​the power of a haircut

As Kristen Stewart's shaven head goes viral, we look back at the history of transformative cuts.

by Tish Weinstock
15 March 2017, 3:19pm

Throughout history, long hair has been celebrated as a symbol of power. Even in biblical times, when Samson chopped off his luscious locks, he lost his magical strength. But that was then. Today, a simple haircut has the power to take mere mortals and elevate them to superstardom. Gone are the days of blending into the background, shape-shifting to suit any style or trend; today we worship at the altar of the individual, the cult of personality. Take for instance Kristen Stewart, who just last week shaved off her crop of brown hair to reveal the most badass peroxide blonde buzzcut. According to the Kristen, she shaved her head for a new role in the upcoming film Underwater in which she plays a mechanic working at an oil rig on the bottom of the sea floor. "I've been wanting to do this for a long time, just for novel[ty's] sake. It feels amazing," she told Today. "I just want to head bang all day." Strong, powerful and iconic, she's never looked better.

But, of course, this isn't the first time we've seen the transformative powers of a haircut at play. In fact, here are a few of our favorite examples; the supercuts behind the supermodels.

Photography Matt Jones. Styling Carlos Nazario. The Luxury Issue. i-D No. 342

Katie Moore
Growing up, Texas-born beauty Katie Moore was just your typical girl next door; long blonde hair, piercing blue eyes, and a face that launched a thousand likes. Fresh as a daisy, she booked a couple of jobs here and there. Then along came hair wizard to the stars, Guido Palau, who pulled out his magical scissors and chopped off her lovely long locks, cut them in into a jagged bob and dyed it copper orange, just in time for Alexander Wang to send her down his catwalk, to open his fall/winter 16 show. Now she's the girl that everybody wants to know. "When I arrived in New York," she tells i-D, "my conception of beauty was my long blonde hair. But after my transformation for Alexander Wang, I realize that beauty is a constant evolution and you have to love the skin you're in."

Photography Juergen Teller. Styling Camilla Nickerson. The Hard Issue, i-D No. 122.

Linda Evangelista
It all started with Linda Evangelista. It was 1988, when she was a mere twinkle in Peter Lindbergh's lens. He was shooting her for Vogue, when Julien d'Ys took a pair of scissors to Linda's shoulder length locks, pulled them back into a ponytail, and chopped it right off (in fact, he still has it!). "She was crying. I was very nervous," Julien told Vogue, some decades later. "I touched her arm and said, 'This could be a disaster or be great.'" The whole thing had happened on a whim, at Peter's request; little did they know it would go on to launch the career of one of the most revered models of all time. Linda went from your average pretty girl to superstar in a matter of minutes.

Photography Juergen Teller. Styling Edward Enninful. The Beauty Issue. i-D No. 117

Kristen McMenamy
"I was like, 'If I can't be a woman, I'm going to really fuck myself up,'" Kristen McMenamy explains to Nick Knight, in his video series, Subjective, referring to the moment when superstar hair stylist Garren shaved off her long red hair, dyed it black, and Francois Nars bleached her eyebrows. "If I can't be the top model, I'm going to be anti." It was 1992, and the fashion industry had long been dominated by tanned beauties with athletic bodies and long blonde hair. Suddenly the grunge era erupted and everything changed. What was beautiful before became stale, while the weird and wonderful reined. From Anna Sui's fall/winter 92 catwalk to Steven Meisel's Grunge and Glory shoot in Vogue, it wasn't long before Kristen's exquisite face was everywhere.

Photography Craig McDean. Styling Isabella Peyrut. The Network Issue. i-D No. 126

Amber Valletta
"Holy shit! Holy shit!" is what the long blonde-haired, Tulsan beauty, Amber Valletta, reportedly said on the set of her Allure cover shoot. It was 1993 and the 22-year-old model had just agreed to let Garren chop off her hair into a Mia Farrow-style bowl cut with feathered layers at the back. "This is the gamine haircut that launched her career," Garren told Allure some years later. It was hardly that Amber was short of work, but it was after this moment that she went from mere model to global superstar, the epochal model of the 90s whose face graced the cover of over 16 Vogues and a handful of i-Ds. "I was suddenly booked for a zillion shows," remembers Amber in Porter magazine, "Anna Wintour asked me to do a Vogue story."

Photography Alasdair McLellan. Styling Sarah Richardson. The Future Fashion Issue. i-D No. 329.

Edie Campbell
With her long locks of honey-colored hair, cherubic features, and a fringe reminiscent of Jane Birkin's, Edie Campbell's early career could be defined as a series of 60s-inspired shoots. ''It was frustrating," she tells i-D, "I never really felt at ease in the '60s girl' thing. I always found it overly feminine and almost infantilizing,'' she recalls before cackling, ''There was always an evil, mulleted gremlin within!'' It wasn't until 2013, when Edie had her tresses chopped off into a mullet and dyed jet-black for a punk themed shoot in Vogue, that her career really took off. ''It was great, very liberating. I looked in the mirror and thought I actually looked like me… Having a defined look for people to pick up on, and having a real idea of who you are, was quite powerful." That season Edie opened the Louis Vuitton show and won Model of the Year at the BFAs. Her light has shined brighter ever since.

Photography Mario Sorrenti. Fashion Director Alastair McKimm. The Fashion Issue. No. 341.

Ruth Bell
With their long blonde hair and ethereal good looks, Ruth and May Bell were fashion's go-to identical twins. But two days before shooting the Alexander McQueen fall/winter campaign with David Sims, Ruth — always the more tomboyish of the two — was told of the team's plans to shave off her golden locks. Within half an hour of Ruth's arrival on set, Paul Hanlon had taken a razor to it and shaved the whole thing off. The hair was donated to the Little Princess Trust Charity, which makes wigs for children undergoing chemotherapy, while Ruth's career exploded, booking spots in campaigns for Saint Laurent, Burberry, and Gucci, and walking for everyone from DKNY to Moschino. She's even bagged her very first cover of i-D!


Text Tish Weinstock
Image via Today

Kristen Stewart
ruth bell
amber valletta
kristen mcmenamy
amber valetta
edie campbell
linda evangelista
autumn/winter 16
the power of a haircut