As we continue on with our But Make It Fashion issue, we look back on our worst haircuts because it was these failures and a bit of experimentation, that lead us to finding a style and look that truly works for us. Sometimes it was our fault in asking for a particular cut and sometimes it was totally the hair stylist’s mistake, but we were mostly horrified with the result. Here’s evidence of our biggest haircutting mistakes.
Carolyn Yates, NSFW Consultant
My worst haircut wasn’t on purpose. I’d been growing my hair out but it was feeling messy, so — because I’d just moved back to Montreal and was visiting my parents — I went to get a haircut with someone I’d never gone to before. I asked for the front long and the back short on a sharp diagonal (I described it better at the time, I swear). The stylist gathered my hair in a way that I assumed meant he was going to trim the ends, and cut off most of the front and a good chunk of the sides, effectively giving me the opposite of what I asked for. Afterwards, I went outside and chain-smoked and wept in the parking lot of that suburban Aveda, and then I made a hair appointment in Montreal for three days later, and then I went back inside and tipped that stylist because I felt like it was my fault for not saying anything. I do not have pictures of that haircut.
Heather Hogan, Senior Editor
I mean I had a mullet my entire childhood and tweenhood. (Oh, does it look like I’ve been crying in that pink dress picture? That’s because I’d been crying because I was spanked because I wouldn’t wear it, which I didn’t want to do because I hated dresses and lace touching me makes me feel like my skin’s on fire! #fashion) I didn’t even grow my mullet out until middle school! And then in high school I grew out my bangs! And now I’ve had the same haircut for 20 years.
Stef Schwartz, Vapid Fluff Editor
Back in 2007, I went into a walk-in shop on St Marks Place and asked for a trim. I had chin-length black hair and an undershave, which wasn’t a great look for me, but I was really into it at the time. Here’s the problem: the guy cut it WAY too short in the front. It was barely down to my nose! I’m super self conscious about my nose and my face in general, and without hair to hide in I feel exposed and panicky. Reader, I cried. I was about to go on a short tour with a friend’s band and just wanted to look cool! How was I supposed to hang out with cool band dudes when I looked so alarmingly hideous?!?! Somehow I coped with this by wearing a grey bandana the entire time, which also looked ridiculous, but I convinced myself it was better than showing the world this haircut. In spite of everything, the haircut eventually grew out, as haircuts do, and I learned a valuable lesson about trusting strangers with literally anything.
I don’t have photographic evidence of this per se, but years later I entrusted my hair to my good friend Hilary, who was actually in school to cut hair. These days I wear my hair long, with layers. Hilary enjoyed taking creative license, and no matter what I asked her to do she’d just do whatever she felt like doing anyway. One time, she gave me… the Rachel. I asked all of my friends to level with me and tell me if she did, in fact, give me the Rachel, and they all assured me that it was not. Only now, many years later, has anyone admitted that it was totally the fucking Rachel. I’m still scarred.
Rachel Kincaid, Managing Editor
My hair has always been My Thing; it is very long and curly, it’s pretty, etc. Anyone who has ever wanted to compliment me or flirt with me has mentioned my hair; everyone I’ve ever dated has made a panicked face and then tried to hide it if I mentioned cutting it. This is fine, but there’s nothing like having a Thing to make you sort of itchy about having a Thing and wonder what would happen if you changed it, and also no one makes it through their 20s without wanting to chop all their hair off in a moment of emotional turmoil. When I was about 23, I did, in the middle of a big breakup and before moving across the country to a city where no one knew me. I went from hair past my shoulderblades to a Bisexual Bob, about chin-length. It was… fine. It was way easier to care for, without waiting seemingly days for it to dry, and it was still pretty. But I knew I was strapping myself in for growing it back in pretty much immediately. It’s my thing! I know myself.
Alexis Smithers, Staff Writer
Thankfully my only bad haircut stories are bad weave stories which I think lends to that lesson of nothing is permanent or some such nonsense. I had this weave I think my sophomore year of high school that was just not my look but I didn’t realize that until literally a year later. I just look back like, what was on my head and why did I let it stay there?
I wanted it because it was Rihanna circa-Umbrella inspired cut but like I lowkey never took care of it so I can’t tell you when it ever looked like what it was supposed to. I didn’t have to grow anything out! Thankfully I just had to wait until my family gently told me, “maybe it’s time to switch it up,” which is code for “get this shit out now,” before I went back to braids. I didn’t cry because I barely looked in the mirror sophomore year (literally three weeks before I started sophomore year my grandfather had died) so I only remembered I existed as a corporeal being in little spurts. It was a strange and terrible and sometimes really fun and, unintentionally but subconsciously intentionally, gay time.
As someone who literally landed herself in the emergency room over a bad post-breakup dye job, it’s truly hard for me to pick just one hair disaster. I’d say 50% of the decisions I’ve made about my hair have ended very poorly.
