Reader Request: Short Hair and Personal Style Shifts


Jess popped this question into the suggestion box:

As someone who is considering going from long to short hair, a post on how your crop has changed your styling would be very interesting!

I chopped my hair in July of 2011 so we’re going on two years for the pixie. Initially, I got a lot of comments about how changing my hair was causing me to change my dressing choices, and I can’t say that I agreed. In fact, looking back I’ve found that I am making very similar styling choices now, as a short-haired gal, to the ones I made with longer locks. Behold:


They’re different necklaces, belts, and heels but I chose to wear the same dress with a shortish necklace, wide-ish belt, and heels. Today, I’d probably reach for similar options, perhaps selecting a larger necklace.


This skirt just looks best with button-front shirts! I’ve tried it with a few other options, but end up back at this pairing. In the short hair version, I went with a slightly bolder necklace, but the outfits are otherwise quite similar.


The jacket on the right is more structured and the sandals are less matchy than the green pumps, but I added a very matchy handbag and stuck with the formula of over-layer and heels.

These outfits may look different because the change in hairstyle is pretty drastic. But the styling choices are decidedly similar.

That said, I DO feel that I’ve shifted my style since cutting my hair. Some changes are just part of the style evolution process that we’re all wading through as we age, but some changes are directly related to the haircut and its visual repercussions. The most obvious ones are:

I wear more pants


This shift could really be a half-and-half situation. I’m wearing more pants now because I’ve finally found a few styles and cuts that I actually enjoy wearing, but I also feel like a shorter, more boyish, and slightly edgier haircut makes pants feel like a more natural choice. For me, not universally. I’ll never be a true tomboy or delve deep into the menswear look – I love my skirts and heels too much – but I am more inclined to wear pants now with a pixie than I ever was with my curls.

I wear large necklaces and small earrings


I wrote a bit about this phenomenon here, and explained that the pixie cut exposes my neck, so I’ve been inclined to do a lot chunky, statement-y necklaces. With such a close crop, doing big earrings AND a big necklace creates an imbalance. You can see all of both, and it just feels like a jewelry hogpile in my face/neck area. I do occasionally go for big earrings instead, as in the photo at the very top of this post, but it’s one or the other. And on most days, I do big necklace with small earrings. I feel like it’s a better balance for my features.

I do color extremes


By which I mean that I’ve been gravitating toward all-neutral mixes, as shown above, and color-on-color mixes which you can see below.


I attribute this to a general desire to look more definite, and maybe a bit more extreme. Although I’ll admit that neutral mixes are somewhat of a fallback plan for me. When all else fails, I know a big mess of neutrals is likely to look relatively pulled-together. But I’ve wanted to do more color-on-color mixes because they feel challenging and interesting, and even two years in I feel like my short hair is also challenging and interesting. Now, there have been loads of outfits with both colors and neutrals, too, but I’ve noticed a tendency toward all-color or all-neutral over time.

Now, this is me. I would NEVER infer that any other woman who went from longer to shorter hair would experience the same shifts or feel the same desires. No two women are alike, no two styles are alike, and no two people will react to a drastic change in hairstyle in the same way. For many, a move from long to short hair can be a choice made to commemorate a milestone or a change made in hopes of spurring other change. For me, it was an experiment that stuck. I am happier with how I look from top to tail, though I’m fascinated to find that the changes I’ve made to my personal style have been relatively minor.

How many of you are mulling a drastic hairstyle or hair length change right now? How many have MADE such a change recently? How do you think it would change your dressing patterns and styling choices? Or how have you seen it do so already?

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46 Responses to “Reader Request: Short Hair and Personal Style Shifts”

  1. Sarah

    When I cut all of my hair off (ten years ago now) I noticed a huge shift in my personal style. For me, in retrospect, the shift in hair length felt so radical that I became a lot more adventurous in my style. Ten years ago when I wanted to cut my hair pixie short, I got so many comments that basically suggested that women with short hair aren’t as attractive to men, aren’t as feminine, and that people would assume I was a lesbian because of my short hair. It was a tough decision to go ahead with it anyway and I think making that decision inspired me to be more adventurous and try more things.

