What It’s Like to Have a Buzzcut As a Woman

In October 2016, I shaved my head for the first time.

I wasn’t depressed, or getting over a breakup, or mentally unstable. I wasn’t trying to make a statement or prove a point. I was just curious. I had seen women with shaved heads and couldn’t get the idea out of my brain. I wondered what it would be like to not have to wash my hair, to not style it, to not even have to think about it. I own a pair of clippers for dog grooming purposes, and after many weeks of internal debates, I buzzed it.

I looked into the mirror and felt… pretty much nothing. Huh. I had expected to feel either elated, empowered, and like a total badass, or defeated, regretful, and ready to burst into tears. But I didn’t. I just felt like me, without hair. I had shown myself what I had known all along: my hair isn’t that important to me.

That buzz didn’t last long. I decided to grow it out since my sister was getting married the following spring; I didn’t want her to have to field questions about me at her wedding, or look back at photos and think “Wow, my sister is crazy.” I grew my hair out for about a year and a half, ending in a bob-ish cut, and then buzzed it again in April 2018. I’ve since decided to grow it out again (are you picking up on a pattern here?), but I’ve now had a buzzcut for over a year, all told, and I think I have some pretty good insight on what it’s like to be a buzzcut babe.

First of all, people will be SHOCKED. Just prepare yourself for that, and know that it won’t last long. My family loved it, but I got a lot of questions and comments and stares from people I don’t know all that well. Coworkers, bank tellers, work clients gasped, “Oh my gosh, Cate, what did you do?!” For a few weeks, the world spun around me. I felt like everyone was looking at me, and I hated it. Even though I liked the cut, knowing that everyone was staring at me made me feel insecure. A woman actually full out stopped in her tracks at the grocery store and looked at me, mouth agape. I stuck my tongue out at her and she quickly looked away.

Both times I’ve buzzed, that crazy period lasted just a few weeks. People who you know can see that the look is new and that prompts questions, and I think people that you don’t know (like that grocery store lady) can see that you maybe aren’t entirely comfortable with it yet, which invites attention. Or maybe as time goes on, you grow in your confidence, and you stop noticing the stares as much. Either way, it’ll smooth out.

Meanwhile, you get to experience all the cool feelings of a shaved head. Rain on your buzz? Amazing! A shower? Even more amazing! You’ll never grow tired of running your hand over your baby soft fuzz, and you’ll feel even better knowing that no amount of rubbing will mess your hair up! It’ll always look good! Plus, if you buzz in summer, your head will never feel cooler. Just sayin’. You’ll probably become way more into hats or at least spray sunscreen though, because scalp burns suck. Just trust me on this one.

Women will tell you how brave you are, how they love your look, how they could never do it. Quite a few men will tell you they like your hair too. I luckily never got any weird, fetishy comments, although I have read that some people do. Upkeep is minimal on a daily basis, but does require more maintenance. It’s the trade off of short hair. With long hair, you have to spend time daily washing it, drying it, and styling it, but you can go months without having to get a trim. With a buzzcut, you completely eliminate the daily need to deal with your hair, but you do need to buzz it on a weekly or bi-weekly basis to keep yourself from looking like a dandelion puff. I started with weekly buzzes, but pretty quickly decided to buzz it a little shorter so I could get away with bi-weekly. My favorite part of having a buzz is that it dries INSTANTLY after a shower. You just run a towel over it and boom. Dry.

My least favorite part of having a buzzcut was the fact that it made a statement. Look, I’m a feminist and a pretty vocal one at that, but I didn’t shave my head to make a feminist statement. I shaved it because I wanted to. It’s just a hairstyle. And isn’t that the endgame of feminism, really? That we can do what we do without judgement? I quickly learned that, as a society, we aren’t there yet. I know plenty of guys who shave their heads for summer, or who sport buzzcuts all year round, and never get any comment besides “Hey, cool hair,” and even that’s pretty rare. I buzz my hair, and I’m answering 50 questions before lunchtime. “Why did you cut off your hair?” Because I wanted to. “Did you cry?” No. “Are you growing it back?” Maybe, because I’m fickle with hair. “Is it cold?” Sometimes. “Do you still feel like a woman?” Hair doesn’t define gender, so yes. “Can I touch it?” No! Would you ask someone if it was okay to feel their lob? That’s just weird. (But I supposed I should appreciate people asking if they can touch it, because I have had a few people- strangers mind you- just touch my head without asking. Super uncomfortable.)

There are a lot of reasons to shave your hair, but just know this: you WILL be making a statement, by default. You’re showing people that gender norms can be thrown out the window. You’re showing people that even though hair is just hair, it isn’t really just hair. Our society puts so much value and reverence on women’s hair, and you are throwing all that under the bus. Even if people are okay with that, it still stirs the pot.

Should you buzz your head? If you want to. Seriously. If it’s not for you, it’s not for you. But if you have the inkling, just do it. Don’t hem and haw and analyze the situation to death. Just do it!

The first time I started to grow my buzz out back at the beginning of 2017, I distinctly remember thinking “I’m not done with this yet.” I wasn’t surprised that I buzzed it again, just over a year later. I have kept up that look for nearly a year, the longest I’ve stuck with any hairstyle. I don’t have the same “I’m definitely doing this again” feeling that I had last time, so I’m not sure what will happen. But I will say this: once you’ve done it, you’re no longer afraid of it. It becomes your secret weapon. Sick of spending time on your hair? Buzz it. Sick of spending money on your hair? Buzz it. Sick of your hair tickling your ears as you fall asleep? Buzz it. Sick of your neck feeling hot all summer? Buzz it.

I have loved my buzz dearly, and it’s probably the closest I’ve ever come to having part of my identity wrapped up in a haircut. I’m ready for something new, so it’s time to say goodbye. We may meet again. We’ll see.

Overflowing with love,

Cate

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