Is Getting Bangs Really Proof of a Mental Breakdown?
By Talia Kliot
It’s 2:00 a.m. and Nina is sitting in her basement. She peers into the cracked mirror she bought at the dollar store for her high school locker and gasps. What has she done? Her hands tremble as she feels the cool metal of the scissors against her skin. Hair litters her floor as she blasts Taylor Swift, mascara streaming down her face.
This is what tends to come to mind when a friend shows up at school after getting bangs. Whether this notion spawns from Internet memes or pop culture, the negative connotations surrounding bangs seems to be unwarranted.
Nina Cloutier, a Dawson Arts and Culture student and two-time bang wearer, explains that she uses her hair as a form of self-expression and that her experience with this hairstyle has never stemmed from a mental breakdown, but rather because she wanted a change. The thought that getting bangs is necessarily a sign of instability seems laughable to her. On the other hand, she shares that other drastic hair changes she’s attempted were brought on by a little more than the desire for change. She says that after breakups, she bleached her hair in the basement in order to show a physical transformation of how her life felt.
Dr. Susan Finch, a psychology professor at Dawson, says that she’s never heard about the concern following this drastic hair change, which one could attribute to the fact that she is not necessarily versed in meme culture. She wonders if the motivation for bangs, or drastic hair changes in general, are linked to teens searching for their identities, revealing that as a teenager, she changed her hair all the time, but no longer does at this point in her life.
Finch then speculates that the popularity of hair changes in teenagers could be due to the impermanence of the decision, since it is constantly growing. “You can experiment without the gravity of other choices you might make,” she says.
Another important aspect to consider in determining the gravity of getting bangs is whether the hair was cut by a professional or by oneself. Finch argues that it must be considered on a case by case basis, for some people are more artistic than others, or are more prone to take risks. While she can’t imagine cutting her own hair, she acknowledges that she has disposable income, so if she wants to get her hair cut, she can afford to pay someone to do it. She speculates that if she didn’t have that extra income, she would probably think differently about it.
"You can experiment without the gravity of other choices you might make."
In 2015 data collected by UBS, it was found that the average cost of a women’s haircut is $35.28 in Montréal. This is a pretty high price to pay for a spontaneous decision, especially when University of Montréal estimates that students already need around $1225 a month to live comfortably. Since haircuts are so expensive, the thought of cutting one’s own bangs doesn’t seem drastic or unstable in the slightest.
Finch explains that the importance of the relationship between hair and identity has been explored through numerous studies conducted on female cancer patients. For example, in a 2017 study in the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology, Chemotherapy-induced alopecia management: clinical experience and practical advice, it is stated that hair loss “influences body image, sexuality, and self-esteem, so that up to 8% of patients decide to refuse chemotherapy if there is the risk of hair loss.” The loss of hair can be linked to a loss of identity, one that these women cannot control.
Getting bangs, however, offers a temporary way to take control of one’s hair, and by extension, one’s identity. I argue that this drastic hair change, along with others one might attempt, doesn’t reflect a flimsy mental state, but rather allows teenagers and adults to express themselves as they figure out who they want to be.