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How, When and Why Did Middle Parts Become Cool?

A couple months ago during Thanksgiving vacation, I was sitting at the kitchen table taking to my mom when I noticed she wasn’t making eye contact. Instead, she was looking just north of my forehead, her expression an unveiled mixture of consternation and analysis.

“What?” I asked.

“I’m just thinking,” she said. “I think you should part your hair to the side instead of the middle.”

Mom,” I said defensively, “I’m wearing my part in the middle these days. I think it looks cooler.”

“I’m just saying, I’ve always heard the philosophy that wearing your part in the middle emphasizes the asymmetries of your face, which is why side parts are more flattering,” she replied. “And I believe that’s true.”

Flattery doesn’t always have to be the priority, though!” I said with more impassioned emphasis than a conversation about hair parting logically deserves. But then again, the reality that we were having the conversation in the first place seems like proof enough that middle hair parts mean so much more than just middle hair parts, which got me thinking: How on earth did a line down your head that splits your hair evenly into two sections, otherwise known as a “middle part,” become such a stylistically and emotionally fraught statement, whether you want it to be one or not?

 

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Personally, I blame Ali MacGraw. Her 70s hairdo imbued middle parts with an aura of unattainable mystique and ineffable cool that still remains intact to this day. (Other contributors to this legacy include: Naomi CampbellOlivia Hussey and Zoe Kravitz, who have sported middle parts so iconic I’m shocked monuments have yet to be erected in their honor). Such is the intimidating nature of middle parts past and present that, much like tiny sunglasses and daytime slip dresses, they’ve been seemingly relegated to the category of Things That Are Hard to Pull Off, from whence no aesthetic choice has returned unscathed.

 

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While middle parts may be the most divisive, they certainly aren’t the only parts that have been anthropomorphized into bonafide personalities: side parts, deep side parts, zig-zags, triangle parts, cross parts — all are ripe fodder for everything from ascribing assumed character traits to whomever happens to be wearing them to debating the pros and cons of each from a purely visual standpoint. Hence clickbait headlines such as “What Your Hair Part Says About Your Personality,” “How to Find the Perfect Part for Your Face Shape,” “Are You Parting Your Hair the Wrong Way?” and “22 Celebrity Transformations Prove a Hair Part Makes a HUGE Difference.” There’s even a widely propagated theory that if you part your hair to the left, you’ll be more likable. Go figure.

 

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I have so many more part-related questions, but I’ll limit it to just a few for the sake of my word count (and your time): Do you think about where you part your hair, or do you just allow your hair to fall where it may, willy nilly? Do you agree with my mom that middle parts are “less flattering”? Do you find it equal parts absurd and hilarious that we’ve given hair parts more power than most monarchies? Do you think hair part care could be the next big wellness trend??? Please indulge me in the comments.

Feature photo by Silver Screen Collection via Getty Images.

Harling Ross

Harling is a writer and was most recently the Brand Director at Man Repeller.

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