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Minimalist Musings On Doin’ Your Do … Or, Hairstyles Of The Poor And Satisfied

by Gip Plaster on February 15th, 2011

There’s no place in a simple, deliberate life for a complicated hairstyle. By simplifying your haircut, you can look good while still reflecting your simple, minimalist values.

If the passing bandwagon will slow for a moment, I’d like to jump on. I’ve been planning this post for a while, but now, because of recent posts elsewhere, I’m in danger of becoming a hanger-on.

Some of you are already talking about this issue.

For example, Kat at Kat Simplified posted Minimalist Hair on February 8 — about her recent switch from funky red to mousy brown in an effort to further simplify her already-quite-minimalist life. And not long after I read that, I saw that my friend Jo at Simplybeingmum had written about chopping off her long hair to make her life easier.

Then, the conversation on this topic touched even closer to home. New So Much More Life commenter Jenny from ex consumer wrote in a comment on my And Topper Makes Four post that she doesn’t miss eating out or “expensive hair cuts” so far, and it’s been nine months of tightening spending for her. In fact, I even briefly mentioned this topic in that post when I told you that one of four purchases for our home that I made last year was some $20 hair clippers.

First, it’s important to mention that men and women are often believed to think differently about this issue. But even mentioning that draws me very close to stereotyping.

Some women have clipper cuts and some men have carefully styled long hair. So while I’m willing to acknowledge that different people have different levels of concern for (or dare I say, fetishes about) their hair, that’s as far as I’ll go.

I’m willing to say this, though: A complicated hairstyle is a symptoms of a life out of control.

Someone with a complex style or cut may be self-conscious about appearance and hiding behind the hair. Or big hair could indicate that someone is trapped in a consumer mentality, insisting on paying a high price for a haircut because expensive cuts are better than cheap ones. Worst of all, overstyled hair could indicate a person who doesn’t analyze his or her life, looking for simpler, better, cheaper, nicer alternatives to what’s always been done.

Here are six more things I know are true about minimalist hairstyling.

1. Short clipper cuts are simple, but a shaved head isn’t.

I expect some disagreement about this. While a shaved head looks like a minimalist style, it takes too long to do well and requires maintenance to look good. Speaking from experience, I can tell you there’s nothing simple about shaving your head. Buzzing your hair with clippers and guard number 3 or 4, for example, looks great and continues to look good for weeks, so that’s my current choice.

2. It’s silly to pay for something you can do better yourself.

And that includes clipper cuts. In the past, I’ve frequently paid to have my hair cut with clipper guard number 3 or 4 — then realized when I got home that there were little pieces of hair sticking up that I had to trim myself. And I’ve never yet visited a barber or stylist who can trim a neckline straight. But after some practice, I can do it perfectly.

3. Dyes have no place in a simple life.

Even though I have more grey hair than most people my age — and it is rapidly increasing — I promised myself years ago that I would never use hair dye. Setting aside the mess of doing it yourself or the expense of having it done, coating my head with chemicals and then allowing them to slowly absorb seems an absurd idea if I want to live a long, healthy life.

4. Hair products deserves a minimalist approach too.

While I’d like to say that I don’t put anything on my hair other than my inexpensive natural store-brand shampoo and conditioner from Whole Foods Market, I do use a little styling gel, especially when I’m almost due for another trim, to turn my shaggy hair into something modern and messy. But surely hairsprays and styles that are set by a beautician are a thing best left in the last century.

5. You don’t have to look the same every day.

I trim my hair every five or six weeks. Today, it looks very short because I trimmed it a couple of days ago. The day before I trim it again it will be longer, require a bit more gel to maintain order/disorder and will look, perhaps, a bit better actually. But I don’t need to always look the same. In fact, most days it doesn’t matter how I look at all.

6. Attitude toward your hair plays a big role.

Here’s an admission: Since my high school didn’t allow long hair, I did my hair experimenting when I was in my 20s. I had hair past my shoulders for at least a couple of years. But it never looked good and always bothered me. Because I’m a simple guy at heart, I never did much other than comb it back or very rarely put it in a ponytail. A minimalist approach to a high-maintenance hairstyle simply doesn’t work.

And that’s what I know about minimalist hairstyles. What do you know?

While there’s more than one kind of hairstyle that can reflect your simple, minimalist values, choosing one that’s too complicated can make you look like a hypocrite.

And the wrong choice can also leave you looking like an inmate. Even the most radical minimalists don’t want that.

