We Volunteered as Tribute: 3 Dramatic Hair Makeovers

In honor of the launch of the new (but same old), we’ll be debuting makeovers all week. First up was yesterday’s makeover-that-wasn’t-a-makeover with Stacy London. Today, hair is on the menu (but please don’t eat it). We’ve also got home, life and style makeovers coming in hot, so if you’re into before-and-afters, do stick around. And if you’re not, please see me after class. We need to talk. Happy makeover week!

Considering it’s mostly made of dead cells and protein deposits, hair has a surprisingly vice-like grip over our physical identities. Such influence would be intimidating, I’m pretty sure, if it wasn’t also quite comforting. Maybe anything with so much power is a little bit of both. I think that’s why big hair transformations — inconsequential as they may seem — are so scary. They feel life-changing, and maybe even are.

For that reason, as we were approaching makeover week at Man Repeller, we thought it remiss to not do something with hair. It’s hard to think of something better poised to make us over, at least externally. Lucky for us, Suite Caroline, a sunny dreamboat of a salon nestled in Soho and brimming with talented hair whisperers, was game to give three of us any hair makeovers we could dream up. Cue anxiety, but the excited kind.

Two weeks and a lot of deliberation later, MariaPatty and I exited the Man Repeller office into the winking sun and walked west on Spring Street. We were uncharacteristically quiet, our previous claims of “not being nervous at all” unraveling quickly. It was only an eight minute walk and yet each of us managed to second-guess our decision at least once before it was over. By the time we arrived though, we were back to repeating our practiced, palliative assurances: It would be fine! It’s just hair! Who even cares!

And so into Suite Caroline we went and five hours later — with the help of Tiffani Patchett, Malcolm Cuthbert, Cara Craig and Lena Ott — we emerged anew. Read on to hear about what happened in-between and, because we’re Man Repeller, how all of it made us FEEL.

Haley, Junior Editor
Cut by Tiffani Patchett, color by Malcolm Cuthbert

What was your hair like before and what did you get done?
My hair was dirty blond with grown-out highlights, thick, messy-wavy, parted on the side and cut into an uneven extra-long lob. I liked the sloppy, unkempt thing I had going, but I wanted to chop off some weight, go champagne-y pink and get BANGS. All of which happened exactly as imagined, thanks to Tiffani and Malcolm, whom I now trust completely.

What made you want to make the change?
I’ve been really curious about getting bangs because, due to my hair being so thick, I’m often dealing with getting it out of my face or parting it in a way that makes it look less imposing. I thought bangs might better frame my face, help get my hair out of my face (counter-intuitively) and relieve me of the constant need to mess with it. Also, I love how having bangs makes ponytails and buns look more intentional.

The length was also dragging me down. I kept dreaming of a pink, bang-y bob for summer, even if I couldn’t totally picture it on me. I was conceptually convinced.

How did you feel before? During? After?
On the way over I was having major bang doubts. No one seemed very confident in my choice. It was like was having to convince people it was a good idea, which felt backwards. My constitutions weakened the more I had to be the sole champion of the idea. The second she did the first bang snip, though, I could tell I loved it. I don’t have very strong facial features — they’re all a little forgettable individually, which is fine — but bangs make them look like they fit together a little more. They’re a face-frame. I remember thinking, I’m keeping bangs forever, about five seconds after I saw them. I hesitated for a second on the color while in the salon — was pink hair super over? — but decided to just go for it since I’d thought about it a lot. And then I was so glad I did. After it was all done I felt so DIFFERENT! (Even if I didn’t look it.) I walked out of there on a cloud.

(My hair post-cut was still a bit wet and not fully settled, you can see the cut a week later here!)

Did having new hair change anything for you? Your attitude, your feelings, the way you dressed, the way you felt you were perceived?
I think having a more intentional-feeling hairstyle has made me see my closet and appearance with new eyes. I’d been going through a little bit of a rut with my closet and had been wearing the same plain, neutral stuff over and over. Suddenly, I wanted to wear more color, new shapes, something fun. It felt cheesy almost. I think people noticed that newfound spirit more than the hair itself. Also, I was right about bangs making my hair easier. I don’t have to tuck it behind my ears or change the part around to shift the weight. It just hangs where I want it, and when I put it up, it feels like a LOOK. I’m so glad I did it! Also, I love Suite Caroline and am now sending everyone I know.


MariaVisual Assistant
Color by Cara Craig, cut by Tiffani Patchett

What was your hair like before and what did you get done?
I started out with a dark brown bob and wispy bangs and ended with electric-red hair, vampire-red roots and blunt bangs. Cara bleached my entire head to get this color!

