Not straight
June 18, 2008 3:59 PM   Subscribe

Where are the short, feminine hairstyles for thick and wavy hair?

After cutting my hair short in fifth grade (and crying for hours after someone mistook me for a boy), I'm finally, at age twenty, ready to try short hair again. I'd like a style that's off my neck- not a boyish style, but definitely more extreme than a bob or something.

The problem is, EVERY SINGLE hair site I've seen has exactly two styles of short haircut- the ultra-straight sleek kind, and the ultra-fake-curler-ringlet kind. I've yet to see any styles online that would work with my hair, which is thick and semi-wavy. Here is a recent picture which shows what my hair is like.

I have occasionally seen people with my hair texture who had good-looking short cuts, but I can't exactly whip out my camera to photograph strangers' haircuts.

I do plan to ask the stylist for advice- I'm not going to just show her a picture and have her go to town- but I would like some idea of what's possible and what's not.

My only specific desires are that it be off the neck and that it not require straightening or blowdrying to look decent.
posted by showbiz_liz to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (27 answers total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
i have thick and wavy hair too and decided short hair just doesn't work for me, it takes more effort than i'm willing to put in. having said that,

I have occasionally seen people with my hair texture who had good-looking short cuts, but I can't exactly whip out my camera to photograph strangers' haircuts.

forget the camera—just stop them and ask where they get their hair cut! everyone loves to be told they look good and asked for tips, and since you're a girl too they're not going to find your stopping them creepy.
posted by lia at 4:05 PM on June 18, 2008

i would imagine a pixie cut would work great, although it is a PAIN to grow out.

i think a chin-length bob would be cute. i have wavy hair (not as thick) and it was cute without having to do much at all. after i washed it, i would towel dry it, comb it out, run some texturizing cream through it, and let it air-dry.
posted by thinkingwoman at 4:12 PM on June 18, 2008

When you're flipping through magazines for inspiration, look at the men's hair, as it's more likely to be A) short, and B) your hair type, or an imitation thereof.
posted by Sys Rq at 4:17 PM on June 18, 2008

(I'm talking glossy fashion mags, where the men's hair isn't exactly "butch.")
posted by Sys Rq at 4:20 PM on June 18, 2008

Get a layered cut. Try a razor cut, with a reverse bob. You know, a little longer in front, with a shorter, flippy, razored back.

You will probably have to flat iron it.
posted by mckenney at 4:20 PM on June 18, 2008

i have the same hair as you and refuse to blowdry/style..... i did this, and it was not pleasant growing it back out -- it went from sticking straight up to kind of looking like a zombie. i'm not kidding - i tracked it. not telling you not to do it. i'd love it if you did it and it looked great -- just a warning of what might be ahead :P
posted by melodykramer at 4:26 PM on June 18, 2008 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: I'd really rather not get anything that requires ironing to look good- half the reason I want to cut it is that my current style looks crappy without 20 minutes of blowdrying, and it sucks.

I'm also not so sure about men's styles, just because they seem less varied than women's- no bangs, nothing over an inch and a half long, etc.
posted by showbiz_liz at 4:26 PM on June 18, 2008

Hey, lady, gimme back my hair. I'll swap for your color, though!

I also recommend a chin-length bob. In my case, this looks better with slight layering on the bottom -- it helps you avoid "triangle-head." Be prepared for it to be either straighter or wavier -- mine has been unpredictable in this regard. Sometimes it seems like there's not enough length for it to wave; other times it seems like it goes nuts when there's not so much weight of hair hanging down.

It's also easy to grow out, should you choose to do so, or if you're too lazy/cheap/busy to get it cut ever again. Not that I know anything about that.
posted by theredpen at 4:35 PM on June 18, 2008

I don't use this site much, as I'm into flat-ironing right now, but Naturally Curly might be a good resource for you. They are not into flat-ironing or blow drying.

It seems like you might be a 2b or 2c on their scale. They have forums dedicated to the hair types and you might be able to ask for ideas and help there. On a very quick scan of the 2 forum, I found this cute bob.
posted by Squeak Attack at 4:36 PM on June 18, 2008 [2 favorites]

I have similar hair and I've been rocking varying lengths of the pixie cut for years. Sometimes with bangs, sometimes with a fauxhawk, etc. I don't do any maintenance and it usually looks decent. MeMail me if you want picture examples.
posted by youcancallmeal at 4:40 PM on June 18, 2008

Miranda July
posted by fire&wings at 4:40 PM on June 18, 2008 [1 favorite]

My hair is very short and much like yours, down to the color. It's cut so that it's spiky and messy-in-a-cute way, all I do is run my hands through it with a bit of pomade in the morning. (When it gets longer, I give the curls a little twist so that they go in a more pleasing direction.) I'll see if I can find a photo.
posted by desuetude at 5:03 PM on June 18, 2008 [1 favorite]