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39 Comments
  1. I really need to change my profile image on my blog as I am still Jo with long hair on it! When I discover an easy way to photograph myself I will! haha! I am still colouring my hair, because nature wants me to be brown, but I am pretty sure I am meant to be blond… No idea why – wonder what that says about me!!! No hair products though, just wash dry and go!
    Jo@simplybeingmum recently posted True and Unrequited Love

  2. Thank you so much for the mention Gip. 🙂

    I’m a wash and go kind of girl myself. My hair is so thick that I’d be afraid to attempt to cut it myself, but I don’t use hair color or styling products at all.

    When I do treat myself to an inexpensive haircut every two months or so, I ask for a style that is quick and easy. I have much more important things to do then to stand around playing with my hair every morning!
    Jenny recently posted Why I Love Budgets And You Should Too!

    • You’re welcome. I’m glad to have you here as part of the simple and deliberate conversation.
      Gip

  3. Lorie McCloud permalink

    as it happens, I’m planning to get my hair cut off and give it to Locks of Love. I haven’t had short hair in so many years I’ve forgotten how it feels. I want a style that I can just comb and go. I’m going to let it grow out again so I’ll pass through a lot of different stages. long hair has worked for me b/c it doesn’t require any care other than the ritual I go through when I wash and condition it. I couldn’t care less if I’m following any trends. I could get away with having it trimmed every 6 or 8 months for $10.

    • Deb - Life Beyond Stuff permalink

      OOOh Gip, how brave you are taking on a topic like hair .

      Hair for women is huge and can be very tied into our self-esteem, probably why they tarred and feathered us in days of old if we got too far out of line.

      I’ve been wrestling with the fact that I dye my hair for years and have pulled back from a complicated 2.5 hour process of individual foils (streaks? not sure what you call them over there), to give me a wondrous array of highlights and lowlights. Now it’s just a supermarket dye that has automatic colour variations.

      If I gave this up I’d be grey and I’m just not ready to go there yet.

      I let my hair grow to avoid frequent cuts but today is coincidentally
      the day it’s all coming off. Long hair in this climate is driving me insane.

      And there will be no clipper cut for me (surely women don’t actually do this?). This is monumental and shall be afforded due recognition. We have two salons within a five minute walk. One is dark with old fashioned hair dryers, a dog sprawled on the floor and people with bad hair. The other is perhaps the most beautiful salon I’ve ever seen in a suburb and would be at home in any major city.

      Guess where I’ll be at 1pm this afternoon and I didn’t even ask the price. To go from long to short is a delicate operation and if stuffed up irreversible for months. I’m also feeling flush because my car has finally sold yay!!!!
      Deb – Life Beyond Stuff recently posted My Simple Valentine

      • I seem to be finding some strong opinions on this topic, as I expected I would. It’s funny where each of us gets hung up. I’m over the fact that I have more grey hair than most people my age. I wonder what my worst current hang-up is???
        Gip

  4. Gena permalink

    Gip,
    So great that you tackled this “hairy” but relevant topic! Jeff also bought clippers last year and we do his hair; mostly him I just catch a few trim spots. He too had grown tired of sporting such a simple cut; his coarse and thick hair only wants to do one thing; then being charged good money for it only to have us fix it at home. My hair has also been simplified; apparently I’d been fighting nature with my cuts and styling, now I let my hair curl up itself after showers or swimming, a very tiny amount of a styling creme is worked in so it won’t go flyaway on me and that’s it! I average a cut a year now, and agree that it doesn’t have to look the same every day. I guess you could say I have made peace with my hair! 🙂 Glad to find we’re not the only ones!!

    • Yes, I think the idea that your hair doesn’t have to look the same every day is the most important one in my post. Every day is a new beginning… or something like that.

      Gip

  5. Nancy permalink

    Natural grey hair is a good thing. In addition to saving money by not using hair dye, I’m often offered a senior discount even though I’m not yet of senior age!

    • I don’t have quite that much grey hair yet, Nancy, but it won’t be long!
      Gip

  6. Deb - Life Beyond Stuff permalink

    But I’m not ready to be a “senior” yet Nancy! My Techno-Geek is three years younger than me and I can’t bear the thought of looking like a “senior”. Grey hair can look great but can also be very aging. I can still pass for being in my forties, with grey hair I think I’ll look my age. I know it brings up all the stuff around the fact that we live in something of an ageist society. I said from the start hair = self esteem.

    I hope Jo joins the discussion and tells us why she feels like a blonde instead of a brunette.

