What's The Real Deal with “Breakup Hair?”

And why do we feel the need to change our hair when we eat severe emotional dirt?
Publish date:
October 31, 2013
self esteem, hair cuts, break-ups, psychoanalysis

I've had thick, waist-length hair since I was old enough to verbalize an opinion on the aesthetics of my head. It has always been an identifying characteristic for me, and at times, a defense mechanism. Awkward situation? Let's fidget with my hair. In high school, I literally hid behind it, draping it over my face and rocking that eyes-only insecure teen angst look.

Aside from the very rare trim, I have only really cut it three times in my life. The first time, I was 10 and waxing obsessive on "Spice World" (I blame Victoria Beckham.) The second time, I was 20 and going through a bad break-up. I chopped my hair to my shoulders in a moment of much needed liberation and came home to an outraged roommate.

That roomie was not a sweet talker. She took one look at my head and, wielding her intimidating born-in-Brooklyn accent, she said: "Don't ever fucking cut your hair again. Dudes love sexy long ass hair." (She had been trying, unsuccessfully, to grow hair past her shoulders for several years and was perhaps personally affronted by my snip.) I told her I didn't cut my hair for any dudes, reminded her I was currently dudeless, and sulked off into my room.

I grew my hair back out, and the next time I went through a serious emotional crisis, I took to the scissors again. This time, I bobbed it by hacking off 14 inches. That's a whole lot of hair!


I know I'm not the only one who impulsively (compulsively) changes her hair when in a state of emotional turmoil. This was brought to my attention when a brunette friend of mine switched to a blond pixie cut right after her husband moved out. "Divorce hair," she called it. I've been stewing on it ever since, mainly wondering what is the drive for radical hair change during or after emotional confrontation.

I know I snapped at my roomie when she suggested my hair had anything to do with a need for approval from potential romantic partners, but she had a point hidden somewhere in there.

I had just come out of a relationship, so could my self-liberation be masking a dip in my self-perceived level of attractiveness? Break-up hair. Mid-life crisis hair. I just lost my job hair. Why do we feel the need to change our hair when we eat severe emotional dirt?

Maybe it's because we feel out of control, and the hair on our heads is something we can still govern. Maybe the appeal is being able to hold the reins on something, anything, even if it's as seemingly trivial as hairstyle. Maybe it's just a need for a change, or a way to shed a sort of skin we were previously wearing, to say “fuck off universe, new hair, new lady.” Change is good, that kind of thing. How hard am I overanalyzing this?

Women with short hair have always seemed very confident and in charge. When I bobbed my hair last year, I think I was looking to simplify things and disconnect myself from a person I wasn't too happy with. Ironically, I ended up making things much more complicated. My hair is big and wavy by nature, so once bobbed, it took hours of grooming to keep myself from looking homeless.

You may be thinking, I can't believe I just read an entire post about someone changing her hair. Some people get a new hairstyle every season, and every breakup, and just because it's Wednesday or it's raining or they're bored. I'm not immune to the 11 PM “this is a good idea right?” bang trim, but considering I have really only cut my hair three times in two decades, I've been psychoanalyzing my motives lately.

Okay, so tell me about your break-up hair. Do you think I should focus my energy on global politics instead of my hair?Zoe is overanalyzing things on Twitter, Instagram, and SexyTofu.com.