5 Tips for Rocking Short Hair Like You Mean It

An ode to the post-wedding chop

photos of women with short hair

The first time I cut my hair short, I was thirteen-years-old. I chopped over a foot of hair and donated it in honor of my sister, who had passed away from cancer the previous year. Cutting my hair was one of my earliest brushes with feminism, and one of the most empowering things I’ve ever done (try being the only kid in your freshman class with a pixie cut, much to your new boyfriend’s dismay.) In the past fifteen years, I have had just about every short hairstyle imaginable, from shoulder-length long bobs (or “lobs” as Pinterest would have it) to super short side-shaves and faux hawks. Some styles were more successful than others (pixie cuts should never be feathered y’all), but suffice to say, I think I’ve finally nailed this thing down.

When Pantene Beautiful Lengths approached us about this year’s National Donate Your Hair Day event, asking if we wanted to be involved, I knew I wanted to write about the more practical side of cutting and donating your hair. Because while my short hair journey may have started from an emotional place, these days it’s really about having an awesome haircut (and maybe still a little about feminism.) If you’re not already familiar with Pantene Beautiful Lengths, you can read all about our partnership with them right here, including why it’s a cause very near and dear to my heart. The short version: Pantene Beautiful Lengths makes and distributes free wigs for women who have lost their hair to cancer. The wigs are made possible by donations from folks like you and me (you only need eight inches of hair to donate, and all of the hair they receive goes straight to making wigs; it’s never sold or otherwise redistributed.) Last year alone, dozens of APW readers ponied up and helped contribute to making at least six wigs (that we know of), and every month I get a new email or Facebook message featuring someone’s ponytail with a note about how APW inspired them to make the cut (we’ll have an essay on that very subject from our own VeganKitchenDiaries coming soon. Get excited!) So, since you guys helped make last year such a resounding success (personally fulfilling a dream I’ve had since I first donated my hair over a decade ago), we thought we’d pay it forward with some tips and tricks for going short.

1. MAKING THE CUT DOESN’T MEAN YOU HAVE TO GO SHORT SHORT. As evidenced by just about every celebrity this year, cutting off eight inches of hair just as easily means you can try this season’s trendiest haircut, the long bob. And because it’s 2014 and the hair gods are shining down on us, the long bob looks great with just about every hair texture, as evidenced by some of my favorite styles below:


Adam Katz Sinding via Le 21ème

Jason LaVeris/Getty Images via Pop Sugar


Getty Images via Harpers Bazaar

2. JUST IGNORE THE “BEST HAIRCUT FOR YOUR FACE SHAPE” STUFF. THAT’S NOT YOUR JOB TO FIGURE OUT. IT’S YOUR STYLIST’S. I think the number one concern holding women back from cutting their hair is simple: what if it looks terrible? What if my face is too round/long/short/wide for short hair? Which I totally get. The last time I went in for a drastic cut was just after our wedding. I had been growing my hair out for two years and was suddenly… scared. The truth is, most women look smokin’ hot with short hair. The key is to find a style you like to inspire your cut, and a stylist you trust to make it look awesome on you. A good stylist will know how to modify your inspiration so that it suits your face and hair’s texture. As for the too round/too long/too short/too wide for short hair nonsense? Patently untrue. If you look good with your hair pulled back in a ponytail or in an updo, then you look good with short hair (and for my fellow plus size ladies looking for hair inspiration this tumblr has a ton of before and afters that have me convinced everyone should have short hair.) Bonus tip: Even though I’ve had short hair since forever, I still get a little panicky about how my hair is turning out while I’m still in the stylist’s chair with my smock on. So I don’t judge the final look until I’ve got a pair of earrings in, and a regular shirt on my back. Smocks are unflattering, y’all.