  2. latonya

    I wore love for seven years. They were past my shoulders. In February I turned 48. I was ready for a change. In March I did the big can’t undo dreads. My love had become heavy. Love my short, Cooley hair. At first I kept some length on top. With each haircut, I’ve gone shorter.l love my short hair which is shorter than yours. I wear bigger earrings.they suit the shape of my face.

  3. Herbee

    How timely this is for me-this Thursday I have a colour change consultation with my hairdresser. I am planning on growing out my gray hair!

    I started going gray at age 23 and have been colouring it since then. Now, at (almost!) 52, I find that I need to touch up the roots every 2 weeks-from my roots I can tell that I am 100% silver/charcoal-and it’s really wearing on me and this month I said to myself “Why? WHY keep doing this??” So, I made the appointment and promised my self I wouldn’t freak out and cancel it!

    I’m going to assume that she’ll lighten my hair from the medium brown it is and possibly add some blonde highlights and maybe keep adding highlights every month or so until it blends with the silver and it’s all grown out? On one hand, it would be great to just go gray right away, but on the other hand, I might need that adjustment time to get used to this!
    I think I will probably have to change my makeup colours, but I hope my clothing will still “go” with the gray! Not that having to buy new clothes is bad…..!

    Wish me patience through this journey! : )

    • Queen Lucia

      Congrats on your decision! I did this two years ago and will never color my hair again. Similar to you, I started going gray in my 20s but had colored since I was 15. At 41, the upkeep and potential beauty pitfalls (too harsh color, fading, ROOTS) made me re-evaluate. I got a short pixie and had it trimmed every four weeks – the layers made everything blend and I didn’t get a line of roots. After about 6 months, the transformation was complete! I have a nice silvery color and get tons of compliments on it. I have definitely paid more attention to my style choices and have incorporated edgier pieces – it’s as if I let my hair color (red) carry the style load for so long and now I’m free. I never wore white for instance – thought it didn’t look good on me – but now I wear it a lot.

      Good luck to you!

      • Herbee

        Thanks for the support!! Congrats on taking the plunge yourself! I look forward to being ME! : )

    • Kelly

      Me too! I stopped coloring my hair last July. Just wanted to get off the merry-go-round. I have always loved salt and pepper hair and I suspected that maybe I had arrived (at age 48!) Yep! I love my hair. I went cold turkey and just tried to keep a good cut. (One surprise: I had forgotten how very dark my natural “pepper” color is – very close to black.)
      Reactions have been interesting: men mostly LOVE it and have actually gone out of their way to say so, including dear hubby; women are much more along the lines of “is everything alright!? What are you doing to your hair!?”
      Finding my peppers to be so very dark has affected some of my color choices, but not much. I was already a big fan of vivid colors and I find they still work well for me. One style change hasn’t happened yet, but it will. I am trying to decide on a great hairstyle to really show off my new (non) color. I am leaning towards a pixie (it’s already short but without enough personality in the style – yet!

  4. madam0wl

    I 1/2″ buzzed all but the bangs off about 6 months ago and I have noticed I’m dressing a little more tomboy / surfer girl than before. I wear my vintage dresses way less than before. But I feel like it’s more of a general style evolution than just due to my hair. Also after a strong year of running and yoga, my body has become more toned, so I’ve been wearing shorter shorts and smaller t-shirts, etc. Probably my haircut was more of an accessory change to go along with that evolution, rather than the other way around.

    However, I do wear hats/caps/hoods more often. That’s because once the buzz grows out to >1″ then bedhead rears it’s ugly head and I’ve found it’s more difficult to hide flat spots and cowlicks with short hair vs. long hair. So if I’m not showering right away, I’ll just pull a beanie on and be done with it.

    I very rarely wear belts, necklaces, brooches or earrings anymore, but there was only a brief time when I WAS wearing those (when I was a TA in grad school). I have felt more of an urge to dig through my stuff to find dangly earrings though, but haven’t gotten around to doing it yet.

    Also, in contrast to how you say you may be dressing more extreme, I’d say that sometimes I’ve found myself dressing more simple / classic / prepster-y. Like just some Keds, neutral shorts and a b/w striped boatneck, which compared to previous style incarnations is a downright lowkey incognito “mom jeans” type look for me. As if I feel my hair is enough of a statement that I feel a little too overboard/showy if I’m also wearing an “interesting” outfit on top of it all. But that may come down to my mood / confidence level on a particular day, because just the other day I wore a loud dress w/ belts, etc. Who knows.

