Lauren Aitchison

The vulnerability of short hair

Lauren Aitchison
The vulnerability of short hair

I am the scruffy sister. Three and a half years my junior, Mairi would insist on wearing a party dress to playgroup every day, no matter the weather, while I was happy in the same pair of red dungarees. I was the one sent upstairs to change before we went anywhere and had to be forced to comb my hair. "It's not like we're going to see the Queen," I would grumble (quietly, so as not to incur my mother's wrath, and a whack with the hairbrush).

Strangely, or perhaps, not so strangely, I was the one drawn into the world of fashion as a teenager. Mairi has a talent for making head-to-toe Primark look high end and sticks with what she knows suits her: Nude tones, waved hair and anything that shows off the small muscles in her back and shoulders. As a Type A oddball, I forked out my low wages from my job at the local Spar on copies of Elle Girl, Teen Vogue and Nylon. I collaged my room with images of Kurt Cobain and Debbie Harry and customised all my clothes with patches and pins from Claire's Accessories.

But androgyny is hard to navigate as a teenager if all you want is a man's approval. The images I saw of "masculine tailoring" and "boyish" body shapes were all of waifs; the Alexa Chungs of this world. I was straight up and down, but a size 12. According to Gok Wan, I should be pulling in my waist and emphasising what little curves I had. I grew increasingly insecure about the fact I wasn't traditionally feminine and that men wouldn't find me attractive so I grew my hair long to feel more like a girl, or what I thought a girl should be.

All of us are trying to be happier and more accepting of ourselves. For me, that has meant a decade long push-pull between who I want to be and who I think I should be. As shirts, bow ties and brogues settled into my wardrobe, I finally cut my hair into a bob, then grew it long again. This cycle has gone on since I was 18.

Turning 28 and realising I was officially in my late 20s, I decided it couldn't go on like this forever. I know people in their 40s and 50s who have so many insecurities and still can't fully accept themselves. I'd like to have most of my personal bullshit figured out by then and with a past abusive relationship and daddy issues, a haircut is the least of my worries. I decided to chop my hair and stick with it. Not only stick with it, but have it coloured dark blue with silver through it.

I will always be the scruffy sister. I'm finally ok with that.