The Big Chop

In January this year, I cut off most of my hair. I’d been relaxing it pretty constantly since I was 14 [I had a mild punk phase and shaved it off. Let’s just say that particular haircut caused my mother to say scornfully, “You look like a boy. An ugly boy” and leave it at that.]

So yeah, cut to January 2011. Or rather rewind a bit to September 2010 when I made the decision to not go back to my regular and awesome hairdresser for a relaxer touch up (I used to go every eight weeks or so at about £30 a pop). When I look back on it, I can see very clearly that it wasn’t really a lightbulb/Eureka!/Road to Damascus decision. I remember just thinking, “Meh. I wonder what my natural hair looks like?” And that’s how I decided to stop using a relaxer: no epic breakup, no job loss, no bereavement (thank God), just plain old curiosity and boredom.

I half-heartedly started reading up – I recalled a distinctly bumpy skull from the teen punk phase and wasn’t keen to revisit the shaved head look. I decided to transition, despite reading on how the differing textures could cause breakage on a big scale. I reckoned maybe a year of letting it grow out would give me a good few inches by the time I big chopped. That’s another thing – I had a whole new lingo to learn before embarking on my ‘journey’ (GAG). By the middle of December, I was sick of my brittle, breaking transitioning barnet and booked an appointment with the campest hairdresser I’ve ever met. He assessed my hair – porosity, density, motility (wait, that’s for sperm…) and general condition. We set a date – January 5. The lady who cut my hair was a willowy French-accented stunner with a baby ‘fro the colour of the inside of a Crunchie bar: honey and amber. I began to doubt my decision; I would never look as glam and gorgeous as this woman. She began cutting and I was surprised to not feel much – just the creeping cold as my hair fell to the ground. This was the pic I took in to the salon:


You can’t say I lack ambition.

Here’s a pic my sylist took during the haircut. She’s does great hair but is clearly a mediocre photographer:

I hated my big chop. My mum’s first comment, about 10 minutes after the cut was “Oh. Are they going to shape it up later?” Reader, I nearly cried. My dad was a little more cool – “Oh, there’s so little left!” I took no photos because I hated it so much. It was about an eighth of an inch after the BC, but here it is about 3-4 weeks later:

This is my "I hate this, but I must document it" face...

The textures were all over the place. I felt weird, but I must stress, not ‘ugly’. I did find myself puting on great big hoop earrings a lot more than usual, though. And eyeshadow, mascara and eyeliner too (I normally don’t wear makeup). But I was damned if I was going to let someone mistake me for a boy. All my YouTube browsing showed that 80 per cent of the products being used were from the US and cost the earth before you even factored in shipping costs. I began to pray for quick hair growth so I could get some braids with extensions in.

And then… I had a few good days. I began to see my ‘curl pattern’ (nothing but uber-tight coils), my hand-in-hair symptoms went through the roof, I began to delight in the sensation of air-drying my hair in 10 minutes flat. I think this is the stage they call ‘acceptance’. I can confirm that it is the stage right before love sets in. I temporarily abandoned the idea of getting braids. Then, in March, my hair was long enough for a (fairly crap) twistout:

Told you it was bit crap...

But I was proud enough to put it onto Tumblr. And since then, I’ve stayed in love with it. For about 95% of the time. Here’s a love-in between me and my hair from April to July 2011:

Shrinkage is still a bitch. And on some bad hair days the urge to shave it all off is very strong. But I’ve learned so much about my hair in seven short months. I’m using new products (HELLO, WHIPPED SHEA BUTTER!), reading interesting blogs (Curly Nikki and BGLH are just two) and trying new things (turbans! headwraps! make-up!). As a definite plus, my eyebrow game has been stepped up by entire leagues. I’ll never be one of those militant naturals and who knows, I may even yet return to a relaxer. Later this week, I’m getting braids with extensions put in to give it some room to grow unmanipulated over the summer.

My sister recently asked me why I decided to do the BC. After a long and winding conversation, it came down to this: personal confidence. I’d not long moved into my own first solo flat, work was going well-ish, plus I’m nearing 30. I know that a few years ago, I couldn’t have made such a decision. Besides – and this is crucial for everyone to remember – it’s just hair, after all.

I’ll keep you posted on how the love affair goes… 😉


9 responses

  1. Wow – looking good!

    I was contemplating the big chop, but with my fat face I’ve put that on hold. I’ve now decided to stretch out my relaxer for now (I’ll be a bridesmaid in September so no drastic decisions until after the wedding), and then I’ll start to transition in Winter – can’t wait!

  2. Same curiosity drove me to my own BC three years ago & thankfully developed much love for my natural hair. You look fabulous!

  3. I’ve done the BIG CHOP a couple of times, because I didn’t learn from my first bad relaxer fall out. But I’m now allergic to the chemicals, so only natural from now on.

  4. It looks amazing! I don’t think I saw any pics of you with relaxed hair but I really like it like this! I’m currently trying to grow my hair (I’ve been natural for years but have always been boy-like in my maintenance habits and only really started taking care of it last March)… tis exciting when you can see it paying off (although shrinkage will make it look like nothing is happening boo).

    My only advice is to take all advice with a pinch of salt and work out what suits you and your lifestyle when it comes to ‘regimens’ (jeezus it’s only hair guys) – I went a bit crazy with the co-washing, protective styling, product-junkyism at first but now I keep it super simple cos ultimately I’m lazy!

  5. Thank you all for your lovely comments – you’re too sweet!
    Good luck on your various hair adventures – and please keep sharing stories and pics and ideas. We’re raising an army of fabulous natural-haired black women. Now wars, though. Just fabulousity. 😉

  6. Hi,
    Congrats on going natural! I wish someday i have the courage to do that but for now i’ll remain relaxed lol.

    I was wondering which hairdresser you used to go to that did such a wonderful job on you hair. I’ve been struggling to find a good hair dresser in London (more so North West London).

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