Three days after moving into her new apartment, Talia was laid off from her job. Two days later, her city – Mansfield, in north-east Ohio – reported its first case of COVID-19. And the city, Talia says, has mostly been in quarantine since then.
“It's been a rollercoaster,” she told me over Twitter DM. “It's hard to adjust to new environments without a structured schedule. I don't do well without structure.”
Talia's not alone, of course. As cities across the world ask their residents to stay indoors and only leave the house for essential purposes to avoid contracting COVID-19, we have all been adjusting to a scary new normal. Millions of people lost jobs when workplaces closed due to social distancing measures, and many more are struggling to pay the rent. The longest trip most of us are taking is to the local grocery store, and catch-ups with friends and family now take place online or over the phone.
In amongst all of this fear and worry, Talia did something that hundreds – maybe even thousands – of people across the world are doing.
“I sat down on my bedroom floor and grabbed my handy-dandy scissors that were definitely not made for hair, and started snipping away,” she said.
Talia gave herself quarantine bangs: a spontaneous, do-it-yourself haircut undertaken during quarantine or lockdown. In a photo she shared to her Twitter feed afterwards, her long, honey-brown hair now sports a fringe.
“I watched a couple of TikToks, so I figured I was a professional,” Talia joked. “It was definitely spontaneous. I'm not used to it yet, but I'm not mad about it.”
The hashtag #quarantinebangs has been all over social media in the last few weeks. Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok are full of people either showing off the results of their new 'do, or warning others against taking the plunge. Most people seem to have settled for cutting bangs, but some have lopped inches off their ponytail or even shaved their hair off. Some have gone for a home dye-job instead, like AFL player Matt Guelfi, who showed off his new pink hair on TikTok earlier this month.
Even Miley Cyrus took the plunge, saying on her Instagram Live talk show that she felt her new blonde bangs made her look like tiger king Joe Exotic. And one need not have a shared language to understand the appeal of giving in to quarantine bangs temptation, either: “J'ai succombé”, wrote a Twitter user in France, sharing a photo of her new fringe. “Oupsi.”
But are quarantine bangs a good idea? What if we all accidentally end up ruining our hair during lockdown? And why, when I was in the middle of researching this article, did I find myself checking under the bathroom sink to see if I had enough peroxide to go blonde at home?
I emailed Sydney hairstylist Jane Wei, from Newtown's A Loft Story salon. Jane's salon takes many clients to platinum blonde within a day – results that some hairdressers need weeks or even months to achieve – so I knew that she'd know her stuff.
“I think people are making drastic changes to their hair as a balance for their mental health, whether it's to form some sort of social outlet for them to interact with the outside world, or to have an instant gratification during their mundane routine of being at home. [Just like] some people like cooking up a storm, and some work out,” she responded.
Jane is conscious of the stress people are under, and aware that for people who've just lost their jobs, funds may be limited. Seeing a hairdresser isn't always feasible. After all, her business has been hit hard too.
“Like most small businesses, we've experienced a devastating downturn due to the effects of COVID-19. Overnight, the business went from hustle and bustle to, pretty much, next to no business activity. People are scared and fearful of the uncertainty it's created. A lot of clients are losing their jobs.”
So her advice is to try to avoid any permanent changes, and ask your usual hairdresser to mix up a dye for you to use at home instead of grabbing a box dye at the supermarket. And if it's a hair cut you want to try, just watch out for your eyes and ears.
“This is an unprecedented and difficult time for a lot of us, and hair is an emotional outlet for us. If you had to do what you had to do just to make it through the lockdown, then we've still got your back to fix it for you in the future,” Jane says. “There really is no judgement, and it is pretty entertaining watching some extreme home transformations.”