Licking the cowlicks, short hair edition
June 8, 2012 1:31 PM   Subscribe

I love Melissa McBride's haircut. It's basically the main (only) reason I watch "The Walking Dead." I would like it for my very own. However, I have a head full of crazy cowlicks. Would cutting my hair this short make me look like Alfalfa from Our Gang?

I've had my hair pixie-short before, and while short hair is flattering for me, I struggled big-time with the cowlicks. I have two major cowlicks on either side of my forehead like devil's horns, then another one on the nape of my neck that resembles a hurricane. Never having gone this super-short before, I'm worried it will just make me look like someone's kid brother with a buzz cut.

I've conquered the cowlicks by growing my hair out into a bob, but I feel so blah about my hair at this length. Of course, maybe blah is the price I pay to not have to do battle with it all the time.

Also, how would you say that she gets that look? Is it a buzz cut that I could do at home? Is it an actual haircut? Here's another pic. And what the heck, here's another.

Any experience or insight into this important matter would be much appreciated!
posted by indognito to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (25 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I suspect that there are product and blowdrying involved in that haircut. How coarse is your hair and how much time are you willing to spend on it? [I know from experience that] if your hair is really coarse, it will be much harder to shape when it's very short. If it's finer, you can probably product and blow-dry your way to that haircut. Also, does your hair grow straight out of your skull or kind of to one side? (Not cowlicks - just if the rest of your hair is really short does it tend to lie flat or tend to rise straight up to greet the sun?)

I guess I'd go to the punkrockiest stylist you can find, explain the cowlicks and turn them loose on your hair. Maybe make it very short first and see how it looks, only then going for super-duper short? That's how I did a recent hair change.

You probably can't do it at home, though - only the simplest buzz-cuts can be done by you on your own head. If you have a skilled haircutter friend, though, they can probably keep it trimmed for you once it's been cut.
posted by Frowner at 1:39 PM on June 8, 2012

You should go to an actual hairstylist for this. It may seem silly, since you're basically just getting all your hair cut off, but a skilled stylist will know how to do it in a way that works with your cowlicks.

Once you've got the basic cut in, I can't stress strongly enough the importance of hair goop. Even if you're not trying to get it to hold in a particular style, it will keep the wild twisty bits in check.

I love short hair. It's so freeing. And this cut is cute--have fun!
posted by phunniemee at 1:40 PM on June 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

Also, it looks a lot like a shorter version of Jean Seberg's haircut in Breathless - that haircut would probably be long enough to tame the cowlicks while being very similar to the one you link.
posted by Frowner at 1:41 PM on June 8, 2012

I just buzzed my head with clippers (from middle of my back length) and it came out looking just like that. I think the cowlicks would just make it look even cuter. I started on a #4 because I was nervous and ended up at #2 setting to achieve that look. HTH.
posted by rabidsegue at 1:43 PM on June 8, 2012 [3 favorites]

The cowlicks might make it cuter a la Annette Bening, also seen here.
posted by carmicha at 1:51 PM on June 8, 2012

I have very wavy, does-what-it-wants-to hair, as does my mother, and we both have had really good luck with that haircut. It seems to be short enough to do away with our cowlicks; YMMV. I can't tell if that's a straight buzz cut, but I doubt it. I'd definitely go to a salon to get it the first time, explain your concerns, ask about hair goop if you want (I like to just not wash my hair very often, and then I can use the natural grease to style, but you may think that's gross), etc.

Or, just buzz it if it doesn't turn out perfectly then go to a salon once it grows out a bit for shaping. Yay, short hair!
posted by (Over) Thinking at 1:52 PM on June 8, 2012

The cowlicks can be dealt with if you use a matte clay or other styling goop. If you go that short make sure your eyebrows are always in good shape. It really makes the look more complete.
posted by fluffy battle kitten at 1:54 PM on June 8, 2012

I have crazy cowlicks too. In my opinion, short hair is easier for me to manage with said cowlicks because there is less length of hair (added weight on individual hairs growing crazy directions) to continue to pull them in said crazy directions. In short (heh), shorter hair is easier for me to tame, having ca-razy ass cowlicks.