What made you want to make the change?
I was scrolling through Instagram one day when this image popped up and I was like, “AHHH!!!!!!” I couldn’t stop thinking about it. But having been golden blonde, platinum blonde, magenta-haired, lavender-haired and ombre’d within the past two years, I thought maybe I should give my scalp (and wallet) a break. Then this opportunity came around and it was all over. I briefly wondered if I could pull off such a crazy orange/red color, but the doubts soon gave way to certainty: I had to do it. As for getting my wispy bangs cut into blunt bangs, that was because the wispy ones made me feel like a toddler. They had to go.

How did you feel before? During? After?
I love experimenting with color and believe hair is wonderful way to express myself and challenge views on identity, race and culture. I was super excited. One thing I pretty quickly regretted, though, was my decision to wash my hair the night before. When I got to the salon and my hair colorist said we’d have to bleach everything, I realized I’d made a big mistake. Bleach hurts more on clean hair, I know from experience. At one point, I got up and started wandering around to keep my mind off of the fire on my scalp, and then sat down and put my head between my legs, desperate for relief. It was bad. I quietly considered shaving my head. The Suite Caroline team was wonderful and got me cold water and snacks, which helped. When Cara said it was time to wash my hair, she was my guardian angel.

The rest was a breeze. Cara dyed my hair in the sink and when I got up and looked, I was blown away. It was AMAZING! Cara is a magical hair genius. The last step was a bang cut from Tiffani. I felt like a million bucks. I love my hair and the way it turned out.

Did having new hair change anything for you? Your attitude, your feelings, the way you dressed, the way you felt you were perceived?
When I was in college, I had long hair that had never been touched because that was the standard of beauty. And as a mixed race Chinese English American, I was concerned with the notion of looking “too Asian.” So I stayed away from red hair dye, short hair, bangs and even wearing my hair in a bun. But then I took a class called “Black Hair Politics” which changed my perspective on the economic, social and political implications of self-expression through hair. It opened my eyes and, when I finally started messing with my hair, I feel like I gained a lot of freedom. I no longer worry about the notion of looking “too Asian,” because the reality is that I am Asian and that is not something to be ashamed of. I’m constantly asked about my ethnicity, race or where I “come from.” It’s a reality of being a person of color and a person of Other. But since having this red hair, I’ve noticed that’s let up a lot. I think because it took away one of the physical indicators of my Asianness. It’s been so interesting.

Also, my style is an amalgamation of art critic/child/eccentric world-traveled grandma, and this hair color has helped me underline that. It feels so deliberate yet nonsensical choice, which I love.

PattyHead of Revenue
Color by Lena Ott, cut by Tiffani Patchett

What was your hair like before and what did you get done?
My hair was medium-length, wavy and dark brown with some grays. Not a stitch of dye save for a lone bleached streak behind my left ear that I’ve lovingly colored green for two years.

I went RED and got a blunt lob.

What made you want to make the change?
I decided to go red after the earnest urgings of Haley and Shari, who did not peer pressure me! Really, that was it. And maybe Mercury being in retrograde…

How did you feel before? During? After?
The red suggestion piqued my curiosity because it was something I had never considered before. And, at the end of the day, my natural color is so dark that I can always dye it back, right? When the do-or-dye (sorry) day arrived, I was pretty anxious and did a poor job of pretending to have my shit together. Luckily I had time to gather myself because the whole process took about six hours — the cut, one lightening process, one coloring process and two rounds of highlights. My hair got a LOT of love from Lena and the whole Suite Caroline team.

Immediately after, I felt like I was undercover or something. It was fun and weird. I texted my friend Tal more selfies than any other human being would tolerate and told her I was pretty much an edgy Nicole Kidman now. By day two, I had come down from the “I’m in disguise”/”fringe Nicole Kidman” high and felt surprisingly calm and refreshed.

Did having new hair change anything for you? Your attitude, your feelings, the way you dressed, the way you felt you were perceived?
I think with my red hair and blunt cut I feel more exposed, like I’ve shed a security blanket that I always assumed I would carry around forever. Now that I’m not, I’m having fun exploring the new space that release creates. I rearranged all of the art in my apartment. I’m wearing lip color and loving it (with darker hair it always looked so Snow White). I’ve been spending more time in the morning getting dressed because I want to, and I have been leaning into more structured outfits that make me feel strong and feminine (basically just things that I have to actually steam before wearing them). How am I perceived? I don’t really know. Probably as the constant make-a-change-and-then-grow-into-it, work-in-progress that I am. Or as Nicole Kidman.

Special thanks to Suite Caroline.

Photos by Edith Young.

Haley Nahman

Haley Nahman

Haley Nahman is the Features Director at Man Repeller.

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