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Whether it’s a gel manicure, a brow wax or a six-week trim, some people have a beauty schedule set in stone. Despite my best efforts, finding the time to fit in regular salon appointments always seems to be very far down on my list of priorities. That’s how I managed to go an entire year without a single haircut. As such, my waist-length hair was wispy and lifeless, and the once-vibrant ‘candlelit brunette’ hair colour I had last January had all but dimmed. This year, however, I vowed to keep on top of things, starting with something a little different.
While I am forever inspired by the abundance of short hair trends (think the elegant “baroque” bob with its curled ends, or the “preppy” bob, which is equal parts blunt and choppy), I see hair as a large part of my identity. I wanted to go much shorter but I still wanted to feel like me. Most importantly, I had to be able to whip my hair up into a scrunchie or a claw clip on office days. What I needed, then, was an “in-between” cut.
Right now, mid-length haircuts are everywhere. Just look to digital creator Paola Matute and actor Jenna Ortega for inspiration. This past month, Google searches for “mid-length haircuts” have shot up by 50%, while the phrase serves up thousands of videos on TikTok, from the “kitty” cut (a softer, more feminine take on the shaggy “wolf” cut) and the “butterfly” lob (a layered long bob). I was convinced that a similar, medium-length cut would work well with my thick and wavy hair, so I decided to bite the bullet and finally book in at the John Frieda salon on London’s Margaret Street.
Hairstylist Ronnie Berg wasted no time in telling me why she currently loves this particular length on her clients: “It’s easier to manage compared to super long hair or a very short bob,” said Berg. “Typically, it’s already past the shoulders so there’s no awkward length to grow through, but it still feels modern and different,” she added. What’s more, Berg believes that a mid-length cut makes hair look much healthier, as it bounces off of the shoulders. “If your hair is fine, a [mid-length cut] can lend a structure,” Berg told me. Curly hair in particular can look lusciously thick when one length; adding in a few “invisible layers” (layers that sit under a longer section of hair) can further lend lengths shape and take some of the weight out. Put simply, a mid-length cut is great for those who fancy a change but don’t want to do anything too drastic.
In a sleight of hand, Berg chopped away a huge chunk of my hair, bringing the length from my waist to a few inches below my shoulder. I had expected to feel more emotional about this, and was worried that I’d regret it when I saw the amount of hair that had dropped to the floor. But I felt immediately refreshed. Already, my hair looked thicker and felt lighter; I knew I was making the right decision. Berg went on to perfect the shape and structure of the cut as we discussed the ideal end length.
This was the point where I decided to brave an extra two inches for the sole reason that my hair grows quickly and I didn’t want to lose the new midi look in a few weeks. Rather than a razor, which is favoured in lots of London salons currently, Berg worked with sharp scissors, creating a blunt edge which she described as “clean, fresh and timeless.” Rather than layering the front to frame my face, we decided to keep my hair one length all the way around so that styling at home was easier. However, a blowdry with a round bristle brush gave the illusion of long curtain bangs (a cut I love but can’t quite maintain myself).
The haircut was surprisingly speedy; in just thirty minutes, Berg had transformed my waist-grazing lengths. I have previously been in salon chairs where there have been recommendations such as fringes or layers that I have been told will suit me, but here, there was absolutely no pressure. Berg knew exactly what I needed. It helped that she was trying to grow out her short bob. In other words, she understood my vision.
As I didn’t want to get too adventurous with the cut, I was open to trying a new hair colour, so I settled on “mushroom” brown: a low key blonde-brunette blend that adds just enough lift to give dark hair some serious dimension — all without the serious upkeep of being entirely blonde. Firstly, I was promised that mushroom brown would grow out seamlessly. Secondly, that it would complement my brown, South Asian complexion perfectly. This piqued my interest, as most of the time, popular hair colours don’t tend to work on my skin tone.
Colourist Jessica Renyard sensed my apprehension and walked me through the entire process. “This multi-tonal colour lends richness and depth to the hair,” said Renyard. She added, “The method imitates balayage [a freehand painting technique] but uses foils to ensure the darker hair gets the lift it needs to take colour.” Using foils locks heat inside the hair strand, encouraging quicker processing when bleach is applied. Renyard backcombed my hair in very small sections and delicately painted on bleach to lighten, keeping enough of my natural colour visible at the root so that the overall effect appeared subtly sun-kissed and not too “done”. We did decide to go a little lighter at the front, though, so that these sections framed my face nicely.
For a lot of clients who aren’t keen on the upkeep of lighter hair (including sulphate-free and purple shampoo as well as constant root touch ups), mushroom brown makes sense; it’s a little more low maintenance. “Post-lockdown, most people are opting for a more lived-in colour,” said Renyard, and trends like mushroom brown are designed to grow out and remain bright while they do so. The lighter front sections also give the illusion of curtain bangs when my hair is curled.
As with all bleaching, though, hair can become brittle and dry, so I left armed with some product recommendations. Virtue 6-in-1 Styler, £34, doubles up as heat protectant and a hair smoother. Berg recommended using this on clean, damp hair and then following with a lightweight hair oil like OLAPLEX No.7 Jumbo Bonding Oil , £28, through the ends, which can be used on damp or dry hair. OUAI Hair Gloss, £30, protects against colour fade and treats hair to an intense surge of moisture thanks to hyaluronic acid and castor oil. Renyard also recommended Wella Professionals Care Color Fresh Semi-Permanent Colour Mask in Caramel Glaze, £15.75, to revive the muted blonde shade if I felt it needed depth and vibrancy in between salon visits.
Although the waves in the salon were created with the ghd Curve Soft Curl Tong, £159, I’ve found when styling my hair at home, the Dyson Airwrap, £479.99, works perfectly with this length, producing bouncy curls that drop into a softer wave when brushed through. This gives more shape to the front sections of my hair, almost making it look layered. If you’d rather spend less, try Revlon One-Step Style Booster Round Brush Dryer & Styler, £39.99.
The first thing my friends noticed about my new, mid-length cut was how healthy and shiny my hair appeared, as though it had been given a new lease of life — and I agree. Contrary to popular opinion, there is nothing boring about an in-between chop, especially considering the myriad ways you can style it: in the centre, in a side parting, wavy, tousled, curled or even poker-straight. Now I know a mid-length cut suits me to a T, I won’t wait a whole year for a refresh.
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