Cutting my own hair

· life ·

I finally gave in and gave myself a haircut today. Surprisingly, the results were not terrible. Along the way, I have learned a little bit about the process of cutting hair, and realised that very few parts of this process are in any way possible to do well when cutting your own hair.

I’ve had short (or very short) hair for most of my life. In my mid-teens, I tried for a while to grow my hair long and adopt a tousled, curly style, because I wanted to look like Kate Bush. It was not a success. When long, my hair has an odd wave that is neither straight nor curly, and which resists doing what I want it to do. I also found that I don’t like the way that long hair looks on me, and find managing and styling it tedious. It blows in your eyes constantly when you are outside, gets straggly in the rain, takes forever to dry naturally, and I generally find it annoying.

So the fact that I haven’t been able to get my hair cut by a trained hairdresser for about 9 months has meant that I’ve rediscovered again why I dislike having long hair. Of course, since I started with a short, layered style early in 2020, my hair has looked lumpy and ungainly as it has grown out, but it has been the practical issues of dealing with long hair as much as the aesthetic ones which have started to grate.

Last weekend, I got to the point where my natural terror about trying to cut my own hair and the potential to make a complete hash of it started to be outweighed by how sick I was of having long-ish hair. I watched a lot of videos on YouTube of fantastically talented stylists showing you how to create beautiful short styles. In the process, I got addicted to the mesmerising videos of Sanja Karasman. I could (and pretty much have) watch the calm and precise way she sections and snips hair all day. It’s incredibly soothing watching someone who knows exactly what they are doing and is highly skilled and experienced. I also watched videos made by people like me — untrained amateurs who either regularly cut their own hair, or have been forced into this position by the impossibility of visiting a salon in lockdown. I learned quite a lot from both, but it is one thing to have theoretical knowledge, and quite another to be sitting in front of a mirror, scissors in hand.

Today, I finally plucked up the courage. I had bought two pairs of hairdressing scissors (a straight pair of shears, and a pair of thinning scissors), and some clips to keep sections of hair out of the way. I sat on a small stool in the bath, propped a mirror at either end of the bath (which didn’t work very well), and took a deep breath. We have a set of hair clippers too (which Mr. Bsag uses to cut his own hair), so I had that as a fall-back position, but I wanted to try with scissors first.

I quickly discovered that it is pretty much impossible to cut the back of your own hair in a careful and precise way. I had hoped to graduate the length of the back with layers made by cutting sections vertically, but soon realised this would be impossible. I had quite a lot of length to remove to get it to a manageable state, so I resorted to blindly hacking chunks off the length at the back more or less by feel, and getting Mr. Bsag in briefly to level it up a bit at the end. The top and sides were a little easier to handle, because I could comb the hair forward and see what I was doing better when trimming. I also reduced the weight a bit by ‘point cutting’ the ends roughly and also using the thinning scissors to blend sections together.

It took ages, and more by luck than skill, I ended up with something that doesn’t look too bad. I’m sure that my hairdresser will be doing her best to tactfully conceal her horror whenever I am able to get her to do a professional job on it, but I don’t think a non-expert would immediately think I had obviously cut my own hair. Either way, I don’t really care. I’m overjoyed to have the length of hair which suits me best again, and keep marvelling at the fact that it is not getting in my eyes and irritating me. If I build my courage up again, I might try using the clippers on the sides and back to graduate the length a bit more smoothly, but it’s fine for now.

When it’s possible to book salon appointments again, I will be eagerly waiting my turn to get an expert to work their magic on my hair, but until then, It feels good to know that I can perform emergency maintenance with a reasonable outcome.