But the first, most glaring thing that comes to mind when I think, specifically, “Worst Haircut Ever,” is the haircut I got in the winter of 1995. If you were present on this planet for the winter of 1995, you may be vaguely aware of a trend at the time known as “The Rachel.”
The winter of 1995 was also when my Dad died, so I was like, really not doing well in general and did not need to add to the pain with a terrible haircut.
Here’s a thing about me: I’m Jewish. My Dad wasn’t Jewish, though, so my hair is only half-Jewish. This means it’s like, frizzy and curly and poofy in some parts, and then straight and boring in other parts? In order to pull off a Rachel, you really need stick-straight hair, or at least access to a straightening iron AND a curling iron, and I’m not sure affordable straightening irons existed on the consumer market at that point.
It’s face-framing layers, but they are VERY aggressive. I think I looked okay when I left the salon, but looked very bad immediately thereafter. My face-framing layers just wanted to be poofy and curled at odd angles so intensely that they almost became like five different layers of haircuts atop one another. Due to other trends at the time, I basically dealt with this by wearing hats and/or taming the situation with a variety of Hello Kitty and days-of-the-week barrettes. It was a tragedy.
Archie Bongiovanni, Cartoonist
Some folks cut their hair off in one grand haircut. Not me! I took my damn time in getting a short cut and trimmed my hair into a multitude of different hair cuts, each cut getting shorter and shorter. Each cut was getting closer to the fade I actually wanted which meant a lot of in-between cuts. This is some sort of curly bob with some curly bangs. I’m not sure this hair is a disaster per se, but it does signify an in-between state for me. I was caught between what felt safe and gathering courage to get to where I wanted to be.
Sarah Sarwar, Business Director
I felt very whimsical when I said yes to “baby bangs” in the hairstylist’s chair. But uh, not so much later. Luckily I was home from college that summer so I didn’t have to see any of the cute girls I was crushing on.
Cameron Glavin, Cartoonist
Sometimes you’re a freshman in college and you FINALLY have the space to explore the many facets of queerness denied you at home. Sometimes you decide that one way to explore this queerness is in a dorm bathroom where you ask your friend to cut off all your hair*, BUT NOT TOO MUCH — you don’t want to completely look like a boy — just enough to look like you got into a fight with a mild-mannered weed-whacker. In the moment, you’re silently horrified. It looks terrible and you hate it. You look back at it and it still looks terrible and you hate it, but it ALSO looks like a big wobbly-baby-giraffe step toward a self-made Self.
*I asked her to do this SPECIFICALLY for a drag show we were going to be in. I thought this was a great whim to follow, and definitely in line with my personality. It was neither of these things.
A.E. Osworth, Contributing Writer
I paid $30 for a men’s haircut in NYC (that’s a small amount in this city) with a barber I had never met before and told him to do exactly the thing I always get. I get my part razored in, and he said this was no problem, but I knew I made a terrible mistake when I saw HIS face reacting to the way he’d just cut my part in. Sure enough, my part started normally, expanded in the middle, and then tapered back down to a normal width. It looked like a snake who’d just swallowed a rodent in its entirety. I did not cry in the salon and I still tipped him because I’m not a monster — but when I got home, I cried and called my mother? I’m adult and I’ve never cried over a haircut before and I don’t usually call my mom when I’m sad or frustrated or mad. She asked to see a photo of it. I sent her one and she asked me if the man hated queers, because this was clearly a hate crime.
Siobhan Ball, Contributing Writer
I was about three years old and a big fan of The Magic Roundabout, in which Florence had got a very fashionable bob cut. It remains a mystery to this day why the childminder and the hair dresser she’d brought me to “for a little trim” believed tiny child me when I insisted I was meant to get a bob. Apparently my parents were wonderfully horrified when they got home. I was also unimpressed as I hadn’t understood what a bob actually was and while my gender presentation swings around wildly, one thing I’ve been consistent on is long, long hair.
As I also mostly wore jeans and the tiny biker jacket my godfathers had got me at this age, everyone who’s ever seen the picture’s of little me says something along the lines of “I didn’t know you had a little brother.” Tiny me says smash patriarchal gender norms but also this hair cut was a mistake.
Molly Priddy, Staff Writer
The worst my hair ever was, in my estimation, were the couple years before I got the nerve to demand a shorter cut. I knew I didn’t feel comfortable with long hair, that I wanted something short and easy and that fits more to how masculine I feel inside. These photos are from when I’ve had haircuts from people in a small town who didn’t believe me when I said I wanted it short, who said you can’t be serious, are you sure? And I was, but I was afraid to say so, to say I wanted the weird thing. I also knew it would mean I’d be much more easily identifiably queer in a conservative place. But I’m proud to say now that I’ve taught no fewer than three hair stylists that it’s ok to cut a woman’s hair short-short, and that they can believe me when I say it’s what I want. That was big for me, so I particularly hate this era of hair, 2 B.C., or Before Confidence.