Bobs seem to accentuate cowlicks, in my humble opinion, because the hair is not long or heavy enough to literally weigh down the cowlicks, but is just long enough that it's super hard to defeat the cowlicks with blowdrying and product.

Melissa McBride's haircut is MEGA SHORT...much shorter than a traditional pixie cut. Should be easier to deal with than pixie length because there really isn't that much hair at all to stick up in odd ways, and what does can be tamed with a pomade.

Do the short hair, ESPECIALLY because you have a weird growth pattern, but seconding phunniemee in that you should see an actual honest to god stylist for this - just because it's short, doesn't mean it is simple to cut and/or can't be effed up by someone who doesn't know what they're doing.

I've said this in like 50 of my answers in the past month but JUST CUT YOUR HAIR SHORT. You will not regret it.

(meanwhile I'm somewhat passive aggressively growing my hair out for my boyfriend to see just how stupid long hair looks on me so I can just for the love of PETE cut it off again soon. He'll see soon enough *shakes fist*)
posted by Gonestarfishing at 1:56 PM on June 8, 2012

The cowlicks can be dealt with if you use a matte clay or other styling goop. If you go that short make sure your eyebrows are always in good shape. It really makes the look more complete.

Not in my experience. I have super short hair right now after shaving it for St. Baldrick's foundation a couple months ago. I have a hurricane-cowlick at the back right corner of my head and if I use styling wax and in any way try to make the hair go in any direction other than the way it wants to go, I get Alfalfa-style bits sticking straight up.
posted by misskaz at 2:15 PM on June 8, 2012

I, too, have a hurricane-cowlick on the top corner of my head (though I prefer to think of it as a "genius spout"). I find that styling cremes can exaggerate it but if I apply it evenly enough, I can get the rest of the hair to stand up around it and camouflage it. I also agree that with hair that short, cowlicks aren't going to be a huge problem because there won't be enough hair to stick out.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 2:28 PM on June 8, 2012

Looking at that picture, the ones on the sides of your head should be too short to worry about, and you can basically buzz the nape of your neck down to nothing. I too have a wacky cowlick right at my hairline, and it serves as the haircut-needed alert signal, but otherwise is fine. (Actually, I am just now remembering I have wings on my temples, too, but they totally disappear when my hair's that short. They're a function of curliness, not hair growth pattern. Yours might well be, too.)

That's a super-short cut, you should be ok.
posted by restless_nomad at 2:29 PM on June 8, 2012

I have wild, wavy, fine hair that is super thick. When I cut it very short, this length worked okay. When it grew out into a pixie cut, it drove me batty. I had to slick it down with product daily, and blow dry it, and as I'm pretty low maintenance (lazy?), that just did not work for me.

Short hair is a pretty big commitment. When mine was this length, I had to get it trimmed once a month and wash it every/every other day. It is (honest to God) less work for me to grow mine long- I can pull it back easily, wash it only twice a week, and only get it trimmed two or three times per year. YMMV, of course.
posted by Athene at 2:36 PM on June 8, 2012

I think this depends completely on your hair texture. I went pixie several years ago, and in the beginning I would ask them to make it shorter and shorter... so have had hair as short as you're saying. I have a big wirey patch in the back that is hard to deal with... how hard? Depends on the cut, and by that I mean "by the cut" sometimes its okay, but others- within 2 weeks its a total nightmare. And this has happened despite having the same stylist do my hair from 2007-2009 and a different one from 2010-11 and now. Out of each 10 haircuts, at least 2 or 3 end up sucking.
posted by misspony at 2:52 PM on June 8, 2012

Also, there is no reason that a stylist can't leave your cowlicks a bit longer, so that they can be pinned down with product- but keep the look.
posted by misspony at 2:54 PM on June 8, 2012

There seems to be a suggestion that that is a buzz cut of some sort, but it sure doesn’t look like one to me. It looks like she has very fine hair that is fairly short, but plastered down and/or cut well to lay down. I’m just pointing out that if you go for anything like an actual buzz cut you may be disappointed. Bring a picture to a stylist.
posted by bongo_x at 3:55 PM on June 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

that first picture is definitely not a buzz cut.
posted by 4ster at 6:02 PM on June 8, 2012

Here is another angle of the first pic that shows it from another angle.
posted by 4ster at 6:06 PM on June 8, 2012

I, too, think an actual buzz cut is not quite what you want; the first time I went that short they cut it very close with scissors and there's a definite difference between the two.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:15 PM on June 8, 2012

That's a great haircut. Do be aware that it's extremely short — and I say that as a woman who regularly gets comments like "Wow, I wish I were brave enough to cut my hair that short!"

