How short hair went from ‘undesirable’ to a major style statement
In late 2014, actor Sonakshi Sinha made news when she chopped off her tresses and got a shoulder-length bob. She was lauded by many: for a mainstream actor to go against conventions is unusual and gutsy. And because, as celebrity hairstylist Sapna Bhavnani puts it, “Long hair is like an ISI mark of all things ‘Indian woman’.”
Culturally, long hair is associated with beauty in India. Mothers and grandmothers typically oiled your hair and applied curd and eggs in the hope of thick, long hair. For the most part, it was associated with desirability; the unsaid norm was that potential suitors would be hard to come by if the daughter had a ‘modern’ (read: short) hairdo.
Since then, things have changed a fair bit. A poster girl for short hair and tattoos, Bhavnani says, “There’s definitely been an increase in the number of women sporting short hair. It’s a big change, and most people shouldn’t be impulsive about it. Yet, almost every day, I do a drastic long-to-short hair transformation.”
Look around you and, chances are, you’ll find a woman carrying off a pixie or a bob. Celebrity hairstylist Adhuna Akhtar, too, has been sporting short hair with different twists. “To me, a woman with short hair is somebody who’s strong, outgoing and adventurous,” Akhtar says. “I would hang up my scissors if I could convince every woman to walk into a salon, shout ‘Gimme short’ and dance out feeling liberated. What’s great about short hair is that you can tweak it to suit your bone structure, hair type and body proportion.”
And though more women are making their own choices, reasons for hesitation are still aplenty. “Many are afraid of negative reactions from people around them,” Avani Yashwin, owner of the salon, Happy in the Head, says. “Some think short hair won’t suit them, or that their parents or boyfriend might have a problem with it.” Yashwin would know. Arriving home once after getting a pixie cut, her mother was quick to remark: “I have a son”.
City resident and assistant curator at the Dr Bhau Daji Lad Museum, Ruta Waghmare (25) recalls how her friends and colleagues were shocked when she showed up sporting a pixie — a big change from her below-shoulder-length hair. “Nobody in my friend circle had short hair. Also, there’s a lot of pressure on some women to grow their hair long, especially before they are to get married,” she says. Waghmare herself has gone short a couple of times, the first being in 2011, and likes that it’s easy to maintain.
One celebrity to definitively change the notion that ethnic wear and short hair don’t go hand in hand is actor Mandira Bedi, of the noodle strap blouses and sari fame. Bhavnani, who’s responsible for giving Bedi that pixie, says, “I think it was a big step in the Indian sari scene. Seeing Mandira confidently carry a sari was inspirational to many.”
Thirty three-year-old writer Chaya Babu also went from almost waist-length to chin-length bob a couple of times. But before she decided to go pixie short, the comments that came her way included: “Don’t do that, it will ruin you”; “Men won’t like you,” and “Only very beautiful women can pull that off.” “That last one basically says: ‘…and you’re not one of them.’ I think, ultimately, I wanted to do it as a ‘screw you’ of sorts,” she says.
Haircare tips for short hair
* Get a haircut based on your natural texture. This is to avoid the use of excessive hair products. If your hair is straight and you get a bob or a pixie, it’ll work without much fuss. If you have curly hair and dream of a straight bob, then you need to maintain it.
* Don’t use too many heavy products like leave-in conditioners or serums that will leak onto the face as well and make everything look oily.
* Don’t texture your hair excessively if you have frizzy hair. It will cause more frizz.
* Be comfortable with your hair looking a bit messy. It adds more character.
— By Sapna Bhavnani, Owner, Mad-O-Wot