    One style thing related to long hair that I miss, but very rarely, is maybe being able to “let it down” and have long loose waves fall over a shoulder for supposedly romantic looks. (Which may go hand-in-hand with not wearing vintage dresses as much?) That veil of mysterious femininity is harder to pull off (or hide behind) with short hair, but like I said, it’s not often I miss it. Having less to hide and/or feeling less girly is just another piece of my evolution I guess?

    Plus, a nice big floppy straw shade hat does the same trick. *sips drink and looks up at you coyly from under the brim before flinging it away to hop in the pool with flattened spikey hair*

  5. Tanit-Isis

    I love long hair, but my hair does not love being long. It’s been about eight years now since I last cut it short. I don’t think it affects my style much, as I’ve had short hair on and off since I was twelve, and I still cycle between casual-boring and excessively fancy, depending on my mood. I can think of some funky, sharp-edged looks that would’ve felt quite a bit different with my long hair, though.

  6. A.B.

    I’ve had short hair for a while but just recently went with a pixie cut. I’ve found that with more “masculine” hair that I tend to dress in a more “feminine” style. More florals, more accessories, more dresses (also because it is getting to be unbearable hot here) and more attention paid to my skin care regimen because my face is more prominent.

  7. AnaJan

    I have a naturally curly hair, which can be considered my signature sign now. Ages ago I shifted from long locks to a really short tomboyish hairstyle. And it did change my style a LOT. I think I became more bold as a short haired, and girlish outfits looked so wrong all of the sudden. Annie Lenox became my style model with her androgenic appearance. One of my close friends said that the short hair really suited my personality and the style I had discovered back then was so me.
    Meanwhile I’ve grown the hair and now I have beautiful curls, but the bold style stayed. I don’t do as much androgenic looks as I did, but I think the first shift from long to short hair was an eye opening experience. My sartorial choices have changed, but my love for contrasts remained.
    Every once in a while I’m considering chopping off the hair. But it takes forever to grow it, especially when you have a fuzzy hair, like I do.

  8. heather

    I,ve had both long and short hair. Short is significantly more work. It sounds counter-intuitive but I can be out the door in less than five minutes with my long hair. short took a lot more styling.

  9. Annie

    Wow! Your long hair looked so much more natural and pretty! It’s a shame you’re fighting the natural texture of your hair so much!

  10. JB

    I just cut my hair short last week, so I haven’t had a lot of time to transition yet, but I would say I’m more like A.B. than some of you others in that I’m leaning toward more feminine styles to balance out what might be seen as more masculine hair. But I’ve never ever been a tomboy, or dressed like one, so that would be a big switch for me – and the new ‘do is a big enough change for now, thanks!

  11. Amy M

    It’s a matter of taste, I guess. I really like the short hair better. The long hair seemed a bit untamed and I bet was totally frustrating in the humidity. I’m sure her natural texture was fighting her!

    We can all have our opinions, but everyone gets to choose what they want to do with their hair, right?

  12. poodletail

    Another great post, Sal. When I was younger I wore my hair long, mostly in a topknot as I danced with a ballet company and, well, that’s just the way it was. I probably did dress in a more traditionally feminine way then – was it the mode at that time? Maybe.

    I’ve always preferred slacks and pants and now my hair is buzzed. It suits me and I feel the most Myself than I ever have. As a small person I prefer small jewelry with a few wonderful exceptions.

  13. Rachel

    I’ve always stuck with long hair because of exactly what Heather was saying. I am a low maintenance soul to my core and typically get a haircut/cut my own hair once a year. I’ve cut it short before, but usually wind up growing it out again and during the growing out I look like Shaggy from Scooby-Doo.

  14. Sarah

    I turned in my shoulder length, pin straight hair for a pixie a little over a year ago and I have never looked back. I work in a professional office environment, and I feel like my short hair allows me to wear more conservative clothing without looking too stodgy or frumpy. Bring on the tweed and wool suits–my short hair cut makes these styles look younger, more fun, and more modern. I don’t think I could have pulled off these looks with my longer hair.

