. Despite this, Kavya still started small, with multiple salon visits. “I started with cutting off four inches, then took away a little more and a little more, until it was almost all gone,” she shares. “Many people say short hair doesn’t suit women, but this is a myth – they just want to tell women what to do and critique their appearance. I decided it was time to cut my hair to the style I personally like.”

Dress, Fendi. Photo: Fouad Tadros

Baran Ghiasvand, a 26-year-old model, says that her hairstyle of choice is reflective of following her own rules, not those set by beauty standards. The Iranian first cropped her hair after an unfortunate henna incident, but the resulting compliments led her to keeping the look.

“I think having a short hairstyle was always a taboo for women everywhere, and I’m so happy that people are getting used to it and not judging you by your hairstyle,” she says. “I get a lot of comments from people thanking me because I gave them the courage to cut their hair like me, and they love it!” Shanin has heard both positive and negative feedback, but, she says, it’s been predominantly positive. “Many people feel comfortable approaching me and expressing their admiration for my short hair,” she adds. “It brings me joy to have a positive impact on individuals, inspiring them to embrace unconventional means of self-expression.”

Top, Isabel Marant; earrings, Moschino. Photo: Fouad Tadros

Having open discussions about Arab women choosing a shorter hairstyle, simply because they like how it looks, may be indicative of a wider shift in how femininity is portrayed. “It used to be unusual to have short hair in the Middle East; longer hair is traditionally perceived as more beautiful,” says Shanin. “But women are challenging the stereotypes of beauty. They have begun to express themselves more freely, embracing the versatility and potential of short hair. And seeing how they can look beautiful in anything.” Kavya agrees, adding, “I feel like short hair gives confidence to a woman; they can carry themselves with strength. It’s not just a haircut, it’s creating a new person.” And, as Chanel once famously said, “a woman who cuts her hair is about to change her life.”

Top, Alexandre Vauhtier at Matches Fashion; earrings, Moschino. Photo: Fouad Tadros

Originally published in the October 2023 issue of Vogue Arabia

Style: Mohammad Hazem Rezq
Fashion assistant: Neymat Master
Models: Baran at MMG, Helena at Imaginary Friends 


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