Margie Plus


Nadia Aboulhosn

Want to see how long and short hair looks on the same person? Check out this, this and this post from plus size model Nadia Aboulhosn

3. THAT SAID, SHORT HAIR DOES TAKE SOME MAINTENANCE. The shorter you go, the more upkeep your hair is going to take. Hair grows fast. Super short hairstyles (think pixie) require trims every six to eight weeks to avoid the dreaded mullety Florence Henderson stage that comes from when the nape of your neck grows out faster than your bangs. But there are ways to make it work without breaking the bank! First, ask your stylist if they offer free bang or neck trims. You don’t usually need a full-on haircut every six weeks, just some general shaping and cleaning up around the edges. Some stylists will do this for free (mine does. Thanks Yesenia!) Also, while I find it is usually worth shelling out the cash for a good “base” cut (especially if you’re going from long to short), ask your salon if they have assistants or trainees who are available to do upkeep. My old salon used to offer trainee cuts for $20. And finally, if the idea of regular upkeep is super daunting, just ask your stylist to take the back up shorter than they normally would. I naturally have a low hairline, so this trick usually affords me a few extra weeks between cuts. Or you can always opt for a short hairstyle that’s more uniform in length, like a bob. Bonus: if you want a bob haircut and you live in a major metropolitan area, you can also get free haircuts from really reputable salons that are training new stylists in classic techniques (I used to go to the Aveda and Bumble and Bumble salons on training day when I was a broke college kid. Check Craigslist for model calls.)

High Maintenance: The layers in this haircut, the short pixie length, and the pastel color mean upkeep every six weeks at most. Image via Refinery29.


Low Maintenance: The evenness of this blunt bob means it will grow out really nicely over time, slowly turning into one of the lobs featured above. Bonus: sideswept bangs don’t need as frequent trims as more blunt bangs. Image by Fred Duval/Getty Images via PopSugar.

4. TRENDY STYLES LOOK GREAT ON SHORT HAIR. Pastels? Baby bangs? Ombre? Yes, yes, and yes.

Julia Robbs via Refinery29


Joslyn Blair via Elle.com



5. STYLING TOOLS (and tutorials) ARE YOUR FRIEND. The biggest mistake I made when I first cut my hair short was refusing to take the 5-10 minutes each morning to style it. You know, with tools and stuff. While a good hairstyle should really do most of the work for you, a little heat and product will make a huge difference (for me it’s not even about how it looks, it’s just that my hair listens better after I’ve thrown some gunk in it.) Product is also protection; you don’t ever want heat to touch your hair without a barrier (what kind you need will depend on your hair’s texture and how you like to style it. Your stylist will be able to make a recommendation.) The good news is that since your hair will be short, you won’t end up using much product, so it can last forever (a medium sized bottle usually lasts me six months with everyday usage). If this is your first time going short, ask your stylist to set aside a few minutes at the end of your appointment for a mini lesson on styling.

1. BaByliss Nano Titanium Portofino Dryer ($139.95) 2. Style your long bob five different ways using this flat iron tutorial from Refinery29 3. Ultra CHI Pop Pink Iron ($99.95) 4. Learn how to style a pixie cut via The Beauty Department 5. Pantene heat styling products, available at drugstores ($5-$10)

National Donate Your Hair Day is coming up on November 22nd this year. So if you got married this summer, and have been thinking of making a drastic change to your hair, here’s how you can participate in Pantene Beautiful Lengths and use your haircut to make someone else’s life a little bit better:

  • In order to donate your hair, you need at least eight inches of unbleached, non-dyed, non-chemically treated hair. If your hair is grey, you can still donate, so long as the grey doesn’t make up more than 5% of your hair.
  • If you live in LA, NYC, or Miami, you can sign up to receive a free haircut at one of Pantene’s National Donate Your Hair Day events. Click here for salon details.
  • Have your stylist pull your hair into a ponytail (or multiple ponytails if you have a lot of hair), then snip! Once your ponytail has been cut, mail it to:

Pantene Beautiful Lengths
Attn: 192-123
806 SE 18th Ave.
Grand Rapids, MN 55744

  • When you’re done, tell us! Take a picture of your cut and tag @apracticalwedding on Instagram with the hashtag #APWPBL.
  • If you’re not ready to make the cut just yet, Pantene Beautiful Lengths accepts donations year round.

Watching the APW community rally around a cause like Pantene Beautiful Lengths has been one of the highlights of my career here. Getting to see the coolest group of women on the internet rocking amazing short hair alongside me? That’s just the cherry on top.

Don’t miss National Donate Your Hair Day on November 22nd! Click here for more details about how you can participate, get a free haircut, and help make wigs for women battling cancer. And for those of you who have already made the cut, share your best tips below!

This post was sponsored by Pantene Beautiful Lengths. Thank you PBL for helping make the APW mission possible! Click here for more information about Pantene Beautiful Lengths and how your donation helps women who are battling cancer.

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