  15. Bella Q

    I prefer you with short hair- you come off as smart sassy and more confident. Also there is a chic-ness to your outfit choices since you made the style cut. Possibly this is just experience. You know your body, and your style better now than ever. Whatever hair length, its good to see the bright wattage smile has not dimmed. Def your best accessory.

  16. Laurel

    The only distinct style difference I have when my hair is short vs long is that I tend to wear more makeup when my hair is short. Short hair definitely makes your face stand out more, so I prefer to have just a little more mascara/color/whatever.

  17. Kaisa

    I have all kinds of different hairstyles ever since I was a teenager. I have noticed that the hair color itself influences a bit of clothing choices ‘cos well, some things look better with blond and some better with red. But all in all I think hair and style change just over time and are not necessarily interlinked. I’ve changed my style without changing my hair and the other way around.

    xx Kaisa

  18. Osprey

    I go back and forth between buzzed and shoulder length. With short hair my grooming becomes more feminine (thinner eyebrows and more noticeable makeup) but my clothes are more androgynous.

  19. Megan Mae

    I changed my style when I went shorter. But it made me feel edgy even when my outfits were not. Sometimes hair can be the defining point of your style that sets everything off. There’s nothing wrong with that at all.

    Short hair is impossibly easy for me. I don’t spend forever dyeing or straightening or messing with it. Honestly I spend maybe two minutes a day worrying over it.

  20. Aunt Vixen

    Heh. I see that since I made my earlier comment, the haircut date has changed from July 2010 to July 2011. So I withdraw my query. 🙂

  21. chrissy

    For most of my life, I had waist-length, straight hair. A couple of years ago, I decided to try it short (similar to the pixie cut). People raved about how great it looked, and I also thought it looked very nice–but I couldn’t stand the way it FELT. Now I’m in the process of growing it out–not to waist-length, but definitely at least shoulder length.

  22. jenny

    Just wondering if you ever regret the tattoos or feel they distract/take away from the otherwise pulled together professional look?

  23. WideCurves

    Since my hair is excessively thick, I find short hair to be “neater” and easier to manage – and much less time consuming.

    I love having short hair, except when it is time to dress up – then I’m often left wishing I could do “more” to style it for that outfit…do something special. I wish there were more examples of how to style short (and I mean pixieish) hair for evening/after 5.

    Sometimes I pass on clothes because I feel a particular piece needs more balance up top – bigger hair, so to speak. When hair is short…there’s no way to make it bigger (unless I wear a wig or hat…and I don’t).

  24. Annabeth

    I chopped my hair short about four years ago; since then it’s been every length from a buzz cut to chin-length, but I doubt it will ever be long again. Since then I’ve made a ton of style changes, though only a few that I think are related to the haircut. Those are:

    1) Big and/or dangly earrings. I see your point re: not having too much up top, but as I tend to shy away from big necklaces due to being fairly busty, the big earrings are the winner! Though really it’s the dangly quality I like the most.

    2) Dressing in a more classically feminine style: More skirts, ruffles, etc. I think I felt like this came across as girly to the point of looking juvenile before; now that I have the counterbalance of my short-short hair, I feel like I can indulge more freely and still look mature and polished overall.

    3) Bolder glasses frames. Not exactly sure why, here! But I no longer try to minimize the impact of glasses on my face; I guess it seemed pointless once I had short hair. Now I wear very bold frames in vivid colors or stark black. For the first time in my life, I get compliments on my glasses! Maybe I should have tried that long ago, regardless of hair length.

  25. Patricia

    I’ve got medium-thick curly hair and wide hips I need to balance, but I’ve wanted shorter hair for a LONG time. Problem is, I really like being able to let it air-dry because it curls SO nicely naturally or with a little bit of product… I’m considering a bob (a few inches off my shoulders– it’s about two inches past my shoulders right now) but I really don’t know what would be cute and feasible.

    • Shaye

      Patricia, it sounds like we have similar hair, figures and flattery priorities. For many years I wore a very short bob – about jaw length – and LOVED it. Even people who nearly wept when I told them I was cutting my long hair agreed that it was adorable and looked great on me. I did a side part and a little bit of layering. It was really similar to a 1930s curly bob, but with natural curls instead of aggressively stylized pin curls. It was so easy to take care of and it looked great every day. The thickness of my hair gave it enough volume to balance my hips, and keeping it jaw length instead of super-short kept it from poofing out. I definitely prefer the short bob to shoulder or past-chin length.

