Without a Hair in the World

Shaving my head changed the inside of it, too.

Illustration by Suzy X.

Illustration by Suzy X.

This summer, after dyeing my hair every color under the sun—including, but not limited to, pink, blue, purple, green, and an intense Day-Glo yellow—I got sick of it and shaved it all off. When I saw my new self in the mirror, I realized that this new look was no mere aesthetic tweak. It felt like psychic rebirth.

When I had technicolor hair, I was subjected to a fair amount of questions from strangers about it (usually of the “WHAT’D YA DO TO YOUR HAIR?” variety). A woman with a shaved head encounters a totally different sort of attention: New acquaintances often seem puzzled, and cashiers and bus drivers act noticeably shy with me now. I get a lot of extra space on even the most crowded sidewalks. After decades of silently cursing street harassers, I feel like I’ve been put into a no-catcall zone by my baldness. I finally had a look that was too strange to be immediately identified as “sexy.” (Perhaps it takes a beat for your basic chauvinist pig on the street to decide whether or not he should advertise the fact he is attracted to a baldie.)

Why aren’t more women bald? In every practical sense, it should be a classic summertime look! I spend less money on shampoo now, obviously, and I love not needing a hair dryer. My neck doesn’t sweat when it’s hot. But, of course, we have rules about this kind of thing. People might think a woman with no hair is weird, sick, unemployable, or even—gasp—a lesbian. Obviously, that’s stupid, and not only because some of the world’s most beautiful women are bald, or have been in the past. (A shortlist: Grace Jones, Lupita Nyong’o, Sinead O’Connor, Alek Wek, Erykah Badu, Solange, Megan Fox, Natalie Portman, and Demi Moore.) During the days that preceded my decision to shave, my personal deity was Amber Rose, a model and fashion designer with a signature buzzcut. She’s navigated a relationship with Kanye and a marriage to Wiz Khalifa, so I wasn’t worried when one friend told me that no man would find me attractive if I shaved my head. (All will be gratified to know that, on a personal level, this turned out to be completely false.)

Clockwise from top left: Natalie Portman, Amber Rose, Alek Wek, Ève Salvail, Robin Tunney, Amber Rose.

Clockwise from top left: Natalie Portman, Amber Rose, Alek Wek, Ève Salvail, Robin Tunney, Amber Rose.

The laundry list of beauty norms presented to us by fashion mags, nosy strangers and the people in our lives who are “only looking out for our best interests” is not mandatory reading. And when you ball up that list and toss it into a nearby metaphoric garbage bin, an interesting thing happens—the people who ARE looking out for your best interests will get it. When Willow Smith shaved her head, prodding from the media about how her parents “allowed” their young daughter to lop it all off led Jada Pinkett Smith to make a statement on Facebook:

This is a world where women [and] girls are constantly reminded that they don’t belong to themselves; that their bodies are not their own, nor their power or self-determination. I made a promise to endow my little girl with the power to always know that her body, spirit and her mind are HER domain. Willow cut her hair because her beauty, her value, her worth is not measured by the length of her hair. It’s also a statement that claims that even little girls have the RIGHT to own themselves and should not be a slave to even their mother’s deepest insecurities, hopes and desires. Even little girls should not be a slave to the preconceived ideas of what a culture believes a little girl should be.

Jada makes an excellent point: Your personal style is of small import to anyone but yourself, and it’s never necessary to be easily digestible. As Rookie’s own Amy Rose once wisely counseled me, there’s nothing wrong with wanting attention. Attention can be a great thing, and there are all different ways to get it: becoming professionally successful, performing onstage, being in love, or having a baby, for example. Or shaving your head. Most of the time, we do these things because we just want to, and because they make our lives better.

Baldness has a certain power to it. It’s not just freedom from the tyranny of hair products, unexpected rain clouds, and basic men in the street, but a liberation from other people’s notions of “womanhood.” I won’t be bald forever—I can’t stick to a single country of residence, much less a hairstyle. But I’m convinced that I’ll hold on to the change that’s happened inside my head long after the one on the outside has grown out. ♦


  • mimsyborogrove August 21st, 2014 3:35 PM

    Love this! I cut my hair to a short pixie cut at the beginning of summer and absolutely love it – people keep asking me why I did it in a really shocked way… Um, because I wanted to?! No one has ever dissected my motivation for haircuts before!

  • mangointhesky August 21st, 2014 4:57 PM

    It’s also really brave of you (in my opinion) to have dared to shave your hair in the first place! Loved reading this article.

