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Let’s begin by saying, no, I don’t think anyone should have their haircut dictated to them. Particularly not because of something as arbitrary as age. If your long flowing hair is your pride and joy then brilliant, keep on keeping on and don’t even think about chopping it off simply to conform to a socially-constructed expectation of ‘appropriateness’.
That said, there is a clear trend for swingy bobs and blunt crops over a certain age – think of friends and family in their forties and fifties, mostly short-haired, right? – and I doubt all these women are all simply being cowed by tradition, so there must be something in it.
I caught up with Katie Allan, Creative Manager at Charles Worthington Salons, to investigate.
“It’s true lot of clients at 40+ prefer their hair to be no longer than shoulder length,” says Katie, “the reason for this varies, but it’s mostly due to having damage and brittle looking hair. Taking into consideration that most woman above the age of 40 colour their hair to hide greys, this can make it more vulnerable to damage. Often when the hair is longer than shoulder length the condition of the hair can become compromised and it can start to look unhealthy, and this can be ageing.”
In the year she turned 50, supermodel Cindy Crawford admitted to cutting five inches off her hair, trimming her signature rich brown blow-dried curls into a slightly shorter style. However, far from bending to pressures from society, Crawford was simply, “trying to be kinder” to her hair. After decades of heat styling, her long locks were damaged, so a cut seemed like the simplest and best way to restore health and vitality to her hair.
Similarily, Demi Moore, 54, has also taken a step back from heat styling to protect her hair. The 54-year-old has no plans to cut short her signature long locks anytime soon. But as she has got older, and her hair has become finer, she’s had to change the way she cares for it in order to keep it in good condition.
“If I’m not working or going to an event, I don’t blow dry my hair, or flat iron it, or curl it” Demi told Allure. “I have a lot of hair, but it’s fine, so I find giving it a break from those stressors really helps to keep it healthy.”
However, although stars such as Cindy and Demi might have chosen to maintain their longer locks as they get older, short haircuts for women over 40 are still so common because so many women choose to go for the chop. But, why is this? The experts explain:
John Frieda salons Senior Stylist, Nadia Dean, agrees that shorter hair appeals to women as they get older. “Some women feel that long hair is pulling their features down and not giving their face the lift it needs. You can make changes to your cut at various points in life, just like
hair colour and make-up, but not necessarily a big chop at a certain age
Of course it’s not just our ever-changing looks that drives desire for a shorter ‘do, lifestyle and fashion play important roles too.
“I don’t believe anyone should change their hair just because of their age,” says Katie, “However I do believe that if your lifestyle has changed then it can be the right decision. Shorter hair is typically a lot easier to maintain. So many women will come in for less demanding hairstyle. Regardless of the reason, I would recommend most women to have a shorter style at the moment as it’s very on trend, for this reason I also think it can make a woman appear more youthful.”
So, if you are thinking about going for the chop, what are the most flattering styles?
“I personally love a blunt midi length with internal shape on my clients of 40+” says Katie, “this is for two reasons, firstly it’s an easy wash and go, and secondly, it’s classic and stylish. If my clients are feeling a little braver, then I recommend going for more of a pixie, an asymmetric fringe with soft graduation in the nape, this can be stunning for the profile!”
Nadia agrees, shaping is crucial. “If your hair is finer, or the texture isn’t what it was, then a really good cut would work,” agrees Nadia. “It could be a few layers that gives you more width and lifting effect or a fringe, which is almost always flattering. Fringes can disguise frown lines and look really cool, long bobs are a good intro to shorter hair. Be wary of long straight hair, which can look harsh on features and give a re-style lots of thought in advance.
Ultimately, both experts, and myself agree that this is all about the individual. “A great cut should flatter and enhance your best features, there are lots of long styles that are great for older women which are less angular.” says Nadia. “Haircuts should be chosen for the individual client, not for age.”
Amen to that!