      You can approximate what you’d look like with shorter hair by pulling your hair back to the nape of your neck with one hand and then using the other hand to pull it out and down until it’s at the length you’re considering. That might help you decide!

  26. Chris

    I love short hair on you. It suits you perfectly and highlights your face better than the longer style did.

  27. Joni

    I just got a very short cut last week. I like to change my hair often. I’ve had hair of all different lengths, I just like variety and appreciate my hair at different lengths. I don’t find that it changes my clothing choices although I think it makes me look a little more edgy. Last week’s cut has been at least in part inspired by becoming a mom. Post-partum has done a number on my hair and its much easier for me to style a short do. Plus less hair for little one to pull! Motherhood itself has changed my style somewhat. I need to wear tops that allow me to breastfeed and have sworn off dry-clean only items for now.

  28. Veronica

    I’ve never gone pixie short but I’ve gone decently short from about bra length. It did mean a bit more work for me because my hair is wavy, depending on it’s mood. So sometimes I’d have to spend more time flat ironing it or blow drying it. Now it’s long and I’ve finally learned to pin it in a bun.:) Pinterest is amazing for ideas.:)

  29. Wendalette

    Maybe it’s just me, but it seems that your style has also gotten a little more…body-con? Lots more fitted/tailored since you went short.

    • Sally

      I’ve always preferred fitted pieces to volume so it’s not something I think of as a major shift. But I could be more focused on them now.

  30. Sue

    Well to be honest I do “miss” your long hair (in quotes b/c since I don’t know you, I can’t really miss anything about you I suppose). But I can see with it being so curly that it would be difficult to deal with. How long does it take for you to get the smooth slicked down pixie look? My hair is long and straight so when it’s long it’s really not hard to deal with.
    To jenny: I have lots of tattoos, way more than Sal. I have a full sleeve as well as others so they’re pretty visible unless I take great care to cover them. IT does make me look less professional if I let them hang out. But I can cover them, and I do, every day at work. I don’t think “looking professional” is the end goal of everyone’s lives. Only one of Sally’s tattoos can be seen when she’s dressed in pants. I always find it funny people are so concerned with that, but really, not everyone needs/wants to dress professional. I’m a nurse and most of my patients would never know I’m tattooed, except for when my jacket rides up a bit. So it’s really not a big deal. I get if you’re 18 getting your first tattoo maybe you should keep your options open, but at some point you know yourself well enough to know if you’re going to ever be in a super professional field.

    • Sally

      It takes a little more than 5 minutes to blow dry and another 5 to flat-iron. Far more than I spent on curls, but still not too bad!

  31. Trillium

    Nice topic!

    I’ve had super short hair for a very long time, so it’s hard to say if my style has changed because of it, but there are some things I’m definitely conscious of, because my hair is short. I’m generally conscious of not looking too “manly”. I’m not super girly either, but I try to style myself in a way that is definitely feminine, even if I’m just wearing something super comfortable. (an off shoulder sweatshirt, as opposed to a plain crewneck, for example, or tees cut in a more feminine way, as opposed to a regular boxy tee) I do wear a lot of dresses but they are more casual. I actually love a menswear-inspired look, but for me it needs to have feminine touches. I also wear a lot of hats, because sometimes I just don’t feel like styling my hair. Short hair isn’t as low maintenance as it may seem, you really need to style it, or at least I do for it to look presentable. I tend to go for conductor-style or bucket hats over baseball cap types, unless I’m doing something outdoors. I also have a love for all things makeup and nail polish! So usually I am wearing something on my face or nails, although I will appear in public bare-faced too. 😉

  32. Sonja

    Sally, it’s interesting that you feel more comfortable in pants and tomboyish looks with shorter hair, with me it’s just the other way round. As someone who has grown up as a tomboy, one of my biggest fears (stylewise) is to come across as too feminine. I’ve worn my hair close-cropped (think Sinead O’Connor) for most of my adult life, and feel comfortable wearing feminine clothes with this haircut. But as soon as my hair grows even a tiny bit, it softens my features so much that I feel much too feminine and soft, even bland, so I go for edgier and more masculine looks.

