August 9, 2010
just a thought – hair is a conscious statement
Why Shinan picked me “My hair looks expensive?”
… made me do a double take. I asked her in regards to “it girl” social status: How much does hair have to do with it? I remember your comment for the worthy 30 bit, and I remember thinking that quip wasn’t just a quip – hair seems to play a very significant role in fashion blogland too. Sarah Nicole replied:
Ha! Well, I was just being sardonic, but you’re right–hair is a conscious statement.
Ever since I committed to growing out my hair this year, I’ve been thinking about the connection between hair, personal brands, social status and fashion identity. The decision to grow out was the first real deliberate decision I’ve made in regards to hair since I chopped off my waist-length hair at the age of 14. Since then, I’ve had my hair cut in a variety of styles in a haphazard, impulsive fashion, until a stage in 2008-2009 where I was getting hair school haircuts with little to no consultation with my stylists. Random acts of hair are incredibly reckless way to play with your self esteem and identity, especially when you have chosen to make a career in an industry where image is so critical. It took one disastrous cut to force me to my senses.
I am aware that it sounds incredibly flip to place so much importance on hair, but here’s the thing: HAIR IS CRITICAL. Especially in fashion, and even more so when you are creating an online identity.
Here’s why: your first impression for a lot of people is a 48 pixel by 48 pixel square. It should be of your face because as I’ve mentioned before, human beings have an irresistible urge to connect with faces. But lets face it – at that scale your features and expression are reduced to a mere suggestion of information. The biggest feature on your head is your hair – and like it or not, your choices about colour and shape are a signal about who you are. If you have any ambitions at all, that signal should be a conscious one.
I first began to notice the connection between hair and social status, both online and in real life, when I noticed that Gala Darling and Nubby Twiglet made the move from livejournal to fashion blogland in 2007. Here were two personal style bloggers with a considerable following and a strong point of view.
Nubby has a very clear, consistent visual identity, part of which is her striking, carefully-parted, long black hair. It suits her perfectly (and graphically) and she rarely varies it – she is someone who understands the power of a signature look (learned at a young age).
Gala’s hair changes frequently and dramatically which suits someone whose blog mission is all about personal transformation. She chooses bright colours, switches it up with extensions, accessorizes it with a collection of mouse ears, bunny ears, flower crowns, and other oversized, attention-grabbing adornment. Descriptions of Gala often mention her hair in the first or second sentence – it is a commanding tool that draws people to her writing work, and sometimes distracts them from it. Her recent abandonment of pink was one of those telling little moments in the evolution of an online identity. She wrote:
I really miss having pink hair sometimes, even though I am pleased to be a blonde. I don’t know if I will ever go back to pink hair, because I feel like it does all your talking for you. Does that make sense?
In early 2010, when the fashion industry trend towards celebrification of teenaged fashion bloggers was in full swing, there was another moment worth noting when it comes to selecting an unnatural hair colour, when Tavi of Style Rookie went blue. This was an imitative move, done with the same guileless quality that Tavi does everything. She collected examples of what she wanted and went there – like a lot of kids, unnatural hair colour is a rebellion against your genetics (and your parents) – and in Tavi’s case, it was a deliberate visual entrance into the grown-up club of the incredibly fashionable just before she went to the couture shows. It seems like instinctively, Tavi understands that what’s on your head will get people talking for you or against you. The bow hat fiasco just amplified that lesson for all of us. Now that Tavi’s hair is red (and without her parent’s permission) it is clear that she’s taking control of her own head and her own narrative.
So sometimes hair is signature, and sometimes it is mutable, and sometimes it is absent. In Toronto, the fashion blogger with the most distinctive head is Anita of I want – I got whose signature look is bald. It completely suits her style which is modern, assertive, unpretentious, with a complete lack of patience for bullshit. I don’t believe it is a coincidence that Anita’s blog has the most powerful clout of any fashion blog in town. The same sense of identity and confidence that makes her such a striking woman allows her to be all the more influential.
From Suzy Menkes to Diane Pernet to Betsey Johnson to Rick Owens, hair statements are clearly not just important for models, regardless of the fashion career you’ve chosen, hair choices can serve to amplify visibility, and ultimately, status and the possibilities status confers.
Now that I’m being deliberate about my hair, I very specifically am asking for haircuts that don’t look like haircuts. As I’ve become more confident in expressing my identity visually, I know that my identity is a bit more nuanced and rather than making bright bold statements with cuts and colours, there is a certain quality of anti-statement which I feel is defining of what I do, from the contrary name of the blog to my obsession with archetypal rather than unique clothing.
How has hair affected your own choices as an online persona or as a follower of online personas? Is it conscious or unconscious?