I also have three major cowlicks. My experience is similar to misskaz and ThePinkSuperhero, I think — there is no fighting or suppressing a cowlick, but if you get a nicely chunky, texturized short cut the cowlicks can actually work in your favor. (One of my cowlicks is right in front, along my hairline. With the wrong cut, it lies awkwardly and looks weird. With the right cut, it makes my bangs arch up and then droop over my left eye in a "Jackie Chan bad guy" look that makes my curly-haired husband deeply envious.)
posted by Lexica at 9:03 PM on June 8, 2012

my understanding of cowlick control on short hair goes thus:

1. you must work with the grain of the hairs.

2. a good stylist will work with the grain of the hairs and leave a little more length/weight where it will do most good. i think this is what is going on with this photo, not a straight clipper buzz.

3. when wet, apply a product. it does not have to be super digusting sticky ... there are modern lightweight products like styling cremes, texture pastes used sparingly, that give a very clean feel when fully dried ... but it has to have some kind of tack for your hair texture because you have to glue the right shape in place while the hair dries.

then massage. massage massage massage in the direction of the swirl until the hairs lay down.

4. at this point, if your hair is fine-ish, you can air dry and the product should keep stuff from popping up. if not, grab the blowdrier and first go hot, then cool. so, if you have dueling devil horns you'd take one side, massage it down, blast hot, blast cool, repeat.

5. longer hairs benefit from well-placed pins and clips in the drying process.

a lifetime of doofus part-in-the-middle bangs was avoided by me once i internalized these principles and adopted a left-to-right sweep; wearing a fully down fringe only rarely. ymmv.
posted by Rube R. Nekker at 9:30 PM on June 8, 2012

I have really, really short hair. Just a tiny bit longer than Ms. McBride's. This is not, despite appearances, just a "buzz it all off to 3/4 inch" thing. This is hairstyling, for real. Cowlicks and such can be dealt with by making the cut work with the shape of your hair and the shape of your head.

My standard line about my very, very wavy and quite thick hair is that it sticks up artfully in this cut because it's cut short enough that the curls don't go all the way 'round. I know thin-haired women who have cuts which look look superficially similar to mine, but are a totally different hair-cutting technique.

Regarding hair care products -- unless your hair is fine or oily, go ahead and walk right to the end of the aisle to the African-American haircare section. This is where you should experiment with glossers, pomades, oils, gels, whatever.
posted by desuetude at 10:29 PM on June 8, 2012

(to clarify: i think the cut could be a freehand clipper-over-comb, but i do not think it is a straight buzz-with-a-comb-attatchment.)
posted by Rube R. Nekker at 10:56 PM on June 8, 2012

My hair is a short pixie cut, I have super fine hair and crazy cowlicks. The matte clay really does work wonders for me. I'm actually considering getting out my clippers and trying to achieve this cut. (Even though I was in the process of growing my hair out a little bit. We'll see if I make it through the weekend without clipping my hair.)

I have the best luck drying my hair, applying a tiny amount of matte clay and working with the cowlicks.
posted by fluffy battle kitten at 1:10 AM on June 9, 2012

Not just Annette Benning, but there's another cute, short-haired actress that I can't for the life of me recall right now. Very short hair, with a cowlick right in front, mostly off-center. Sounds like it wouldn't work, but it's cute as hell.
posted by IAmBroom at 7:05 AM on June 9, 2012

Response by poster: Thanks, everyone, for your answers! I think I'm going to give it a go. It would be SO nice if I could just buzz it to achieve that look, since I'd forgotten what I dislike most about short hair: the constant need for haircuts. (I truly don't get the popular notion that short hair is "lower maintenance" than long hair--hah!)

Anyways, thanks again. I'll take a few photos to a nice salon and see if the hairstylist looks disturbed by my suggestion, then make my decision from there.
posted by indognito at 7:07 AM on June 9, 2012

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