Why are bangs such a big deal?

Camille Liptak 

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     Scrolling through the hot hair trends of 2021 reveal a multitude of style options — mullets, shags, bobs, crop cuts, layers — but the one style that we keep cycling back to in the seemingly infinite cache of haircuts is bangs. The face-framing fringe, which is cut to cover the forehead, is making another meteoric comeback.  

     The list of female celebrities currently sporting bangs is a diverse one: Rihanna, Margot Robbie, Camila Cabello, Bella Hadid, Taylor Swift — just to name a few. And when these female celebs get bangs, it is a big deal.  

     Take, for example, Margot Robbie. The Aussie actress has made a name for herself playing diverse roles, including Harley Quinn and Sharon Tate. However, Hollywood had little to say about Robbie’s acting chops and more to say about her hair when she donned bangs at the 2021 Oscars.  

     More recently, Robbie was featured on the cover of Vogue UK and the majority of the conversation surrounding the cover had to do with Robbie’s fringe and darkened hair color.  

     Rihanna is another woman whose career highlights have been overshadowed by her bangs. A number of digital publications, including Allure and Glamour, have written seven articles in 2021 about Rihanna’s bangs.  

     You read that right: there are seven articles about the singer’s current hairstyle. Not about her latest billionaire status or her lingerie empire, but her bangs.  

     For women, a new hairdo — especially one with bangs — is an allusion to change.     

     There’s the famous quote uttered by Coco Chanel that goes: “A woman who cuts her hair is about to change her life.”  

     A woman’s hair is tied to her femininity, fertility and sense of self. Thus, a haircut becomes a symbol for her growth and maturity as well as her desire for change.        

     Bangs have long been dubbed a major hair transformation, even though they aren’t all that transformative. At least, not in comparison to more dramatic hair chops like buzz cuts or crops, which cause a frenzy in their own right. (Remember when Britney Spears shaved her head?)  

     Most young women have likely all been there: After a bad breakup, a crippling job loss or the hellscape that was COVID-19, we feel compelled to alter our appearance because we want to rid ourselves of the memories and emotions tied to those traumatic experiences. We want to escape our pain and change.    

     All one needs is to print out a picture of Taylor Swift and her cute bangs, go to the salon and say, “Make me look like that.” In a few quick snips, the salon floor is littered with split ends and memories of the past, and voila: She emerges as a new woman.  

     Except it seldom works that way. 

     We bring in those pictures of Taylor Swift not only because we want her bangs, but because we also want her life, her confidence or her happiness. We look to change our outward appearance in hopes of changing our external situations. After all, isn’t it easier to cut our hair to look like someone else’s than it is to face our true selves in the mirror every day?  

     Throughout history, women have been reduced to and defined by their outer appearance, usually by men. However, a woman’s hair is often one of the few parts of herself within her total control.  

     And honestly, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to get bangs. I’ve been an avid fan of fixing, cutting, and dying my hair for years. But I have also fallen into the trap of assuming that a certain hairstyle, a certain hair color or some super cute bangs, would make me feel better about myself and my situation at the time.  

     Problem is, they never do.  

     Our current society perpetuates the notion that in order for a woman to change her life, she needs to change her hair; and these hair changes eclipse other facets of women, including their successes.  

     As cathartic and trendy as cutting bangs may be, the hairstyle does not replace the actions women must take to truly change their lives.    

Rhianna. Photo courtesy of Essence Magazine.