The buzz cut has been worn as a symbol of rebellion by womxn of all backgrounds for decades. In black and queer cultural movements, the look has been used as a means to disrupt Eurocentric ideas of femininity, beauty and gender norms, respectively. Today the style is experiencing a resurgence. Whether a political statement or/and a personal journey as told through hair, a growing number of womxn are shaving their head to express their individuality.
We chat to creatives of different cultures about what is was like to razor off their lengths. Below Purity Zinhle Mkhize, Youlendree Appasamy, Yasmin Furmie, Siphumelele Chagwe, Twiggy Moli and Kayla Armstrong discuss the spiritual significance of short hair, tradition, cutting themselves free from heteronormative beauty ideals and more.
MA politics student
You shaved off your hair earlier this year, how did it feel? Really calming! Maybe I was connecting to when I was a baby and my parents shaved my head. Hindu parents shave their baby’s hair off and place it in the ocean or riverbank as a sign of purity in this realm and an introduction into being Hindu.
How does your shaved head form part of your identity? It’s not a big deal to me but because I don’t live in outer space I know that it’s read as a subversive move because of white and patriarchal beauty, and femininity standards. I used to hide behind my hair — without it I force myself and people to really look at me. For me, a shaved head increases comfort in being vulnerable like that.
What are some of the assumptions people have about you based on your haircut? My favourite is when little Indian girls are shopping with their moms and they look at me with big eyes, clearly fascinated by me not having long hair. I like those moments — I like showing that there are many possible ways of being an indian gyal. — Youlendree
How does your shaved head form part of your identity? You have to be sure of yourself to rock short hair. I have to accept and ignore the fact that some people will think that I’m ugly or look like a boy. I feel prettier with no hair and nothing to hide behind.
What are some of the assumptions people have about you based on your haircut? That I’m a tomboy or lesbian. That’s cool. I don’t mind that. — Twiggy
High School student
Why did you decide to shave your head and how did it feel? I shaved it in April right before my matric dance. I don’t think my school was too pleased. Shaving it off was the best feeling. I felt like a newborn. I always change my hair when my life changes. It’s my way of accepting and embracing change.
What are some of the assumptions people have about you based on your haircut? People attach the image of my shaved head to warped stereotypes that dwell in their psyches. Like, ‘oh shit she doesn’t want to conform to gender norms so she must hate men’ kind of thing. It shouldn’t matter. A womxn should be able to shave her head with no stigma attached and no questions asked. — Kayla
Purity Zinhle Mkhize
Why did you decide to shave your head and how did it feel? I shaved my head at the beginning of this year. In Swati culture, when we do ceremonies to lift dark magic off of someone, the last procedure is shaving our hair off. It’s believed that your hair clings onto everything that the spirit endures. Removing my hair felt liberating on a spiritual level. Crazy colourful hair expressions are a big part of my aesthetic but getting rid of it felt more personal and bolder than any of that. — Purity
When did you decide to shave your head? My hair has become progressively shorter over the years. Recently, without giving it too much thought I got my son to shave my head. I loved the result and he has become my twice weekly shaver.
What are some of the assumptions people have about you based on your haircut? Women whose identities are caught up in their long locks can’t understand my blasé attitude to hair. I’ve heard comments at the hairdresser like, ‘I don’t think my husband would approve’. I do what makes me feel comfortable regardless of assumptions people may be making.
How does your shaved head form part of your identity?
My short hair is part of my expression of being free and unapologetic about who I am. It’s my youthful inner feeling that has found expression on the outside of my head. — Yasmin
Writer, actor and blogger
Why did you decide to shave your head? I cut my locks last July. Throughout my childhood hair had been a marker of femininity. I had an afro and it was glorious. Fro-Yo (my afro) lived a life of her own. One day I woke up and realised that she was my shield. I had trapped myself in this one way of understanding my femininity and it was a large clump of hair on my head. Fro-Yo had to go. The morning I shaved my head I had heart palpitations. But as I watched my hair fall I let that part of me go. Catharsis. — Siphumelele