The Breakup Haircut: It's a Thing, but Why?

Hallie Gould
PHOTO:

Urban Outfitters

The "breakup haircut" is a cultural ethos that is said to be just as cathartic as it is defining. Just like a movie-montage chop typically indicates a turning point in a film or show (remember Felicity?), a dramatic hairstyle change supposedly marks an important phase in real life. It even became a trend post-election at a time when women felt the glass ceiling looming and looked for an active way to rebel. The popularity of the breakup haircut speaks to the idea that we, as humans, like to triumph over loss and heartache, even when it's viewed as impulsive or emotional. "Changing our appearance is a proactive measure when other aspects of our life feel beyond our control," explains Vivian Diller, Ph.D.

She continues, "Breakups (especially if they're unexpected or not mutual), can result in a blow to self-esteem. Taking a proactive step physically, like getting a new hairstyle, can help regain a sense of control over unsettling emotions—like sadness, rejection, and insecurity—even if only temporarily. New hairstyles or color can be associated with making a fresh start, with new beginnings and optimism."

I wondered, though, if those chops always feel as empowering as we'd hoped. Is there a sense of cleansing and freedom, or can letting go of your hair feel like just another loss? I asked dozens of real women to share their stories on the subject. One mused, "It gave me a clear cutoff from the girl I was and the girl I was turning into. I could now delineate between where we ended and I began."

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