I WAS FIVE YEARS OLD the first time I had my hair cut short. I had hoped for a pretty pixie—though Twiggy wasn’t exactly on my radar back then, that was the general idea—but instead walked out of the salon looking like a miniature Bruce Lee. A wardrobe of frilly dresses and skirts was the only thing that prevented outsiders from confusing me with my brother. The crop took what felt like years to grow out, and the trauma lasted far longer. For the next two decades, I clung to my long locks as if they were a prized family heirloom—until now.
The itch to shear my chest-length tresses started building this past February, during New York Fashion Week. It was impossible not to notice the slew of models—perhaps taking a cue from fashion’s current obsession with androgyny—sporting fades and buzzed necks with stylized, Brit punk–inspired fringes on top. At Narciso Rodriguez, newcomer Kristina Salinovic’s messy, side-parted crop caught my eye; at Ralph Lauren, I couldn’t stop staring at Tunisian-born Hanaa Ben Abdesslem’s dramatic fade. But the girl who really sent me over the edge was Britt Maren, whose career exploded after Guido Palau lopped eight inches off her ’do last fall. Every one of these girls looked effortlessly, intensely, and enviably cool. Suddenly, the thought of one more sweltering New York summer with my show horse–thick ponytail—pieces of which inevitably stuck to my Nars-glossed lips—felt unbearable.
I consulted my closest friends (one was for it; the other threatened to cry) and then broached the subject with my boyfriend. Though I warned him that we might end up with matching coifs, he safely (and very sweetly) said, “You’ll look beautiful no matter what you do.” Finally, I brought it up with my boss, who, of course, immediately saw a potential story. “How much do you like your job?” she tested me (half) jokingly when I hesitated, citing my lifelong fear of being sheared. So I worked up the nerve and made an appointment with Garren.
The New York–based scissor wizard behind Victoria Beckham’s post–Spice Girls pixie, Selma Blair’s punk ’do, and Loulou de la Falaise’s tousled, ear-skimming shag, Garren is the short-cut king. Still, despite knowing that I would be in the greatest hands, I showed up at his salon in the Sherry-Netherland hotel armed with a folder full of tear sheets, which Garren good-naturedly set about studying. “It has to be cool, not pedestrian—like a skater-boy look,” he said, flipping through my images of models and movie stars, with the occasional printout from Scott Schuman’s street-style blog, the Sartorialist, thrown in for a dose of reality. “It helps if you have a long neck and delicate features, which you do. For people with shorter necks, it’s a little harder.”