We’ve all seen it: the so-called “trauma bangs” or damaged “do-it-yourself” bleach blond hair that ensues after someone goes through a bad breakup.
It is common for people to change their appearance after ending a relationship, but why exactly do we see frustration in the form of drastic hair transformations?
Local Okemos hair stylist Jordynn Greeson said customers come in wanting to change their hair after a breakup “all the time.”
“It’s not just a breakup, but many different types of big events that have happened in somebody’s life,” Greeson said. “You know, maybe someone becoming a first time mom and going through postpartum, or even someone going through a big surgery. They just want to feel better about themselves.”
Greeson said she believes the urge to change your hair after a life-changing event stems from the desire to have control over something in your life. Because hair is something that can be changed so quickly, she said, it can be an easy confidence boost for those who need it.
“Even if it’s an at home thing that they’ve done, if it turns out well, they’re like ‘I did this. I feel better about myself'," Greeson said. "I feel like it’s just a confidence thing that they can instantly change about whatever their situation is and just makes them feel better."
Michigan State University psychology professor Ted Schwaba said although there hasn’t been much research done on people changing their appearances after breakups, it “makes sense” that they would.
When it comes to relationships, he said, people often merge their sense of self with their partners. This leads to them often feeling lost when the relationship falls through.
Schwaba said changing your hair could help recover self worth by distancing yourself from the person you were during that relationship, manifesting in the form of slow, personal changes.
“Changing little behaviors, maybe something like your haircut, it’s not gonna change your personality, but it’ll help you think of yourself as someone separate from that past relationship,” Schwaba said.
Like Greeson, Schwaba believes a sense of control plays a role as well.
Certain feelings such as anxiety and depression can’t just be “changed on a dime” the way that hair can, he said, which is why changing your hair can be a good option for those who feel like they just can’t get it right.
“There’s some things that are more symbolic, that are really easy to change in ourselves and maybe those are the things that people like to change the most,” he said.
Greeson said the most common drastic change she’s seen her clients make involves coloring.
“Maybe somebody who’s been going blonde for so long wants to all of a sudden change to dark," she said. "Something completely different, you know, opposite end of the color spectrum."
Greeson said she will also commonly see people cut their hair as well as a way to “revamp” themselves.
One of Greeson’s clients, social relations and policy junior Kendal Essenmacher, went through a hair change herself following a recent breakup.
Essenmacher, who typically gets blonde highlights, decided to make her hair darker during her first post-breakup hair appointment.
“I was just gonna get more blonde, but then I went through a breakup at the end of August I kind of wanted to change my hair because it’s something that I can control and would make me feel better about myself,” she said.
Essenmacher added that the change made her feel like she had gained her power back because it was something daring and new.
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“You could just tell when she finally saw the final result … you can just see it in their face, they just feel more confident about themselves when they do a big change like that,” Greeson said.
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