Also with hair just like yours. Find a stylist who will show you how to style your hair. I went with the just shorter than chin length bob with some layers. My stylist showed me how 1) to straight iron it; 2) to use a diffuser to make it curly; and (most importantly) 3) what to put it in it so that if I don't do anything at all to it (even blow dry it) it still looks okay. Now I put some of that stuff in it (I think it's by bedhead and might be called "curls rock"; I also use Infusium leave in sometimes), run my hands through it, and let it air dry. The product is the key -- especially if you live where there is any humidity at all.
posted by dpx.mfx at 5:12 PM on June 18, 2008

First, some warnings:

Be careful with razor cuts. Not all hair reacts well to that technique. If your stylist wants to do a razor cut, ask him or her what their training/experience is, since these do not look good when done poorly, and consider doing a test piece first. I have seen some bad things happen with razor cuts, including on my own head. Also, when you're talking to the stylist, if you have a minimum length, make sure to tell her that your SHORTEST LAYER cannot be shorter than x, otherwise you risk ending up with 10% of your hair at length X, and 90% of your hair shorter by several inches.

Ok, as for your question:

Your hair is gorgeous! N-thing a nice bob. Just do subtle layers at first (maybe 1-1.5 inches of difference between the longest and shortest layer) and see how you feel. I would do something below the chin (halfway point between chin and shoulders).
posted by prefpara at 5:29 PM on June 18, 2008 [1 favorite]

I'm guessing your hair is a little coarse in texture because it's red? If so, don't cut it super short unless you're going man-cut short and plan on keeping it that way. I have really similar hair (a bit curlier and thicker and mine is quite coarse) and I've tried cutting it short 4 or 5 times and it's been a complete nightmare every time. If you have fine or sleek hair you might be able to get away with it.

If I were you, I'd cut it chin length first and see how it goes. If it behaves you can always cut it shorter. You cannot, however, glue it back on.
posted by fshgrl at 6:05 PM on June 18, 2008

Re: blowdrying. Fuck it. I have thick, wavy hair and it takes my hairstylist FOREVER to blow dry, so I (almost) never bother. If, for whatever reason, I need my hair dry ASAP I will do the lazy blowdry (ahem, diffuser) but on most days I simply blowdry my bangs to make them straighter and let the rest dry by air. (Actually, the best hairstyle I have is when I go to bed with wet hair; I wake up with really weird and crazy kinky curls).
Re: haircuts. Don't fret it. You could totally pull off a hair-cut that's between shoulder length and bob. That's where my hair's been most of the time and it's somewhat similar to yours, but thicker and black.
Re: stylist. S/he is important to your good haircut. Don't just walk into any old hair salon. Do your research. As others have noted, it's as easy as asking anyone you see with good hair (or better yet, with your hair type and good hair). In my experience, I've found that most hairstyle franchises and trendy spots only hire stylists who only know three haircut styles and assume that they work on every kind of hair/head shape.
Re: razor cuts. I once had a trendy salon stylist give me this jagged, almost emo razor cut. It looked great, but it was gone to split-end shit within three weeks. My current stylist (who is awesome) only razor-cuts one layer or portion of my hair, and it's always been fine.
posted by Menomena at 6:43 PM on June 18, 2008

Okay. Freshly cut and dyed here. Longer here.
posted by desuetude at 7:09 PM on June 18, 2008

I'd say definitely go for a chin-length or shorter bob. I have very similar hair and those have been my all-time favorite cuts. This is my most recent.
posted by MsMolly at 7:14 PM on June 18, 2008

Oh, and strangers walk up to me and ask me who does my hair all the time -- don't feel weird about doing this.

I had my hair chin-length for awhile and it was a pain. Too long to go unstyled, too short to put up.

My stylist pays attention to how my hair grows and in what shape, and thins out the portions that tend to go extra poofy. This is vital. He doesn't do any razoring, but he does muss the edges with thinning shears where needed to soften it.

Also, remember this: It's just hair. It grows back.
posted by desuetude at 7:15 PM on June 18, 2008

I completely covet your hair.
I think you could rock out the messy bob, keeping in mind to have the heaviest layers in the middle of the cut - not the bottom - otherwise you will have the hair triangle that was so fabulous in the 80's. Croppier in the back and longer/heavier on the sides is a pretty easy formula to avoid looking matronly or accidentally slipping into mullet territory.

The pic of Audrey Tautou at the bottom of this page is an adorable cut, and I think your hair would do that pretty easily. I agree that the heavy, sideswept bangs would be awesome with this hair type.

Another I like.
(You can search for styles by texture and length on that site, btw.)

nthing finding a stylist that understands curly hair. I know you don't sport ringlets, but someone who specializes in curls really will do a better job. Good luck!
posted by 8dot3 at 7:15 PM on June 18, 2008

I have your type of hair and can absolutely relate. I have done well with mid-length bobs, but the hair has to be thinned out a bit and undercut to keep it under control and from flipping up maniacally at the ends like a bad Donna Reed inspired hairstyle. I've had a few short and shaggy hair-cuts that I liked and were jaw length. I sometimes use a flat iron on my hair, but mostly I use a pomade or silicone hair product to tame it.
posted by pluckysparrow at 7:20 PM on June 18, 2008

My hair is wavy and very thick. When it's short with short layers, it's cap-like: easy to care for, but without much movement when I shake my head. I can't really have a "line" or a shape the way straight-haired people can, unless I style the hell out of it.

