I always wanted to shave my head. I just never dared.
At a certain point, though, I had so many reasons to. It didn’t seem fair that guys could have such an easy hairstyle, while I was stuck with a mess of curls. It never looked neat and put together, not matter what I did to it. I moved to Sweden and couldn’t quite accept the 300 sek ($40 USD) hair cut every six weeks just to keep my hair under control.
Really, though – I wanted to. Shouldn’t that be a good enough reason?
I pondered shaving my head actively for months. While it was finally an ad hoc decision to do it, I tried to think through all of the consequences first.
Wait a second. I had to think through the consequences of a haircut? It’s just hair. Right? Apparently not.
My initial thought was that I should shave off my hair as part of a donation system for kids with cancer. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it felt like a cop-out – I would be using a charity as an excuse for doing something I wanted to do. If I was doing it for me, then I shouldn’t be hiding behind anything else. It felt like it would cheapen the entire experience.
It annoyed me that the idea of shaving my head actually scared me. It just seemed like something that was Not Done, something proper ladies don’t do. I decided long ago that life was far more interesting when I lived it on my terms and didn’t even bother trying to conform to society’s idea of what I should behave or look like. Why should it matter what “society” or anyone else thought? My conclusion was that it shouldn’t matter, but it unfortunately often does, at least in some areas.
When discussing this with one of my Swedish friends who had gorgeous, long, blonde hair, she told me that the hair dresser actually asked if her boyfriend would be okay with it before cutting it a bit shorter. There seems to be a preconception that states “Women should have hair”. Have you ever tried to take care of long hair before? It’s a lot of work and shouldn’t be a requirement for anyone. Why should the length of your hair even matter to anyone but you?
I’ll admit that I was also worried about the fall-out at work. My team’s average haircut was a shaved head, but that was okay because my team was also largely male. I was working as an IT consultant and my client at the time was based in Helsinki – it wasn’t bank-level formal, but a shaved head would stick out in a bad way if I couldn’t pull it off. There was a chance that I’d lose professional credibility and possibly hurt the relationship with this client.
In the end, I would remind myself, it’s just hair. If it didn’t work out, then the hair would grow back. The only problem was that I couldn’t just wear a hat until it grew back.
If I did this, I was going to have to own it. I would have to stand behind my choice. There couldn’t be any apologies. There couldn’t be any self-deprecation. I chose my hairstyle, for better or for worse and it would be my choice.
I try to live by the saying “do one thing every day that scares you.” I don’t mean that I try to go sky diving every day, but that it’s good to challenge yourself and push yourself out of your comfort zone. In my experience, nothing interesting ever happens in your comfort zone.
Finally, one Friday afternoon after a really hard week at work, I went to the hair dresser and asked her to shave my head. She was dubious and checked multiple times. Once we narrowed down that I didn’t actually want her to shave my head with a razor (I had been so interested in the ramifications that I never looked into the tools), she stood there with the clippers in her hands, set to 6 mm. I laughed and said “go for it!”
That moment in the hair salon was one of the most powerful moments in my life. It was my body and I could do as I liked. I knew that, but I had never experienced it in such a concrete way.
Much to my surprise, my haircut was a non-issue. I went into my client’s offices on Monday morning and nobody said a word. When I turned up at my own office, later in the week, one person asked if I had had a haircut. When someone did say something, it was to compliment me on it and tell me that it suited me very well.
In the end, society didn’t care. And if it did, I never heard about it. I’ll put part of that down to the fact that I decided not offer society as a whole a poll – the only opinions that I cared about were my own and those close to me.
I discovered a new love of hats. I had never really been able to wear them before, because squished curls are even worse than crazy curls.
My hair was always neat. I didn’t have to pay attention to when I got it wet. I could take a shower before bed and my hair would still look fine in the morning.
It was also so practical for hot days – instant ventilation! This photo is an outtake from working on a new work headshot – it was too hot for a proper jacket and things got a bit silly.
I also got the fun of wearing darker make-up, too, since I no longer needed to match my hair.
The only real issue that I had was that my scalp changed a bit. I needed to learn to wash my head less often and ended up changing shampoos, too.
I also needed to get my hair cut more often, as the stubble would drive me nuts. I came to the amazing realization that I could cut my own hair with clippers in the bathroom! I had never given myself a haircut before. I did it once and then realized that just because I could cut my hair, I didn’t have a good cleanup system and it went everywhere. The trick was asking for help from my partner.
All in all, I loved having a shaved head. It was comfortable, practical and worked for me.
After two years and some change, I started growing it out again. I’ve faced my fear, had my challenge – now I’m curious about the next thing. I’m enjoying it far more this time around, now that it’s a choice and not a requirement. There are definitely days that I want to grab the clippers and take it all of again. We’ll see just how long it gets!
All photos by Fredrik Løvik – thank you!
This article was was a great read for me: What I Learned By Shaving My Head.