• Thu, 25, Oct, 2018 - 5:00:AM

Why is a post-breakup haircut so powerful?

“Blonde!” I told them, “Completely blonde!”

When I went through my last big breakup several years ago, I booked myself a salon sesh almost by instinct. The heavy brunette mop hanging down my back, so dull and lacking in joy, seemed suddenly representative of my previous relationship. Or my previous self. Or the self I was in my previous relationship.

It was less a conscious choice than it was an innate primal urge – change the urge insisted now!

The hashtag #BreakupHair tells me I’m not the only one with the urge.

A popular meme surmises if she changes her hair, you ain’t getting her back. Philosophers dream of being so succinct. Still, I wondered how a move could be so universal: go through break up = change your hair.

So, I did some exploring.

Shedding the old

Anecdotally, the most popular reason for a breakover, if you will, is to ‘shed the old’.

It’s a way of blending the symbolic with the literal. Step one – begone old hair. Step two – begone old memories (or, perhaps, old energy). There aren’t many things we can do in life that so beautifully blend metaphor and action but cutting one’s hair to ‘shed the old’ is one of them. When you think of it that way, it seems so natural.


Whether dumpee or dumper, a relationship breakup represents a major loss of control. Where things were once certain, suddenly they are not. One’s daily routine becomes new and unpredictable. The person we leaned on is no longer there. Clinical psychologist Seema Hingorrany states that "many women feel like their hair or appearance is still that one thing they have absolute control over. So, when they decide to chop off their tresses, it is mostly to adopt a new, fresher identity."


This was the big one for me. Sometimes, we might feel that who we are on the inside doesn’t match up with what the world sees. But while major physical transformations take a major effort, your hair, by comparison, can be redone on a whim.

Psychologist Dr. Patricia A. Farrell explains, “Hair is one of the most important aspects of our expression of who we are and who we want to be seen as […] Dramatic haircuts would indicate a wish to make a drastic change and then fit into that new persona we’re creating.”


When we lose someone in our life, we grieve. And when we grieve, we’ve got to somehow cope. There’s the comforting-if-cliché tub of ice cream. There’s the ill-advised trip to the tattoo parlour. And then there’s a haircut.

Relationship and sex educator Dr. Laura Berman explains, "Whether it's losing 10 pounds, trying a new lip colour, or getting a pixie cut, making changes to your appearance can serve as a distraction and a coping mechanism. There is something about a drastic cut that can feel cathartic after a breakup, like you are cutting off the dead weight and becoming lighter and freer."

All of this seems pretty good, but there are those who advise against the post-breakup do. And they make a compelling argument: dramatic decisions shouldn’t be made in an emotional state. And I agree to an extent – definitely take a breather before getting men are pigs inked on your lower back. But when it comes to hair, I’d remind the naysayers that it will grow back. And I’d also remind them of that most important adage: my body, my choice. 


  • hair /
  • Image /
  • Identity /
  • Beauty /
  • Breakups /
  • Autonomy /
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