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Length really does matter Add to ...

Men learn early in their romantic careers that comments about women's hair are booby-trapped. It is almost always unadvisable to give a comment on a female partner's haircut, even when asked for your opinion. Why is this? Primarily because, as we have demonstrated before, women do not choose and alter their appearance primarily to please men. Our opinion is, usually, only irritating to them.

Why they then ask for that opinion is a subject for a fairly complicated psychological analysis that we can only touch on here, but we would like to mention one dangerous aspect of the whole exchange, and that is that haircuts can be used as political expressions, and even as weapons. Here is a hypothetical example: Your girlfriend is angry with you. She asks you if you think she should cut her hair short. You react with panic: "No, no," you say (perhaps too quickly), "please don't cut your hair short!"

"Oh," she says, "you only like girlie girls with long hair?"

"Well, no," you say, "I just like you with..."

"Fine," she says, "I'm cutting it short. You think I choose my haircuts just to be a sexual object? You are so deluded, you poor sexist narcissist."

"But," you say weakly, "I thought you asked me."

And you have lost this battle without realizing it was a battle.

It is for this reason that we must stress that we at Best Dressed are opposed to men commenting on the subject of women's hair. We are doing it only under duress. We are only going to write about short hair on women because our editors (who also happen to be women) have forced us to. We know that no good can come of it. (Remember when we were asked to comment on women's capri trousers, and then told in most forceful terms by a slew of readers to butt out of the whole question? You can't win in this business.)

Let's get it over with, then: The question is quite simple: Do we like short hair on women? And the answer is quite predictable: No, we do not. It seems masculine and practical and deliberately asexual. We like the conventionally feminine. Sorry. We can't help this. And there's no sense in lying about it.

What defines short? Hair that doesn't move when you shake your head. If it moves at all, even if it's cut above your shoulders or even above your neck (as in a cute little bob), then it's not too short. Sienna Miller's supposedly shocking cut, for example, was not all that short. It was lovely. She's not stupid. She knows that as long as it moves, it's sexy and feminine. (Alyssa Milano, on the other hand, did crop her hair really short, and men around the world immediately stopped fantasizing about her.)

So: If it is completely immobile, then it is short.

Of course, we know that there are famously sexy women who have cropped their hair and remained desirable. We were always dazzled, for example, by the sexiness of Eve Salvail, that famous model of the nineties who shaved her head to reveal a dragon tattoo on her scalp. We loved Sinead O'Connor in her bald phase. There is something about the extremism of these looks that conveys wildness, which is always sexual. And we admit to a certain non-musical interest in the singer Pink, whose spiky punk updo doesn't move, either. (We're not really looking at her hair, though.)

But let's face it, most women are not Charlize Theron (who can cut her hair off with pinking shears, if she likes, and will still be stupefyingly beautiful). And let's be precise: The carefully shaped and tousled short haircuts of Hollywood celebrities are not what we see, most of the time, on the streets of Canadian towns.

What we see, most often, particularly on women over the age of 35, is the Mom Cut. You know exactly what this is: It's a sort of wedge or platform, more or less flat on top, a bit of puffy bouffant in front, with short back and sides. There might be, in its advanced phases, a couple of wisps hanging down on either side, over the temples, like female sideburns.

This haircut is, of course, a social and sexual statement. It says: I am taking myself off the sexual market. I'm married, I've had my kids, I don't have to worry about these things any more. This haircut is much more practical, and that's all I care about now. (It usually goes hand in hand with a change of dress, as well: After you get this cut, the hairdresser hands you a pair of walking shorts, a polo shirt and some running shoes and you must wear that uniform for the rest of your days.) And that's completely fine, if that's what you want. If you don't want to be a sex object any more, you can ensure that we don't look at you any more, and that's your decision.

As we have said, this isn't about us. What we think about this decision is completely irrelevant. So don't ask us for our opinion. But don't be mad if you find us googling pictures of Angelina Jolie's ponytails while you sleep.

Now, please send your hurt, indignant and offended emails to our editors: style@globeandmail.com.

 

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