It's A New Year, Shave Your Head

The case for starting 2024 with a fresh buzz cut, according to people who have done it.

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When the clock struck midnight on Jan. 1, 2022, Los Angeles therapist Lily Truong shaved her head. “I didn’t have any New Year’s plans and my friend Whitney had just shaved her head right before,” she says. Although Lily has been pondering the drastic hair change for a while, the plan itself came together at the last minute. They surrounded themselves with snacks and candles and a few friends came over and watched. “We played music. I shaved my head to ‘Everybody Wants to Rule the World’ by Tears for Fears,” she recalls. “It felt like a ritual or ceremony to do it at midnight going into the new year.”

Lily isn’t the only one to use New Year’s Eve celebrations as a reason to buzz all their hair off. Each year, across TikTok and YouTube, videos inevitably circulate of people wielding an electric razor and declaring “new year, new me”. Some people post the process of shaving their partner’s head. Even Saweetie participated, shaving her head leading into 2022. It makes sense, considering both the new year and buzz cuts are symbolic (and literal) fresh beginnings. For those who have watched in awe and interest, year after year, there’s no time like New Year’s Day to take that leap — and grab that razor.

Before their matching buzz cuts, Lily and Whitney initially connected over grief. Lily’s mother had passed on the same day as Whitney’s father. Lily had contemplated shaving her head since her Mom’s cancer diagnosis. “I had already prepared myself mentally, emotionally, and physically, to go through [the treatment] process with her and shave my head with her, if the time came,” she says. “We never made it that far, so when she passed it stayed a lingering thought that I couldn’t let go.” Lily shaved her head both in honor of her mother and because she had fantasized about how liberating it would feel. She says she felt refreshed immediately after doing it. “There’s so much attachment to our hair. It’s an extension of our thoughts, worries, and stresses,” she explains. Leaving her hair behind let her leave some of those things behind in 2021. “It just felt very cathartic,” she says.

Courtesy of Lily Truong
Courtesy of Lily Truong
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While Lily’s New Year’s buzz cut felt like a necessary step in her grieving process, she still dreaded the thought of growing it out. Luckily she found out, “it wasn’t so bad,” she says. “I liked some of the hairstyles that I played with when it was growing.” She took the grow-out stages as an opportunity to bleach her hair and add green flames, shave patterns into her hair, and even dye it ombre blue. Lily says the process helped her to be more self-confident. It’s a reminder: “It's not forever,” Lily says. Hair grows and time passes. Being able to let go of your hair is a visual sign of being open to change. “Everybody should experience [shaving your head] at some point in their lives — at least once.”

While popular culture has portrayed an impromptu buzz cut as a sign of a downward spiral or loss of control (just think of how the tabloids treated Britney Spears in 2007), for others it can be a reclamation of self. Sarah Ronau, a content strategist in Berkey, Ohio, explains the decision to shave her head on New Year’s Day 2018 was a way to separate herself from the gendered expectations she held stemming from a religious childhood. “Growing up, you have to maintain this head of hair. It was a sign of femininity,” she say. It was a physical ideal she had felt was necessary to conform to. “So I thought, what if I decided I didn’t have to play that role? What if I didn’t have hair at all?

“Everybody should experience [shaving your head] at some point in their lives — at least once.”

Despite fearing what people would think of her baldness, Sarah decided to go for it on New Year’s Day. She went from having the waist-length hair she had most of her life to totally buzzed in a matter of minutes. “I felt like if I didn't do it then, maybe I would've talked myself out of it,” she says. But she felt a connection to the energy of the new year and like it was participating in resolution of sorts. Sarah loved the initial feeling of having a shaved head — a drastic change that visually separated her new self from her old self — but started to feel self-conscious as it grew out. Still, she thinks about doing it again “all the time”.

As we get closer to New Year’s Eve, those without party plans may consider a date with some hair clippers. The urge, it seems, is a shared rite of passage for those looking for a physical and symbolical reset. For those whose plans for Jan. 1, 2024, don’t include going bald, it’s never too late to embrace the buzz cut at any time of year. Sarah now believes the best time to shave your head is whenever you feel like a new start. “That can be anytime,” she says.

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