Sunday, March 19, 2023
HomeOpinionPoVHair rebellion — from Kautilya, Omar Abdullah to people in Covid lockdown

Hair rebellion — from Kautilya, Omar Abdullah to people in Covid lockdown

To deal with boredom, anxiety and restlessness during the Covid-19 lockdown, people are giving themselves drastic haircuts.

Text Size:

Hair is everything,” Phoebe Waller Bridge vehemently tells her hairdresser in Fleabag, the Emmy-winning show, when he dares to suggest otherwise. “We wish it wasn’t so we could actually think about something else occasionally. But it is. It’s the difference between a good day and a bad day,” she adds.

Hair-styling is key to job interviews, dates, break-ups and life makeovers. That is why our relationship with our hair has changed because of the coronavirus pandemic. It’s called the lockdown haircut. And for many, it is a big problem. So big that even balding politicians like Yashwant Sinha are taking note. He tweeted Sunday saying: “If lockdown continues and barber shops remain closed all of us will be forced to sport the hair style of Jairam Ramesh”.

Pallavi Naswa from Mumbai would regularly experiment with her hair as a way to uplift her mood — she would go from having turquoise hair to an under-cut to an extended bob that faded from turquoise to green, all in a rather short span of time. Under quarantine though, she decided to pick up the razor to feel the wind right on her head. “Haircuts give you this sense that you own the narrative, make you feel free,” she says, adding that this is one of the ways she’s been able to fulfil her desire to be impulsive.

Pallavi Naswa decided to shave her head during the lockdown to ‘be impulsive’ | By special arrangement
Pallavi Naswa decided to shave her head during the lockdown to ‘be impulsive’ | By special arrangement

It’s not a revelation that haircuts are therapeutic. Who among us hasn’t visited a beauty salon while dealing with a heart-wrenching break up?

The most popular and controversial of all hair cuts is probably pop icon Britney Spears casually walking into a salon and shaving off her hair — the ultimate meltdown that the tabloids scrutinise to this day.

Britney, as exceptional as she is, behaved like the rest of us more than a decade ago, when she cut her hair as a means of feeling like her life was still in her hands, at a moment when it probably felt like it was spiralling out of her control. She was then dealing with a divorce, substance abuse and mental health issues.

Also Read: Class of 2020 is the unluckiest. Covid brings awkward adulting with no farewell, no jobs

Experiments in quarantine

The importance of haircuts is possibly best defined in the bizarre anti-lockdown protests that have erupted in the United States, where one of the most popular placards read, “I need a haircut!” Imagine the kind of will you need to put yours, your country’s and the entire world’s health at risk just because you need a haircut. This is not only a shameless display of ignorance and stupidity, it also highlights — in a rather unfunny, even sick, manner — just how on-point Phoebe Waller Bridge was when she said, “Hair is everything.”

Sure, many of us, like Anushka Sharma cutting Virat Kohli’s hair, are indeed getting in-house haircuts to maintain primness while hair salons are shut.

But I see a bigger pattern here. In the third week of the lockdown, when the extension was announced, one could notice a sudden implosion of people giving themselves drastic haircuts on Instagram, and these hair cuts were not your normal grooming trims. No, sir. As #quarantinehaircuts and #Covidcuts trend online, you can go to Instagram and see thousands of posts from all across the globe where people are chopping their hair off, going bald, and getting experimental.

In a survey that I independently conducted, 81 per cent of 47 participants agreed that people are getting drastic haircuts in order to deal with boredom, anxiety and restlessness in lockdown.

For instance, Kashif Shakeel, an advertising professional, gave himself a ‘Mohawk’ (sort of) “for kicks”.

Kashif Shakeel gave himself something like Mohawk haircut just for ‘the kicks’ | By special arrangement
Kashif Shakeel gave himself a Mohawk haircut ‘just for the kicks’ | By special arrangement

These Covid cuts are the textbook definition of the millennial term ‘Breakup Haircuts’, defined by the bible of millennial terms Urban Dictionary as “spontaneous, often ugly, hair cuts (one gets) while dealing with an ugly breakup”.

The overwhelming feeling of losing control over our lives, feeling like it is getting derailed — when you need to get up and tread on a new journey — is often marked by a drastic haircut. Most people get that done after something traumatic happens in their lives, like a break-up, loss of a loved one or even something stressful that happens to a community.

“Hair cuts have long been symbols of change, people are bored, contemplative and need to feel in control, which is why they’re chopping their hair off,” Anushka Dias, a graduate in psychology, says.

Also Read: Braless, hairy and brown — coronavirus lockdown is our chance to change beauty standards

A ‘hairy’ protest

It is not surprising then that haircuts are helping people feel like they’re still in control of their lives, especially at a time when humanity is not at liberty to do whatever it pleases. We’re all living through a collective crisis. Even with all our fancy technological advancements and missiles that can end the planet in the blink of an eye, we’ve been brought to our knees — forced to confine ourselves into our houses — by the might of a minuscule, microscopic being.

Not only cut them, some men and women have, over the years, resolved to wear their hair as a form of protest and promise. Famously, Kautilya, adviser to emperor Chandragupta Maurya, also took an oath to not tie his hair until he ended the reign of the Nanda dynasty in Magadh. Most recently, former Jammu and Kashmir leader Omar Abdullah refused to shave his facial hair after he was detained following the dilution of Article 370 in Jammu & Kashmir as a form of protest. He still hasn’t shaved.

While haircuts are therapeutic and can make one feel empowered in distressing times, one can again look to Fleabag for some wisdom in order to deal with our twisted lives.

“If you wanna change your life, change your life,” Antony, the hairdresser, opines. “It’s not gonna happen in here.”

Views are personal.

The article has been updated to reflect that Kautilya was the adviser to Chandragupta Maurya.  

Subscribe to our channels on YouTube & Telegram

Support Our Journalism

India needs fair, non-hyphenated and questioning journalism, packed with on-ground reporting. ThePrint – with exceptional reporters, columnists and editors – is doing just that.

Sustaining this needs support from wonderful readers like you.

Whether you live in India or overseas, you can take a paid subscription by clicking here.

Support Our Journalism


  1. Such a nice blog on hair rebellion from kautilya omar abdullah to people in covid lockdown. This article is very interesting and attracting mostly everyone in the world. I enjoyed reading this article and would suggest others to come over this link and get all the information regarding it. Do visit this For vital information that can be used again by anyone.

  2. Kautilya was not advisor to Ashoka but to Chandragupta even that as per tradition not historically.

Comments are closed.

Most Popular