  33. Katrin

    Last year I treated myself to a haircut at an upscale salon instead of the cheapie places I usually used. I was amazed at the difference! Not only did I love my stylist (I never understood people’s loyalty to specific stylists before – I do now!); the very short cut also looked decent for a much longer time as it grew. Of course I couldn’t afford these salon visits nearly as often – and so I decided to start growing my hair out in favor of quality over quantity.

    Now it’s grown out into a chin-length bob (I’ve actually switched back & forth between this and spiky-short for many years). It’s low-maintenance and I can get away with cheaper haircuts as well as less frequent.

    Style-wise, though, I have noticed some differences. Long dangly earrings (of which I have a lot) just don’t look right with straight blunt hair. Scarves, hats and headbands don’t work either – they look more like bad-hair-day coverups than intentional fashion accessories. I’m wearing the same clothes as I did a year ago, but I feel like a less interesting person in them. I think the real issue is that my hairstyle right now is safe and conservative – not inherently a bad thing, but next to it much of my wardrobe looks too casual (where it would read very differently with shorter, textured hair and more accessories).

    I wonder if I’m just getting restless (especially because I can’t afford the good salon right now), and if I’ll like my hair better once it’s long enough to put up and style differently. But then I also wonder if it’s a misguided reaction to socio-cultural pressure: we see plenty of short-haired women (looking great!) in real life, but in the media? Almost none. Am I feeling insecure enough lately to be manipulated by images of what hair a woman “should” have? Am I growing my hair for myself or trying to be someone I’m not?

    Thank you, Sally, for making me think about this enough to put it into words. A haircut may be in order soon to get back to the “real me”.

  34. MerelyMarie

    The pixie cut certainly has it’s charm! I love it. I’ve grown to love having short hair. As I get older, I’m noticing that I want to spend less time on my hair, as well as, finding something to wear. Both things that I used to be quite fussy about.

  35. Beck2005

    My hair went from shoulder length & curly to a pixie cut when my now six-year-old was one. Best thing I ever did for myself. So much of how I carried myself was involved with how I felt I looked (at least how I thought I looked) that once I got my hair to a place that looked routinely chic there was no looking back. We have such heat and humidity where I live that what started as a cute, curly bob in the morning would turn into a frizzy mess by the afternoon and that doesn’t inspire confidence. My style did change because of the pixie – I bought clothes in colors & jewelry that made a statement because I didn’t mind being noticed. I finally felt like I could look stylish and not be a slave to the weather. Several women have stopped me in public and asked who does my hair (some even taking pictures of me to show their stylists). And that change has been wonderful for me! (For the record, once my hair was shorter the curl didn’t really have to be tamed – a little product, a quick blow dry and I’m out the door. On days when I don’t shower and bed-head is an issue, I just spritz with some water and blow dry for a minute and I’m back to presentable).

  36. Shaye

    I always notice that I gravitate toward more traditionally feminine styles when my hair is long, and more structured styles when my hair is short. I’ve gone back and forth with hair length since a young teen and my style has always changed that way. I think that’s partly reflected in styles through the decades, as well – decades where short hair was popular tended to favor more structured or boxier styles, and vice-versa.

  37. Galena

    I’ve always been more “girly” in my fashion. I’m much more comfortable in skirts/dresses than shorts in hot weather, I wear a lot of jewelry, and I love a cute cardigan. I often dress up more than the rest of my friend group (I’ll be in a sleeveless knit dress or skirt/top combo while they’re in tees and shorts), but they don’t care and neither do I.

    I recently chopped off my hair (a cut very similar to yours), and the only style changes I’ve noticed are I tend to reach for smaller, more delicate earrings now rather than the large danglers I used to love (you can see the smaller ones much better now that my ears are visible so I don’t feel like I need a huge earring), and I’ve started wearing hats! I have a wider-brimmed hat (about 2 inches, so not a huge sunhat) for better neck/ear coverage if I’m going to be out in the sun all day, and a little fedora for a “jauntier” look and less effective coverage. I would never have worn, much less bought, a hat before I cut my hair. No, I don’t really know why.