If you want your hair to move when you shake your head, you have to leave it longer -- at least chin-length. If you find it's too bulky or doesn't behave well, you can ask for what my stylist calls texturizing. She lifts up the top layers and snips out small sections of hair underneath, using regular scissors (not thinning shears). The cuts are pretty high up near the crown. When my hair starts to get weighty again in a few months, she has to do it again.

If you opt for layers, they should be long, at least ear-length. That is, the top layers will end at ear-lobe height when wet, and when dry they'll shrink to a top-of-ear height. Shorter layers might flip up or get feathery; err on the longer side at first.

With the right cut, you can have low-maintenance hair; you just have to find someone who knows what they're doing. When you sit down in the chair, a good stylist will lift up your hair and study it too see where all the waves are. He/she might try to part it in various ways. even the best might not get it right the first time, so be conservative and ask for a longer style than you want to end up with. After drying it, if they have to spray it with water several times and re-dry it to make it look good, you'll probably have trouble with it later.
posted by wryly at 7:29 PM on June 18, 2008

I think my hair is somewhat like yours. I've currently got it cut to approximately the bottom of my ears, and I love it. I've found I actually need to do less to it to make it look nice than when it was longer.
I'm not entirely sure what my hairdresser did, as I mostly told him "that length, please", and let him work his magic (and tell me about how the moon-landings were faked), but it is a little longer at the front than the back, and kind of layered I think, at least at the back. At the front, it hits the top of my jawline, and at the back the longest layers end at the same level as the hairline (approximately level with the bottom of my ears). At the back, the top layers are cut shorter (and it is also slightly undercut), which I think helps it to stay a bit less crazy.
I find, with it like this, it's actually best if I just let it dry naturally. It becomes insanely voluminous after blowdrying, and I can't be bothered to deal with that. Running serum stuff through the wet hair before letting it dry naturally works well to decrease frizz, I'm just lazy usually.
I have no idea if this haircut would work for you - your hair in that picture looks like mine does at that length, but it's hard to tell what the texture's like - mine's thick, but not coarse. Also, my hairdresser seems to know how to cut hair right without being told what is required, so that helps. But really, if it does go a bit wrong, it will grow out pretty quickly (and is fixable anyway).
posted by pocketfluff at 7:39 PM on June 18, 2008

I really think it would be a mistake for you to go shorter than a chin-length bob, and somewhere between your chin and shoulders would be better, even without considering the poof factor. I think short cuts tend to look good on people with more sharply defined features, and your more rounded (in a good way! very pretty!) features will just look better somewhere in bob-ville.
posted by HotToddy at 8:30 PM on June 18, 2008

The first haircut I thought of when I read your post was Marcia Gay Harden's from Miller's Crossing - here's a picture (and another). Her's was done with rollers, I'd assume, but you could do a similar retro style with more curliness.
I have naturally curly hair, though I wouldn't describe it as thick; mine is really fine. I had a cut rather like the picture when I was a teen. Depending on your frizziness, you might not be able to completely abandon the hair drier, but if you use a diffuser, it shouldn't take more than 5 minutes (I have shoulder-length hair now, and this is my current routine - apply product, flip head upside down, use diffuser for about 5 minutes, done.
And yes, be sure you find someone who really knows curly hair. Oh god. Especially with a short cut, you run the risk of a pyramid haircut (the bane of my high school years), or a big, poofy white-girl 'fro.
I'm a poor grad student, but I splurge on a good stylist who gives me a great cut - it shortens my daily routine, and really flatters my face and hair-type. You might need to get your hair thinned out a bit to avoid the pyramid-look, and a really good stylist can mean the difference between a good shape and an uneven mess.
posted by queseyo at 8:41 PM on June 18, 2008

I have perhaps similarly difficult hair (maybe worse, though, mine has a lot of curl and I can't really brush it) and I think you should be careful about any sort of blunt haircut that goes past the chin. Thick, wavy hair really needs length to hold it down and not be a ridiculous poof-afro, and while I think a short enough cut could mitigate that a "medium-ish" cut sounds like bad news.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 9:00 AM on June 19, 2008

Response by poster: Update: A friend recommended a stylist who did a good job with her curly hair, so I went to her and described what I wanted, bearing in mind some of the suggestions I got here. I also showed her this photo, but told her I knew that my hair wouldn't do exactly that.

Here's what she did. It wound up being slightly longer than I was expecting, but I really like how it turned out. In particular, I like how she thinned the back to make it less puffy, while leaving the front long to allow it to curl. She also dried it with a diffuser, which worked way better than a normal dryer with my hair texture.
posted by showbiz_liz at 2:28 PM on August 10, 2008

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