Short Circuit: The culture behind fall’s cropped cuts

cropped cuts
Photography by Peter Stigter
cropped cuts
Photography by Peter Stigter

To say that punk influenced the fall runways is an understatement; the late-’70s subculture bred from anti-establishment rock ’n’ roll dominated many collections. Aside from the tartan, vinyl, chains and studs, and the faux piercings on just one of the models’ lobes—a page ripped right out of the CBGB style guide—another trend rose from those anarchic ashes: choppy haircuts.

“Punk is an idea that was floating around,” Sam McKnight said backstage at Fendi, where he created haute fox-fur mohawks a few days after engineering a similar long-on-top, short-on-the-sides optical illusion at Clements Ribeiro.

“It might have been something in the air,” says Redken creative consultant Guido Palau of the punk theme, “but it wasn’t planned.” Other influences led him to create short styles at Marc Jacobs, Louis Vuitton and Jean Paul Gaultier—not least fashion’s fickle nature. “Designers see girls with long hair, and they get a little despondent. Sometimes they just want that different character, the kind of girl that would cut her hair.” Palau dates the move away from long, luxe locks to January 2013, when he cut over 40 wigs into gamine pixies for Raf Simons’s Spring 2013 Dior Haute Couture show. “Raf really wanted what that brings to an outfit—what that brings to a dress.”

You could argue that it started before that, though. While the big hair story at the spring shows was a wispy lob embraced by everyone from Ruby Aldridge to Karlie Kloss, even shorter styles were starting to gain traction. After Janice Alida appeared in a British Vogue story with a fade and a platinum dye job, the Calgary-born beauty’s career skyrocketed; runway turns for Lanvin, Marni and Louis Vuitton followed. Ditto Ruby Jean Wilson, who cashed in her long chocolate strands for a platinum chop and became Marc Jacobs’s spring muse, a latter-day Edie Sedgwick.

It wouldn’t be the last time Jacobs fell for a short cut. He chose a different Edie, Brit It girl Edie Campbell, as his Fall 2013 muse. “The Edie”—Campbell’s texturized black shag, which was the brainchild of photographer Steven Meisel on the set of a Vogue shoot months earlier—inspired the look at Jacobs’s show. “Marc saw that and he wanted wigs,” Palau recalls. He followed it up with ’50s-era hairpieces with microfringe at Vuitton and mismatched mullet extensions at Gaultier. “For me, and I think for designers, too, when we see a girl with short hair and love her anyway, we’re inspired.”

cropped cuts marc jacobs fall 2013
Photography by James Cochrane

Improvisation is often necessary with short styles, as not everyone is game to go under the scissors. “I don’t force girls to cut their hair, even though a lot of girls look beautiful with their hair chopped,” Palau says. “If you cut your hair, you have to believe it. Edie believed it. She was ready. She has that character that will take on that personality, which is why I think people were really quick to embrace her style.”
“It feels more me than the long hair,” Campbell said backstage at Jil Sander, one of the choice shows she walked following her Marc Jacobs cameo.

Many of fashion’s transformative mane moments originate across the pond. “A lot of the British girls are much more adventurous,” Palau says. He cites Stella Tennant and Karen Elson for their willingness to experiment, and we’d be remiss not to mention Agyness Deyn, whose McKnight-designed peroxide spikes defined a year’s worth of editorial pages circa 2006.

“It’s another thing to photograph,” says Palau on the impact of a good short cut, “something new for people to see.” Presumably, that’s why Coco Rocha, Beyoncé and Rihanna took the plunge in August.

“It would be nice if more women would do it,” Palau muses. “If you’ve never cut your hair, you’ll never see if it suits you.” His advice for first-timers: “Seek out the best person who knows your face to do it.” And err on the side of imperfection. “Not many girls can take a perfect haircut. Fall’s choppy thing is good, because you want it to look effortless, like you mashed it up yourself. That’s cool.” And pretty punk, whether it’s on purpose or not.