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Clara Perlmutter, who goes by @Tinyjewishgirl on TikTok, decided recently to shave her head and document it on the platform after seeing the Dyson Airwrap go viral, with everyone curling and coifing their long shocks of hair.
“I made a deal with myself that I was going to either learn how to do hair really well so I could make it a final touch to all my outfits or buzz my head,” she said. In late January, when Ms. Perlmutter, 23, was on set at a photo shoot, she watched as a hairdresser intricately styled a model’s hair. “At that moment, I realized I didn’t have the emotional energy to go all out with my hair,” she said. “I went home and told my boyfriend, ‘I want you to shave my head.’ We went ham with the clippers and filmed the journey for my TikTok.”
Ms. Perlmutter instantly embraced the look for its ease and the fact that her hair is now “one less thing to worry about.” It also suits her style. “I’m into that 1990s and 2000s dystopian-future aesthetic, and I’m really into the way the bald head makes every outfit fit that vibe,” she said. Lately she has been wearing puffy headbands over her buzzed head.
There’s plenty of evidence that the shaved head is the first trendy cut of 2022. Iris Law, Demi Lovato and Saweetie have lopped off their manes. The actress Jordan Alexander, of the “Gossip Girl” reboot, and the model Slick Woods have made it their style signatures.
“We have so many layers, and while some may wear their crown proudly, we also carry a lot of burdens.”
Camille Rogers, who works in marketing and uses the pronouns they and them, proudly wears a shaved head, too. “Every time I shave my head, I feel like a weight has been lifted,” they said. “A new wave of confidence washes over me because I feel like a badass when I’m bald.” There is something about that “freshly buzzed feeling,” they said, that “just hits.”
Rita Melssen, an art director and stylist, shaved her head on a whim and now changes the color from icy white to light pink as it grows out. She also experiments with vintage caps and scarves to change up the look.
“I walk through the world very differently with a shaved head as opposed to a head of long curly hair like I had before,” Ms. Melssen, 29, said. “I feel more powerful and graceful. There is a purity and a fierceness to it. It’s like I am peeling back a layer so that you can see a deeper part of me.
“Also, I can get ready so fast now, it’s a game changer.”
For some people who have been contemplating the look for a while, 2022 felt right. “I still feel butterflies when I look into the mirror,” said Emma Fridsell, 23, a fashion influencer who traded a pixie for a buzz cut. “I feel stronger with my head shaved. I walk a little bit taller. I hope that I can also inspire others to not feel the need to fit into a box. I have struggled with that, and this haircut finally allowed me to break free once and for all.”
Joseph Charles Viola, 26, who works in fashion, also took to the clippers. “Life was weighing me down, and I thought my hair could take some of that weight off for a bit,” he said.
Why shave it off now?
Tumultuous times often lead to extreme self-expression through beauty. “It’s about taking ownership of your identity and allowing you to control at least one aspect of what’s going on around you,” said Rachael Gibson, who charts the history of hair on her popular Instagram account Thehairhistorian.
“I think there’s probably also a sense of why the hell not,” she added. “If you can’t shave your hair off while we’re living through what we’ve lived through, when are you going to do it?”
“It’s like I am peeling back a layer so that you can see a deeper part of me.”
On social media, subcultures like dark academia and cottagecore thrived during the pandemic. Rising out of such communities are threads of goth, emo and punk in which the shaved head stands in as an aesthetic signifier.
“I think we’re living in a time where pretty much anything goes,” Ms. Gibson said. “You can be a baby goth one day and some kind of Y2K babe wearing a Juicy tracksuit the next.”
“Conversely,” she continued, “perhaps there’s something to be said for a shaved head being the ultimate sign of commitment to a look. A shaved head for a woman still has the power to shock.”
The shaved head has history, with roots in mourning, religion, rebellion and even ostracism. That history is also what makes the cut empowering and provoking all at once.
“Hair shaving can also be a type of discipline and uniformity for soldiers, or purity for Hindu priests, because hair is associated with sexuality,” said Valerie Steele, the director of the museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology.
“Now,” Ms. Steele said, “a shaved head is increasingly perceived as strength and gender equality.”
“There’s something about holding my Vivienne Westwood bag with a bald head that feels gender affirming,” Mr. Viola said. “I don’t conform to any sort of gender identity necessarily, but I do realize that with my bald head and mustache, I’ll come off a certain way to the everyday person.”
Holding a purse “makes for a Walter White queer fantasy that I’m personally thriving in,” he said, referring to the “Breaking Bad” character.
“I’m into that 1990s and 2000s dystopian-future aesthetic, and I’m really into the way the bald head makes every outfit fit that vibe.”
For others, the look lets them experience empowerment in a new way. “We tend to be so attached to our hair, as if that’s the only thing that makes us a woman or feminine, and that’s far from the truth,” said the actress and author Samantina Zenon, who swapped her natural Afro for a smoothed head. “Being a woman is more than just looking like one. We have so many layers to us, and while some may wear their crown proudly, we also carry a lot of burdens. As I grow older, it becomes vital for me to always walk in my power regardless of my appearance.”
Mx. Rogers feels similarly: “I feel like I’ve reclaimed my relationship with my hair and sense of self. Not only in a gender euphoric way, but also in relation to how significant hair has been to me my whole life, growing up as a Black person.”
The Many Sides of a Shaved Head
For all of its nakedness, the shaved head has versatility. You can shave it with a razor, clipper it to a short stubble, or opt to leave a little length on top so that you have a pixie, more or less.
“When you clipper it down to a short stubble, it will allow your face to retain its shape,” said Devin Toth, a hairstylist at Salon SCK in Manhattan. “In other words, your head won’t become an extension of your forehead. When there’s a little stubble, you can also do bright geometric hair color.”
The turn toward D.I.Y. beauty that emerged during the pandemic means, of course, that this is a cut that can be accomplished at home. You’ll need a good set of clippers and a friend on standby to get the bits at the back.
“Life was weighing me down, and I thought my hair could take some of that weight off for a bit.”
Mr. Toth advises cutting it short with scissors first, then buzzing it on a long guard, then on a short guard and then using a razor. “This is for two reasons,” he said. “First, you can always decide mid-process not to go any shorter, especially once you start seeing your head shape. Second, you don’t want to hurt yourself. Doing a short guard on long hair will cause your hair to get tangled and pulled inside of the buzzer.”
There’s a lot to be said about a cut that gives you a fresh start and still maintains a world of expression. For some of the newly shorn, like Ms. Zenon, the cut is one they plan to keep for the long run.
“I don’t think I will ever want to go back to growing my hair again,” she said.