    • I really don’t know! I think it might be a youth thing. I was always blond, until I reached about 20 and it got gradually darker. I normally go brown in the winter and blond in the summer. I definitely look better blond, there’s no doubt, I look like me – does that make sense? Also my Mom will not concede I have brown hair – she will not have it at all. When I go dark and explain it is close to my natural colour she refuses to accept! Perhaps she remembers me as her little girl?
      ps – Helen Mirren grew grey gracefully – by highlighting (foils) – she looks amazing!
      Jo@simplybeingmum recently posted How TV Ruined Your Life

  7. Kat @ Kat Simplified permalink

    Gip – Thanks for the mention! I love my ultra-short cut but must confess I miss being a red head. When I stopped coloring it, it created some controversy within my family. My son thought it made me look old, but determined that my short cut was “cool” so it balanced out. I definitely don’t miss the chemicals, time and expense!

    Just as my identity used to be tied up in the stuff that I owned, I think my identity was also tied to how I looked. Once I got over myself and realized I’m OK no matter how I looked (or what I owned) life became a lot simpler.
    Kat @ Kat Simplified recently posted Possessions

    • That’s right, Kat. I think we tie our identities to how we look — when the two things aren’t really related at all.
      Gip

  8. Oh I gotta chime in on this one! I gave up highlights about eight years ago and after a year of a short funky bleach ‘do, cut it all off into a short punk pixie (cut it myself) and let it go naturally gray. I’m 55 and five years older than my husband. We both look pretty good on some days and pretty tired and old on others, and neither one of us gives a rat’s ass as we are more concerned about being healthy and productive and connected to one another. He’s been using clippers for years. At the moment he’s let his hair grow out and it’s nice and wavy and streaked with loads of gray. I’ve let mine grow out a little, with the intent of cutting it in a bob, but it’s thinned out a lot so I may change my mind and chop it off again, one never knows.

    I grew up when hair was SET every night in torturous rollers, or there were perms, etc. My mother still has the same ‘do since 1959, and only recently stopped dying it blonde. Loads of us women are going naturally gray, though, and it is a good thing. Self-esteem really needs to be based on reality, otherwise it’s just denial.
    meg recently posted Karol Gajda Re-Releases The Luxury of Less

    • “Self-esteem really needs to be based on reality, otherwise it’s just denial.”

      Exactly right, Meg!
      Gip

    • Jeff & Gena S permalink

      I love your hair! You look great! My mother always complained about her thinning hair, now mine is pulling the same stunt and I’ve discovered its a side effect of my thyroid issue. AARGH! hate it! Anyway, at some point when silver decides to show up en masse I’m leaning toward your idea or just give into nature and let my hair be curly and silver, it could be worse 😉
      Jeff & Gena S recently posted Love and PurposeShared

  9. marianney | A Life Set Free permalink

    this is a tough one. i think it’s all very personal and i don’t think it means you are a bad person if you spend a little more time on your appearance. i have my getting ready routine down to as little as i could get it, but i still straight-iron my hair every day (5 mins) and pat one some mineral powder makeup (3 mins).

    i have to straighten my hair or it just looks awful. my hair air-dries very badly and has major frizz. i have to use makeup because i have bad skin that gets red and blotchy and just for my own self-esteem, i just want to look normal!

    i usually don’t dye my hair, but i just did last weekend because i got a free gift certificate for a cut and color. who wouldn’t take that up?? that said, i probably won’t get it dyed again, though i LOVE the color. it looks more natural than my real color, lol! maybe that’s how jo feels too. 🙂
    marianney | A Life Set Free recently posted 6 Simple Steps to Maximize Your Subscriber Counts

  10. jenny smythe permalink

    I used to highlight my hair. And now I stick to my natural hair color. Not just because of the cost but because I want to donate my hair and they do not accept color treated hair. It’s been so much easier not to have to do highlights anymore and just going to the salon and paying $15 for a haircut is easier on my pocket. $15 versus over a hundred dollars with my highlighted hair is so much easier to swallow!

    • Good job, Jenny. I’m glad to see so many of have our own version of minimalist hair.
      Gip

  11. Ahh…such a topic!

    I have pretty long hair, got my first gray before I could even biologically HAVE children, and have been told I pass for 21. BY 21 year olds.

    So, sometimes I dye my hair because I’m vain and am tired of the “trailer trashy” blond ends that happen to brunettes in the fall.

