Long, Medium, Short: Which Is Right for You?

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Say Yes to Short Hair If…

You’re a wash-and-wear type "The amount of time you’re willing to spend on your hair trumps everything else when it comes to choosing a cut you’ll love," says Gretchen Monahan, a style expert who appears on the Rachael Ray Show. So if low maintenance is your dream, go short: It takes little time to wash or dry this length, coloring is quick, and you don’t have to be that diligent about hair health, since your strands will get cut frequently. (Of course, that’s also the downside. For short hair, day-to-day upkeep is a cinch, but you’ll be hitting the salon every six weeks or so.) Your hair is fragile or thinning "If your hair isn’t looking its best, don’t flaunt it," says Sally Hershberger, owner of two eponymous salons in Manhattan and one in Los Angeles. "Cut it off into a cool style, and no one will be the wiser." Anthony Sorenson, a stylist at the Frédéric Fekkai Salon at the Mark Hotel in Manhattan, agrees. "Thin hair looks thicker when it’s shorter. Long hair can get dragged down by its own weight, making it easier to see through to your scalp." Layering gives the best camouflage, he says, because styles that are one length lie flat, which can draw attention to a receding hairline or thinning part. Note: For styling products that make thin hair look denser instantly, check out LINK TKTKTTK. Your hair is very fine "Of all types, fine hair shows off the lines and shape of a short, layered cut best, so why not play up this strength?" says Juan Carlos Maciques, a stylist at the Rita Hazan Salon in New York City. Your face is long and narrow "An oblong face is accentuated by long hair-and not in a good way," says Neil Weisberg, co-owner of the Neil George Salon in Beverly Hills. Weisberg says shorter hair creates a more flattering illusion of width. You have small, pretty features "A delicate face-think Sharon Stone or Halle Berry-looks better with a cropped style. Too much hair overwhelms fine bones," says Sorenson. He points out that if you’ve got the face for short hair, it can also make you stand out. "Think about Sharon with longer hair-very pretty. But when her hair is short, she’s in a league of her own." Your hair is gray or silver "When it’s long, gray hair just looks old," argues Hershberger. Also, because gray hair tends to be dry, the longer it gets, the frizzier and duller it becomes. "I think someone rocking allover gray looks great in a classic short haircut like a clean bob," says Hershberger. "Or if your personal style is edgier, try a contemporary cut that pays homage to Twiggy or a young Mia Farrow." You have a strong personality "Short cuts are not for the meek," says Valery Joseph, owner of the Valery Joseph salons in New York City. Sorenson concurs: "You’ve got to exude confidence. Your face is front and center. And when it works, the look is fantastic."
Illustration: Kirsten Ulve

Say Yes to Mid-Length Hair If…

Your hair is quite curly "Coarse, curly hair does well when it has some weight," says Monahan. "With length, curls or waves are pulled down slightly, so they look soft and pretty but not too springy. And the weight is an asset during bad weather-curls don’t get so big when they’re longer." So, one might ask, if weight’s a good thing, why not go really long? Curly hair also tends to be fragile, which makes it hard to keep healthy when it’s long. Some women are willing to do what’s necessary, but it’s work, so bear that in mind. For most, the midrange area makes the most of your hair and is easy to maintain. Your style is clean and classic "My clients who are happiest with midlength hair are typically professional women who need a style that’s easy while still looking neat and chic," says Maciques. Sorenson agrees: "If you have any kind of job that requires you to wear a suit, a midlength cut is probably going to make you happiest." And classic style needn’t mean stuffy. Frequently cited celeb cuts in this category: Gwyneth Paltrow’s blunt shoulder-skimming style and Michelle Obama’s simple layered cut.
  • Your hair falls flat easily* "To maximize fullness, I recommend a cut that hits at the collarbone or higher," says Monahan. You could go short, but if that’s outside your comfort zone, something midlength will serve you well. "Bobs are great, at chin or shoulder length," says Maciques. And there are ample ways to vary this style, says Joseph. "Look at Heidi Klum’s hair: It’s midlength but heavily layered, with thick bangs."
You’re short but pine for long locks "Your hair and height should be proportional," says Sorenson. "If you’re under five foot two, truly long hair will take over your body. But shorter women can get a long-hair effect with a cut that falls just below the shoulders." You have a big frame "Very short hair or very long hair can accentuate a body that’s big boned or a bit heavy," says Nelson Vercher, a stylist at the Rita Hazan Salon. You’d like a femininity boost Even if you’ve looked good in short hair most of your life, you may discover that a crop that once had moxie is now starting to look matronly (or, worse, manly). Your face has changed, your body shape has changed . . . maybe your hair length ought to change, too. "If you suspect that your short hairstyle is detracting from your sex appeal, grow it out an inch or two. You’ll still have the styling ease you had before, but the hair will move when you do, which is inherently sexier," says Sorenson. Your hair is gray or silver We said yay-to-gray in the short-hair category, too, but that’s because you, lucky duck, look great at either length. To decide which better suits you, consider the other criteria in each category, like facial features, height, weight, personality and hair texture.
Illustration: Kirsten Ulve

Say Yes to Long Hair If…

You like to experiment with your style "I’ve always had long hair because I love the versatility. I wear it up or down, curl it, color it, straighten it, the works," says Monahan. So if you’re a woman who enjoys playing around with your do, this length will give you the most material. Your hair is very thick The weight of the length helps keep thick locks under control-plus, thanks to your mane’s density (and subsequent strength), you’re one of the few who can wear hair down your back and have it look healthy, root to end. You’re quite tall A proponent of proportion, Sorenson says women need a lot of body "real estate" to pull off lots of hair. "If your legs are long, your neck is long, your torso is long, then your hair can be long, too," he says. You want the security of a ponytail Going long affords you a bad-hair-day backup plan: Scrape your hair back-and go. You can’t get regular cuts "If you know you won’t be good about getting trimmed on a bimonthly basis, a simpler, longer style will look better longer than a short cut, which requires regular shaping," says Vercher. You’re getting divorced "Let’s face it: Long hair is sexiest. It just is. When my clients are going through a divorce, the first thing they do is go blonder and longer," says Sorenson.
Illustration: Kirsten Ulve

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