There’s a lot of trauma stored in one’s hair. It’s something that’s on your head for a long time; it’s seen it all—especially if you’ve never cut it before, like me. There’s also a certain trauma and scariness attached to the idea of starting over.
In addition to that fear, part of the reason why my hair is so long in the first place is because I’m kind of lazy and too comfortable. But I learned that comfortable does not necessarily mean confident. I got so used to my routines (which weren’t much, save for my daily braiding ritual and occasional bang maintenance). I wasn’t ready to explore how my maintenance would change if I cut it all off. Long hair is praised in our society. I think it’s beautiful, too, but the notion that length is tied to femininity is dated.
Doing a drastic change didn’t really occur to me until recently. I started to feel like people weren’t listening to what was important to me, partially because they were distracted by my hair. I might be doing a livestream where I’m talking about how oyster farming can better the environment, and then I see people in the comments making Rick James or George Washington hair jokes. But I can’t control what kind of hair I have. And the reason I have bangs is because I’m a chef and I need my hair to be out of my face while I’m cooking. But I think sometimes the internet doesn’t really care about things like that. It’s too often a violent place for a lot of people. People want to hire Black, pay Black and center Black, but not protect Black people, even if just on the internet. My whole life has been filled with people telling me what they think I should or shouldn’t do, be it with my face or my hair. Black women are constantly being policed in this way: from what we wear and who we’re with, to how we say something, etc. There are so many opinions.Photo: Courtesy of Jess Farran / @jess_farran Photo: Courtesy of Jess Farran / @jess_farran
I think for me, cutting my hair is an act of resistance as well, in the truest sense. It’s me saying, ‘This is how little I care about it. I’ll chop this shit off.’ I want Black women to understand, too, that we can do whatever we want with our hair and still be beautiful. We are beautiful when we have it or when we don’t. We’re beautiful with wigs on and we’re beautiful with extensions. We’re beautiful when it’s natural, or when it’s not. It doesn’t matter. I guess that’s what motivated me to do this, too. I’m showing up with hair… or not. Aside from that, it’s just too long. Like, I get shoulder pain when I wash it.
Having a hairstylist that I trust was helpful for me during this process. Renee Gader, Aveda's Global Artistic Director for Textured Hair, is incredible. She really knows curls. She’s all about reframing the experience that Black women have when we go into the salon. We all know too well those visits where we put our trust in the wrong stylists, just to pay a ton of money to find out they don’t know how to do Black hair or they have this idea that every Black woman’s hair is the same.
Roe ultimately went for a chin-length bob. “It feels so good to have been able to let go of that weight. I don’t know why I didn’t do this sooner.”Photo: Courtesy of Jess Farran / @jess_farran
But even with knowing I’d have the best of the best hairstylist doing my cut, I still had my anxieties leading up to the big day, especially the day before. I was spiraling thinking about all of the ‘last times’ with my hair: the last time I’m going to take the train with long hair, or get coffee at my favorite spot. I was nervous about my cheeks; people being able to see them more than they used to and remembering how I was made fun of for them growing up. I was having a panic attack. What helped me get out of my anxiety was talking to friends and also making a playlist, Mane Moves, filled with upbeat house and funk-inspired songs, from “Communicate” by Mick Jenkins and Ravyn Lenae to “Groovin’” by Flamingosis, to really make it a fun and enjoyable experience.
Before this, when it came to my process with Renee, I kept giving her different references for what I wanted, from pixie to bob. I didn’t really know what I wanted, I just knew I wanted to get rid of it. She finally recommended I do a chin-length bob, and that if I wasn’t feeling it, we would just go all the way with a pixie cut. When I sat in the chair, she explained that she would be doing an undercut at the back of my head. “That way it will lay flat and have a cool shape,” she said. I did not understand that this was another term for shaving one’s head. So when she started shaving, I reached back only to feel my scalp. From now on, everyone must call this an undershave…because I was truly not ready for that. But, again, I trusted her and now understand what she was trying to do. For anyone wanting to cut their hair off, my biggest advice is to find someone that you really trust. Don’t let anyone tell you it’s just hair. It’s actually a deeply spiritual thing.Photo: Courtesy of Jess Farran / @jess_farran Photo: Courtesy of Jess Farran / @jess_farran
For styling, we used Aveda’s Botanical Repair shampoo, conditioner, deep conditioner, and leave-in (my favorite). Nobody tells you how itchy your scalp is when you shave it, so I spent the rest of the day oiling it. But my maintenance is very low until my next wash. I’ve learned you don’t really need to use a lot of product in between. A spray bottle does the trick to add the moisture back into the hair. This creates so much time in my mornings that I didn’t have before when I was spending an hour braiding it.
I think the weirdest part about having short hair is that I keep forgetting I have it. It’s like I have this phantom hair now. When you have long hair, it’s heavy and you’re constantly aware of how you’re moving through the world, so that it doesn’t get caught in, say, a door or under your shoulder bag. But it feels so good to have been able to let go of that weight. I don’t know why I didn’t do this sooner.
But more than anything, I’m just excited to explore different styles for the first time. Maybe I’ll pin it back or do a part. Maybe I’ll go blonde, wear wigs or braids. I want to wear hats and fun earrings! I don’t know, I just think I’m ready to express myself differently. I feel free. I feel light. I won’t be able to hide in the same way anymore. I’ll have to fully accept every part of myself—cheeks and all.Photo: Courtesy of Jess Farran / @jess_farran