Originally published in The Pulse

Bald can indeed be beautiful. Just ask any of these amazing women.

The thought of a woman with a shaved head may conjure images of irrational, crazy ladies like the loud mouthed Susan Powders, Debra in Empire Records or the infamous Britney Spears breakdown.

But for me, it brings about fonder memories of strong female characters who are looking to be heard and not seen like the ferocious Grace Jones, the scandalous Sinead O’Connor or my most inspirational influence, The Legend of Billie Jean.

Many other glamorous gals have taken to the clippers for movie roles, fashion or political statements but what has made several local ladies let their hair down…to fall to the base of the barber chair, that is?

Everything But The Curl

“I felt like my curls we’re defining me,” Amanda said as she went for another buzz cut to trim away any sign of a budding curl, “Don’t get me wrong, I love my curls but I started to feel like they we’re adding more worth to who I was than they should.”

As a sassy, smart-alecky Jane-of-all-trades at Chattanooga Brewing, Amanda is well known for her personality as well as those luscious locks. Previously attending the Aveda Hair School in Nashville, she understands the importance of healthy hair and thought it was the time to get healthy physically, mentally and every other way.

“A friend tried to bleach my hair a few years back which gave me third degree burns and made my hair fall out,” she said as she brushed the freshly buzzed fuzz off her shoulder, “it’s time to take this unhappy scalp to a more freeing, beauty euphoria.”

Unlike the other ladies featured in this article, Amanda did not promote that she was lopping it all off in the wee morning hours of November last year. She did give an inkling beforehand in an inquiring Facebook post, asking fellow females who have shaved their heads how liberating it was.

With almost twenty comments, only two were male and their responses were “Bet you won’t do it” and “Don’t do it.” All the other responses were women who encouraged her to do it with phrases like “Best thing ever.” and “Nothing is forever.”

In an admittedly slightly drunken stooper, she texted a few friends and got a Goldilocks mixture of responses. The one friend said “Don’t do it.” The second said, “Wait until tomorrow, once you sober up.” The third and final friend said, “Do it right now.”

And she did.

When asked what feedback she’s received, Amanda said that “so many people told me I did it in the wrong season with winter coming but, if anyone has hurried to take a shower and run out of the house then they know freezing hair sucks.”

She also noticed the nonverbal feedback pretty quickly. “My matches on Tinder decreased once I changed my profile. It was a great way to weed out guys who cared too much about how I looked.”

Before deciding to ditch the cute bear ear buns, she asked the man of the moment his opinion and when he replied “It would suck not to be attracted to you anymore,” she got rid of him sooner than she got rid of her curls.

“It’s not like I did it for a guy but I did do it to shed someone else’s perception and to reset my own beauty standards.”

We spoke as she finalized her fresh look by doing her makeup, getting ready to go out. “The day after shaving it all off, I really started to amp up my makeup routine and I have so many hats that I am excited to wear because I never could get my hair to fit into them.”

This woman of many hats says she will continue to keep shaving her head through at least the next several seasons and see how it grows on her.

Mane & Tale

To be so brave and cut over a foot of hair off is an accomplishment to be proud of, but to do it and have your profession be a hairstylist, is ballsy. Patrons could think, “What does she know about doing hair if she doesn’t have any?”

Shae Mage, a well-established hairstylist at Nicos Salon for the past decade and a Chattanooga Rollergirl for the past four years, did just that. She agreed to lose all of her long, black and green mane last year for one of her teammates who was battling cancer.

“There were ten of us who raised almost five thousand dollars and, my hair being one of the longest, I was told I raised the most just during the night of the event.” She says she went into it prepared to hate it but that wasn’t the case. “As I’ve always had some sort of length, we used a four guard so it wasn’t as short as some of the others but we took over a foot off.”

Being in the salon industry since 2004, Shae (or Shmage as she’s known to her clients) is no stranger to experimenting with her look but this was a first. “Since it is my profession, I do prefer the length but I have had the side of my head shaved often,” she gestured to her now all silver, shoulder length bob, “and there is so much more maintenance when it’s short.”

It seemed only fitting to interview her at her salon surrounded by the smell of product and sound of hairdryers. With mirrors everywhere, I assumed after her charitable cut that she would constantly be looking at herself but she said to the contrary.

As it is a part of her everyday routine, she looks at her customers and not herself. She said the majority was supportive especially the Nicos staff, including the owner Scooter who wanted the honor of cutting Shae’s hair at the event.

“Cutting it all off kind of made it feel like a security blanket that I realized I didn’t need.” Although Shmage is adamant about never shaving it again, she does suggest that every woman do it at least once in a lifetime because it is very liberating. And if you do, go see Shae Mage at Nicos Salon.

Hair-Brained Scheme

As this had been on my life list of things to do, I was more than happy to lose my shoulder length locks to help Chattanooga-based charity Jack’s Chattanoggins only a mere six months after moving here in 2015.

My thought was that those sweet kids do not have a choice in whether they got to keep their hair and we should teach children that vanity is not as important as what is on the inside. I raised over one-thousand dollars and was more than willing to do it again the following year. Only raising a third of my goal in 2016, I thought to mix it up and only shave a third of my head.

Now several years later and having just gotten the wonderful Shae Mage (shameless plug) to help me cope with this most awkward asymmetrical regrowth and have picture perfect curls for my wedding this past fall, I am done with the follicle foolishness.

For my active farmer, gal-on-the-go lifestyle, long hair is just no longer practical. Detangling. Blow drying. Brushing. Conditioning. Cowlicks. Split ends. Bangs in my face and my biggest pet peeve—stray hairs, especially grey ones or wet ones, clinging for life to my face!

I think I am ready to take it down to a one guard again but without Jack’s Chattanoggins to help motivate me, it took some research to find who will accept donations.

Kelly, owner of Monarch Body Piercing in Hixson, just donated over a foot of her hair to Wigs for Kids which is a national charity where the children do not have to pay for the wigs, unlike some other hair donation charities we shall not speak of. I found over two dozen salons between Soddy Daisy and Cleveland that offer a free haircut for those donating so don’t hesitate to ask your local stylist.

The prior two times I shaved my head, someone else did it for me but this time, I want to take my tresses into my own hands. I eagerly looked up Wigs for Kids to get the easy at-home instructions but was disappointed to find they do not accept donations with grey hair and I am proud, yet now sad to say I am becoming a silver fox.

Here are a few other sources that will accept donations: Pantene Beautiful Lengths, Children with Hair Loss (who do accept grey hair) and my new favorite one, the Matter of Trust Clean Wave Program!

The Matter of Trust Clean Wave Program will take ponytails as short as three inches, even salon clippings (including groomers) to make eco-friendly mats that help clean up oil spills or other damaging disasters that require filtration.

Still unsure if I am going to make the cut or which charity to help out, it is such an empowering feeling to know that I can give it a whack anytime I want because, as I was told I “have a nicely shaped head” or “can pull it off.”

Even after getting those concerned looks where strangers try to decipher if I am battling cancer or am someone rebelling against the norm, I smile knowing that this is becoming a bit more norm.

Check out The Pulse’s Facebook page this week and maybe catch some live action video of whether I cut the coif.

Cool Hair Cut Names:

The Chelsea: Shaved head with only the bangs
Skullet: Shaved head with only the bangs and long locks left in the back
Riff Raff: Shaved head only with the long locks left in the back
Rat Tail: Shaved head with only a little strand at the back of the neck