If you've ever gotten a major haircut, you know that it can be a very powerful experience. Chopping off your locks can be life-changing, marking a pivotal moment, one you'll always associate with that specific haircut. It can be therapeutic, whether that means shearing inches off in response to a breakup or it can be shocking, forcing you out of your comfort zone. It can also be a meaningful mode of self-expression, much like a tattoo or a piercing.
That's precisely what's powering more women to ask for androgynous haircuts in 2018, says Sal Salcedo, LA hairstylist and co-owner of Nova Arts Salon. (You might recognize him from his Instagram-famous hair dusting technique.) Women are not just cutting their hair into super short bobs or shaving their heads to look cool and edgy — they are doing it because it is a way to feel strong and empowered in the political and social climate today.
"People are more open to embracing their masculinity and their femininity," Salcedo explains to Bustle. "Especially with the way society is right now, with the Hollywood industry and all the harassments being reported, women are like, 'F*ck that!' and feeling empowered [to go short]."
Kat Chen is one of those women. Chen tells Bustle that she's always toyed with the idea of going super short and felt like she was a "hot mess" in 2017, so what better time to start fresh than the new year? Salcedo cut Chen's hair in stages — first into a blunt bob and then going shorter and shorter until she had a gorgeous, but edgy bleached blonde pixie cut.
"I’ve always admired cool girls who weren’t your run-of-the-mill pretty," she says. "Bending stereotypical gender norms and expectations and playing with androgyny is empowering and fun. I’ve never felt more comfortable in my own skin [than I do with this haircut], and I feel incredibly magical and badass on top of that."
Lola, another one of Salcedo's clients, was also looking to make some sort of change in her life. She didn't identify with her long hair anymore and couldn't remember why she was holding onto her locks any longer. "I had a few conversations with Sal, and he didn't make a big deal of it," she shares. "He just understood, and helped me figure out the technical stuff, like working with my texture. The first chop felt very natural... I didn't have a moment of doubt that I was being honest with who I am."
For Sydney Schafer, the decision to go short was a no-brainer. She's always loved menswear and masculines styles and turned to Salcedo for a cut that was easy to style and made her feel good. "Basically I was focusing on what I, Syd really wanted to do to my hair — something that would make me feel the best," she tells Bustle. "The actual cut and my beauty inspiration was mid-90s [Johnny] Depp. To me, a timeless and genderless look."
Like Schafer, Alex Boldea loves the idea of a gender-neutral hairstyle. "I usually decide on a haircut that I can femme up or masc down, depending on how I feel or what I'm wearing," Boldea says. "And of course, something that gives me the ability to wake up and run out the door and still feel cute."
Women are not the only ones moving away from gender-conforming hairstyles. Salcedo tells Bustle that more of his male clients are deciding to grow out their hair, like they did in the seventies when men were responding to the rise of feminism in that era.
But we shouldn't be surprised that history is repeating itself, should we? After all, 2017 was undoubtedly the year of the woman. On Jan. 21, 2017, the Women's marches across the United States became the largest demonstration in our country's history and the second march, which occurred just last week, proved that the movement is still going strong. According to data gathered by Erica Chenoweth and Jeremy Pressman of @crowdcounting, between 1.6 and 2.5 million people protested across the country in Women's marches on Saturday, Jan. 20, 2018. TIME Magazine's Person of the Year was not just one, but a group of women, the "silence breakers" who spoke out against their assaulters and began the #MeToo movement. We have found ourselves in a new wave of feminism, and as a result, women are empowering themselves through bold, short hairstyles. If you've felt the urge to go chop off your locks and go short, there's no better time than now.