    That’s my biggest concession to chemicals…aside from store bought deoderant. I use vinegar and baking soda water to ‘wash” my hair. 🙂

    • I’ll admit to using store-bought deodorant, too. Otherwise, I try to stay away from chemicals, too. I’ve never tried vinegar and baking soda to wash my hair, but I don’t have enough of it at the moment to matter.
      Gip

  12. Jo H. permalink

    Some of us are more, how shall I put this, natural beauties than others of us, and can afford to buzz cut, go grey, air-dry, self-trim, or even use pinking shears on our locks. Me? My face needs more help than some lucky people, so just to look normal (see marianney’s comment), I won’t use clippers (been there, won’t go back), or cut my own hair (very thick). For me it’s about balance – trying to use the minimum of aids that allow me to feel comfortable.

    Meg – I remember those rollers too! Never again!

    • You have a good point, Jo, as far as looks are concerned. A good haircut can improve a mediocre face. I have a mediocre face and a mediocre haircut, however.
      Gip

  13. Alex permalink

    I think you have found while it seems a simple subject, hair is heavily linked to our internal-feel-good-mojo & how we present to the world.

    Personally I have a #1 clipper cut & won’t feel guilty for paying to get this done (good neck & all), living on myself makes this a better option.

    can’t see why shaved heads are not simple, if part of your routine is to shave your face daily why not your head ….. but then lets head off that contentious subject not all head shapes re equal & some just don’t look good shaved/clippered.

    simple hair will mean different things to everyone …

    • Thanks for commenting, Alex. I think you’re on the right track. Hair is, for some reason, linked to our identities.

      I’ve tried a shaved head and all the clipper guards, and number 4 is my current choice. I had it done in various ways at a shop for years, too, but once I started trusting myself, I realized I could do better than even the most competent cutters I ever encountered!
      Gip

  14. Caragh permalink

    This is a great topic, especially for women. While I am comfortable with a simple wardrobe and minimal makeup, I am quite vain about my hair. I don’t want to be, but as a 39 year old with a bit of grey, I do get highlights to disguise them. I hate the time and money this takes, but I can’t bring myself to go grey gracefully. I tell myself that when I am closer to 50 I will let it go grey, but the women in my family who are 70 and over all color their hair still. When I have asked them why they have colored their hair all of these years, the response is “Once you start, it is hard to stop.”

    • I’m sure it would be hard to stop coloring your hair once you start. I have much more grey hair than the average 38 year old, but I’m already in a relationship and I don’t have an office job, so I have no one that I must convince that I’m young. My family already knows exactly how old I am.

      In fact, I travel in strange circles. I’ve always been the youngest one in the room everywhere I go, and that’s still true most of the time today. Since I’m 17 years younger than my sister, I guess I consider myself a leftover from a previous generation rather than someone of my generation…
      Gip

  15. Anne permalink

    About 6 mos ago I had my hair cut into a short punk pixie cut similar to Meg’s. Since then I’ve been trimming it up myself whenever necessary with some help on the back from my husband. It’s so nice to be able to get up in the morning and go without worrying about how my hair looks. In fact, most days I forget to even check in the mirror. If it is a bit too bedheadish I simply stick my head under the faucet to rinse it out. I don’t use shampoo anymore, so I just scrub my head a bit.

    My mother still dyes her hair, but I’m happy to let it go naturally. My husband is 12 years older, so he isn’t bothered by it because it levels the playing field a bit. I use our hair clippers on my husband, son and dog (usually in that order)–talk about money savers!

    • Thanks for joining the conversation, Anne.

      We have cats, the ultimate minimalist pet. They take care of their own grooming. A brushing for them now and then is mostly for entertainment of all involved.

      My partner is older than I am, too, so I have the same situation. And I have more grey hair every day.
      Gip

  16. Mary permalink

    My hair and clothes are the only minimalist things I own. I don’t really fit this group because I like all that stuff Gip threw away. I do thing a few low lights is ok. The problem is that after a few days it starts to be obvious, at least to me. Your hairdresser will tell you it is a gradual transition unlike the old time dark roots. I think grey roots are even worse. Thats not to say I don’t have them. I have to keep up the illusion that I still have less grey than my brother. I actually did have less grey until about two or three years ago. I think the stress of the job market and being a jailer may have led to the demise of my brunette hair.
    I applaud all of you who can live a minimalist lifestyle but I only see myself doing that if forced by circumstances. You can’t teach an old dog new tricks if they don’t want to learn.

  17. Shelia Dejesus permalink

    my hair air-dries very badly and has major frizz. I think it might be a youth thing.
    Shelia Dejesus recently posted Many Cures

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