"It's just hair. It will grow back."

If that's the case, I want to know what's so 'big' about The Big Chop then?

Why is this particular hairstyle change deemed such a groundbreaking move for women? It's usually accompanied by captions such as Coco Chanel's famous: "A woman who cuts her hair is about to change her life" quote.

Fair enough, but the empowering sentiment of such statements can only go so far, since they could also imply that a woman's greatest worth is tied to the way she looks.

Shaving your head is indeed no minor change, no matter the reason. People do it for cultural, religious or personal reasons.

More importantly, it's a decision a lot of women approach apprehensively. Which is why I wanted to explore it.

I was made to feel ugly and "boyish"

So even though I now have relatively long hair (below) for a black girl with type 4 hair, this 'Big Chop' conversation is actually quite close to home for me.

My NATURAL hair: It just keeps getting longer ?????????? #NoWeave #ItsAllMine #NaturalHair #BlackGirlMagic #blogger

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Why? Because when I was a teen my mom suggested that I cut my hair before I went on exchange to England, as she figured the extremely cold weather conditions would probably damage my hair (protective hairstyles such as braids/cornrows were not yet allowed at my school; hence the haircut solution). I obliged.

But because teens are assholes, I was made to feel ugly and "boyish" right up until the day I returned to school after December vacay with long braids. Suddenly I was girly and pretty again. 

I've never worn my hair short since. I may have dabbled in a bit of a pixie cut when I was 20, but I put braids in about a week later because the anxiety of again being called ugly crept up on me.

I've obviously gotten over that, and I don't have anymore hangups about my looks (case in point: I've lost count of the number of times I've tweeted "andimhle").

*Andimhle - I look good/I'm beautiful (Any Xhosa girl's favourite affirmation)

So even though sometimes I feel like the only saving grace for my thin hair is cutting it and letting it grow out naturally with no chemical treatments, I always think to myself, "nah, B, short hair is not for you."

It's hard to articulate without going overboard but the sense of freedom that comes with short hair, natural hair, is more than I could have ever imagined it would be.

We grow up conditioned to believe that girls with longer hair are the prettier and more feminine, who will therefore be more desirable. And it's really unfortunate that for such a long time women like myself have internalised the false correlation between long hair and beauty.

And to whom or what can we attribute this oppressive mindset? The patriarchy? Eurocentric beauty standards? Internalised misogyny?

Read more: The real reason why men police our looks

It's probably a lethal cocktail of all three - and we're now slowly starting to recover fully from the hangover.

Of course there have always been women who fearlessly rocked their short crops and refused to be limited by the standards society has imposed on them. I decided to speak to a few women who stood out to me...

Thabile Ngwato, SABC current affairs and prime time news anchor

"For the most part, my hair journey has been positive. I spent most of my younger years with short hair, but like most black girls, we then get put through the cycle of childhood braiding, relaxing and straightening, as an attempt to keep our hair "neat".

"I'm blessed because I naturally have good hair (this is all thanks to my maternal grandmother, and then my mom of course), so this helped even when I put my hair through the abuse of chemical treatments.

"Fast forward to my 20s, I've mostly kept my hair either braided but mostly in a weave. It was more a convenient option, as it doesn't require being changed daily.

"I recently cut my hair, very short, the shortest I have in my adult life. It was a huge moment for me, only because I was so used to seeing myself with long hair. I'm on air almost every night so I also wondered what the viewers would think or feel about the change.

"They love it! Which also makes the process fascinating - I'm referring to the contrast between the reaction to long vs. short, natural hair.

"In the beginning it was just a cut, I needed something new, to look and feel a little different but the past three months have been the most freeing. It's hard to articulate without going overboard, but the sense of freedom that comes with short, natural hair, is more than I could have ever imagined it would be.

"This does not mean I no longer appreciate weaves or braids as options for hairstyles, but I'm happy to spend this time getting to know myself like this.

"In a nutshell, hair is a personal thing, it does and should mean different things for each individual. That's how I see it." 

One may think of Jada Pinkett and Toni Braxton with brush cuts as “hood” icons but never high fashion, they’re too punk. This obviously has racial layers to it, because Twiggy got to be a famous model with punk rock hair.

Tshilidzi Delicious Mukosi, model & budding chartered accountant

#melanin #Vogue #model #Johannesburg #SouthAfrica #Africa #Loveyourself #StayBeutiful #SpreadLove

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"I started growing my hair when I was in grade 10. It was also at the same time I started dating, fell in love and dated the guy for six years until we broke up in 2013. It was a difficult breakup. In 2013 I was also supposed to graduate from UCT, but I didn't and that was heartbreaking.

"So I was confused, heartbroken, life had not turned out to be what I wanted it to be.

"I knew I had to pick myself up and create new dreams. So decided to cut my hair because I wanted to let go of everything that happened to me - my UCT struggles and breaking up with my boyfriend.

"I wanted to start over and it made sense at that time to cut all of my hair as a way of letting go of past hurts and disappointments. I was also tired of relaxing hair, my scalp burning and I just needed a break."

Read more: "My natural hair gave me a self-understanding I wouldn't trade for anything"

Sadie Torquato, digital marketing executive

Holy crap. ??@jashughatt

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"Beauty standards have always been about class and access whether we want to admit it or not. The trends change from culture to culture but the underlying idea is that what we associate with beauty always refers to class.

"That’s why punk rock aesthetics as an example, are inclined to be grungy and harsh. The intention is to subvert the status quo of beauty and class, to offend it if you will. It also speaks a lot to what we see as feminine and being a classy woman gives you more access to "femininity" than others. 
 
"So when I started cutting my hair three years ago I felt very punk rock. It challenged the “long haired damsel” trope. See, long hair is for princesses in towers, and short hair is for GI Jane.

"GI Jane lacks access and class while the princess has all that and more. People love controlling masculine/feminine binaries and one of the controls for femininity is that it must never be hardcore. Long hair gives the impression of high maintenance, luxury.

"A woman in a barber’s chair gives the impression of not being able to access that luxury. One may think of Jada Pinkett and Toni Braxton with brush cuts as “hood” icons but never high fashion, they’re too punk. This obviously has racial layers to it, because Twiggy got to be a famous model with punk rock hair.

"People's responses to my drastic haircuts have always been centered on maintaining the balance of gender binaries. Even the positive responses come from a place of 'Wow we can't believe women can look good like that.'
 
"Nonetheless all fashion trends evolve. Like how men in heels and wigs were once considered masculine fashion, short hair on women will come to be accepted as feminine eventually.

"We’re just a little stuck in the binary box, not realising its drawn with chalk on the ground and we just have to take a step forward."

What does cutting your hair mean to you or is it more a practical rather than emotional decision for you? Tell us on Twitter or on our Facebook page.