  • Cruicked August 21st, 2014 5:05 PM

    I have a shaved head and am a girl. I shaved it during my senior year if high school and it’s one of the best things I ever did. I get more compliments than I ever did before.

  • LeavesThatAreGreen August 21st, 2014 5:11 PM

    Highly relatable! I almost-shaved my hair at the beginning of the summer and have received the same reaction and — most importantly — feel completely liberated.

  • soviet_kitsch August 21st, 2014 5:26 PM

    i shaved my head almost exactly a year ago and since then i’ve just been letting it grow out with a few snips here and there. i don’t think it looked amazing on me but it was awesome when i showered, it felt all prickly and cute when i touched it, and seeing the natural pattern of my hair was pretty neat. (i wouldn’t wish growing out that short stage on anyone, however)

  • TessAnnesley August 21st, 2014 6:06 PM

    this is WICKED but how could you skip sinead o’connor for the photo of kickass shaved-head women???

  • Stargirl98 August 21st, 2014 6:50 PM

    I shaved my head and raised money for children with cancer back in March. It’s one of the best decisions I have ever made! I can’t wait to shave my head again. I looked great, and now I have a cut pixie cut.

  • umi August 21st, 2014 7:16 PM

    i shaved my head when i was 13 years old for no reason. it was amazing and taught me a lot about myself. i got mistaken for a boy thrice which i always laugh about/still laugh about to this day. it felt really good to not have my “”"girlishness”"” determined by my hair length and i felt really brave for doing it.

    • Caitlin D. August 24th, 2014 5:05 PM

      Umi, I bet you (and everyone else on this thread who has shaved their head at some point) looked AWESOME. And I agree, anything you can do to mess with people’s tired old conceptions about gender is a definite win.

  • CrabbyGabby August 21st, 2014 7:16 PM

    When i opted to get a pixie cut, i donated my hair to cancer, but when summer came around (and my hair was in that weird-length-because-it-grows-fast stage) i decided to take the clippers to my head for a short cut (think Jean Seberg in Breathless)…I absolutely love the freedom that comes with short hair (never needing to manage it/use products) and found a HUGE boost of CONFIDENCE right away that totally changed the way i looked at the way beauty is too often defined!!! (AND I FEEL GREAT!)

  • bald.marceline August 21st, 2014 8:57 PM

    I lost my long, curly, black hair from chemotherapy which doesn’t exactly count as shaving it off… But now that I’m finished with treatment (cancer-free, woot woot!) and my hair is growing back, I have this badass buzz cut that totally rocks. I love it so much that I’m keeping it! Btw, a bald head goes great with bold red lips

    • Elsary August 22nd, 2014 12:57 AM

      Congrats for being cancer free! It means a lot to me, since I lost my dad to cancer. I’m really so happy for reading this.

  • ugochi August 22nd, 2014 2:23 AM

    this article is absolutely amazing! I’ve really loved all the bald headed beauties in the media recently.

  • Deby Brunn August 22nd, 2014 4:42 AM

    I’ve wanted to shave my hair for about four years now. The reasons include easier maintenance, comfort, and other practical benefits. The idea of shaving to express yourself and your viewpoint towards others does not seem to be right for me, since it causes unwanted attention. Attention is not the reason why I’d like to get rid of my hair. Then, of course, there is the fact that I developed a slight emotional bond towards my hair. If only people stopped caring about what others wear, and if I stopped caring about other people caring about my hair and what I wear, it would not be as complicated as this sentence.

    • insanejane August 24th, 2014 9:11 AM

      ahah your last sentence was really well written! :)
      and shave iiit and enjoyy, lovely girl !
      YOU WON’T CARE WHAT PEOPLE WILL THINK OF YOU BECAUSE YOU WILL FEEL SO HAPPY AND GLAD WITH YOURSELF (especially if you’ve wanted this for four years now!)

  • chxlevale September 8th, 2014 7:01 PM

    Ahhhhh!!! Seriously freaking out with excitement because I look Rookie and I shaved my head three months ago. So great!!!

  • _lefthandedhag September 8th, 2014 7:19 PM

    I buzzed my hair once. I got called Sinead O’Connor jokingly, which is weird, cos that’s def a compliment. And after a shower it would dry in 5 seconds flat. Also, how can you deny how good this looks?

  • peachiewonder September 27th, 2014 5:51 PM

    when i was seventeen years old my ex-boyfriend shaved my hair clean off my head and it was the most liberating feeling i’ve ever experienced.