Hair is so much more than what we see in the mirror. It’s linked intrinsically to who we are, to our identity, gender, culture and ethnicity, whether it’s the hair on our heads or our bodies. Holly O’Neill spoke to seven Irish women on how their relationships with hair has shaped their lives. Here, writer and model Laylah Beattie shares her story.
I could go out of the house without make-up on or in a dress I didn’t love, but if I don’t feel like I like my hair, I’m self-conscious for the whole day.
The first time I remember feeling like my hair was important to me was when my sisters both dyed their hair blonde. I was 11 and I thought, “I want blonde hair.” I started asking my mam could I get highlights, but because I was a 12-year-old boy, she was uncertain how to answer. When I turned 14, she let me.
This was during a period of my teenage years where I was gradually moving to be more and more feminine, and that felt like a huge step.
Related: Emma Dabiri on how her hair has shaped her life
Between ten and 14, I wanted longer hair, and it was a battle with my family. My parents were afraid of what it meant. Getting highlights was the first time my parents handed over the reins to me. It was just nice to sit down and have the foil in my hair the same way I saw my sisters getting their hair done. It felt like an important moment. I could not stop looking at myself.
Then I’d buy boxes of colour and follow the instructions. It was really important to me to be doing it on my own and enjoying the results.
I have this recurring nightmare that my hair has been cut short and dyed brown like the way it was when I was a boy. It’s a horrible dream. I always wake up in a panic.
My hair is probably the most important thing in terms of my image. Dying my hair blonde was the first time I was using my hair to express femininity.
This article originally appeared in the July/August issue of IMAGE Magazine.
Read more: Hair Stories – “I didn’t really understand what my hair meant to me until it was gone”
Read more: Hair Stories – Taryn De Vere on being disgusted by body hair, then learning to love it
Read more: Hair Stories – Theatre director Aoife Spillane-Hinks on learning to love her curls
Read more: Hair Stories – Mary Dunne on how her grey hair has made her more confident now than ever
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