A radical new hair cut signalled more than a style switch up- it was a physical manifestation of a whole new way of life , and thinking for Ellie Balfe.
Years ago I was at a hair and beauty show in a big hall, you know the sort – lots of exhibitions, stands and mini catwalks with models parading back and forth amongst beauty businesses showcasing their wares.
As I walked through the place, I heard the voice of a man from one of the stages asking the crowd for someone to volunteer for a free haircut on stage, the one condition being that the model had to be willing to have something radical done to their hair, and to have it done without a mirror.
I looked at my friend, she said, ‘go on’, so I walked over and said I would do it.
At the time, I had very long straight black hair. Ten minutes later, I had very, very short black hair. Remember Celine Dion’s crop with longer side-swept fringe in the early nineties? Yep, you’ve got it.
There was something so completely exhilarating about the moment it happened. He (he, being Shay Dempsey, now Global Art Director for Sebastian Professional) grabbed my hair into a ponytail at the top of my head - remember I’m facing an audience at this point, not a mirror - and a woman watching yelled, “get out of the seat!”. I almost did, but a milli-second before that, Shay cut the entire ponytail off my head. And that was that.
He finished the crop to applause from the crowd, and I left the stage feeling, and quite literally, looking like a new human.
It was the first in a sequence of radical, rash things I’ve done in my life so far. For some reason, I like to shock myself into a new way of thinking or being, fearing that if I mull over something too long, I will chicken out.
Walking away from that stage looking and feeling like a stranger to myself, I knew I had to figure out why I had done it. Did it represent a life shift of sorts, or was it merely surface level? A new ‘do’ -full stop?
It felt bigger.
I felt different. At that point in my life I was in Art College and was trying, on a deeper level, to find a way to express who I felt I was now. I had left the stuffy, all-girls convent school and had found newness – open minds, my first love, clubbing, loved-up neon after parties and so many different kinds of people. I had been feeling that ‘school girl’ me had disappeared, but I needed to show it outwardly.
So when I heard the call-out on stage, that’s why I leaped. He may as well have said, “anyone want to change their life and figure out who they really are?”. Because that’s what a radical new hair cut did for me at that time. I found a reflection in the mirror that looked like what I felt like on the inside.
It opened up my mind, too; I discovered the sheer thrill of playing around with beauty and hair rather than keeping to a defining ‘look’.
I was braver now - a week or so after the crop event, I went into Shay’s salon and he dyed it red.
If you’re feeling at sea or bored, or like you want to pull the walls down around you, maybe change your hair. Dye it purple, get an undercut, try a fringe...
Don’t overthink it, go into a salon with good creatives and ask them to do whatever they want. They will see something in you that you don’t see yourself. And then all you have to do while it’s happening is focus in on you, on why you’re making this change, and how you intend to rock it!
It is proven that good hair days are good for self-esteem. It could be the most radical act of self-love you’ve experienced in years. Go on, I dare you…