24 Jun 2013

A Shortcut to Spring

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The Bob and the Pixie Become the Spring Haircuts of Choice for Some Women

In early April, a week before she was due to leave for South Africa to run an ultramarathon, Cortney Harding decided to get her hair cut. Ms. Harding, who is 33 and lives in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, went from hair that hit just above the shoulder to a short jaw-length bob with bangs. “I wanted to feel the sun on the back of my neck,” she said.

She’s not the only one. After a punishing New York winter, many women are cutting their hair short as a way to finally embrace spring.

“People are sick of having scarves tangled in their long hair,” said Heather Shea, a senior stylist at the Parlour Brooklyn, a salon in Greenpoint. “They want to feel a fresh start. At least 25 percent of my clients have short hair right now, maybe 50 percent if you include bobs.”

Ms. Shea said that “people are bringing in pictures constantly.”

“Alexa Chung’s bob is really popular: she’s a very good representation of what a Brooklyn woman’s bob looks like, a little disarrayed and not so perfect,” she added. “Or for people who work in an industry who need to look more polished, we get Julianne Hough. We’re doing a lot of pixies. Michelle Williams is the No. 1 pixie cut.”

When Ann Heppermann booked an appointment with Ms. Shea to have her hair cut short a couple of months ago, she immediately turned to Google’s image search for inspiration. “I thought, ‘I’m 39, I shouldn’t be looking at pictures of Jennifer Lawrence,’ ” said Ms. Heppermann, a radio producer in Greenpoint.

But the fact that many celebrities have made not just the much-documentedcrop of Karlie Kloss but an outright chop can be emboldening. It is, perhaps, a retort to the arduous glamour waves that have become such a staple of reality television and blowout bars. “In America, they love their long hair,” said Julien Farel, who is French and whose eponymous salon is on the Upper East Side. “But all the big actresses have changed their hair. That’s the basis of the trend: ‘If they do it, I can do it.’ ”

In recent months, Taylor Swift has gone from hair down her back to a long bob that matches the signature hairstyle of her friend Ms. Kloss; Ms. Lawrence and Shailene Woodley have both opted for boyish short cuts; Kaley Cuoco chopped her long hair into a bob; and Pamela Anderson chose a Jean Seberg-like pixie cut that defied all previous notions of the actress’s style. Rihanna, an eternal hair chameleon, graced the cover of March Vogue with a textured pixie, and then wore a short bob and bangs to Paris Fashion Week. The spring Chanel, Oscar de la Renta, and Alice & Olivia campaigns all include the pixie.

And then there’s the signature short style of the actress Lupita Nyong’o, who was recently voted People magazine’s most beautiful person of 2014. Kenesha Sneed, 29, has had short hair for two years, with the sides and back shaved and the top longer. “I have a major girl crush on Lupita,” said Ms. Sneed, an illustrator in Los Angeles. “She represents the woman that can take on a short hairstyle and make it her own. That’s the look I’m eyeing at the moment, short and simple.”

Short cuts (above the shoulder on up) can work on anyone, said Morgan Willhite, the creative director for the hair care company Ouidad. “You can style it where you camouflage features you’re insecure about. If you have a high forehead, you can have fringe. If you have a prominent nose, you can shift the direction of the part. If you have a fuller face, you can have it longer.”

Ann Weiser had a specific vision of how she wanted her hair cut. “I had been keeping my hair long in front and short in back, but this new cut admittedly is inspired by Claire Underwood on ‘House of Cards,’ ” she said. “The first season. By the second season, it’s too short for me.” Ms. Weiser, 56, a real estate agent in NoHo, brought photos of Robin Wright (who plays Claire Underwood) and Tilda Swinton to Stephen Thevenot at the Eva Scrivo Salon in April. “Maybe it is the Claire Underwood effect, but you telegraph confidence and strength,” she said. “I felt so free and 10 years younger, and my husband said so, too. It’s such a chic look that even in a black turtleneck and jeans, you look like a secret agent.”

Another factor in short hair’s newfound ubiquity may be women moving away en masse from long beach waves with bleached tips. “People are cutting off the damaged ends from ombré highlights,” said Kate Hanley, a senior stylist and colorist at Takamichi Hair on the Bowery.

Chris Lospalluto, a stylist at the Sally Hershberger Salon, said that women “are over the long, hippie, Coachella hair. Of course it’s beautiful if you’re 18, but they’re looking for a style that’s not so bedhead-y and sexualized.” Short hair “is chicer and more sophisticated,” he said. “Clothing has become more polished, trends have calmed down, and people want to simplify.”

Lindsay Hood, 32, has worn her hair short for the last two years, with it being “Mia Farrow short” for much of the time. “It changed the way I dress,” said Ms. Hood, a product manager in Greenpoint. “I needed to look less like a nerdy librarian and dress cooler. So I started wearing sleeker clothes and more black.”

With the ’90s revival hitting fashion, it should be no surprise that it’s influencing beauty, especially with so many iconic short cuts of the era: Winona Ryder, Meg Ryan, Jenna Elfman. When Erica Cerulo, 31, cut several inches off her long bob last year, she was “picturing Esprit in the ’90s.” Ms. Cerulo, who lives in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn, and is the co-owner of a start-up fashion company, said that she has “been drawn to ’90s-style minimalism, whether it’s Jenni Kayne or Acne — clothes that would look right with Gwyneth Paltrow’s haircut when she was dating Brad Pitt.”

It’s about the allure of the tomboy, said Laurel Pantin, 28, the style editor at Lucky magazine, who has a chin-length blond bob. “You want to be the girl who doesn’t really care. That whole mood of the Levis 501s and the white T-shirt and messy, short hair on a girl is so sexy in a way that hasn’t been sexy in a while. It’s the ideal right now.”

While short hair on women has become commonplace, it still elicits a reaction from some men. “I’ve gotten a lot of comments from men who told me they have never been attracted to a woman with short hair before, and it surprises them,” said Maisie Wilhelm, 31, who has worn her hair in a pixie since 2010. Ms. Wilhelm, who is the brand manager for Daniel Boulud and lives in South Williamsburg, has fine-tuned the cut over the years so that it’s subtly feminine, with extra length around the ears and the hair at the nape of the neck given a soft, natural shape, not cut straight across like a man’s.

“There is this unspoken sisterhood when you see another woman with short hair who has made the decision to go against the crowd and do something so bold,” she said. “You meet eyes and exchange a knowing smile.”