Britney shaving her head wasn't crazy — it was freeing

Her documentary has completely changed our perspective

Digital Beauty Editor / March 04 2021

Most people can remember exactly where they were when massive pop culture moments exploded into the stratosphere. For our parents, it was when Michael Jackson married Lisa Marie. For their parents, it was when Elvis died. For our generation, it’s when Britney Spears shaved her head. They’re burnt into our brains because of the shock factor; because we couldn’t believe the wildness we were witnessing.

Watch Framing Britney Spears (The New York Times' documentary that delves into Spears' life, career and conservatorship), however, and you’ll notice that, scarily, Spears picking up the clippers is actually the least wild occurrence in the entire film. In fact, the clip almost presents an odd sense of calm. We’d go as far as to say it’s the biggest ‘and exhale’ moment of the whole thing. Because despite how it looked, or rather was made to look by the paparazzi-press storm surrounding her, Spears wasn’t actually losing control, she was clawing it back.

Her reason was actually solid as hell, after all; “I just don’t want anybody touching my head. I don’t want anyone touching my hair. I’m sick of people touching my hair,” she told a tattoo artist she visited shortly thereafter.

She meant it in the literal sense, sure, but we don’t doubt the need to avoid being touched held a deeper meaning for her as well. After being groomed (again, both literally and figuratively) to fit the mould of the biggest ‘pop princess’ in the world, Spears was no doubt tired of everyone around her trying to tamper with everything about her, from the way she looked to the way she behaved.

So, she decided to take back some of her own control over her own head. After all, her long blonde (or rather brunette at the time) hair was as closely tied to her public persona as anything. Removing it, therefore, was like shedding the version of herself the industry had morphed her into and expected her to be, potentially in an attempt to find the woman she was beneath it all.

Not really that wild after all, huh? And yet the public (shepherded, of course by the tabloids) decided to use the loss of her hair as a cruel and misguided metaphor for the loss of her mind.

So what’s changed between then and now? Why is it not only no longer shocking, but almost refreshing to see her grab the shears with all that we know now?

Maybe it’s the fact that we’ve seen the pictures of her doing so 'memed' a million times over the years and so we've grown somewhat desensitised to the image of her doing the damn thing. That in itself is scary, right? That a woman’s public breaking point (whether warranted/wild or not) was turned into a punchline.

Maybe it's that we have a far deeper understanding now of the struggles Spears was experiencing at the time, and so we look at it with a little more kindness.

Or maybe it’s the fact that in 2021, the image and idea of a woman shaving her head really isn’t all that wild at all. Cara Delevingne, Kristen Stewart and Keke Palmer have all done it, only to be seen as chicer and cooler than ever in the end. Hell, Halsey makes us consider doing it on the daily. Sure, there may have been a few snippy Instagram comments around an age-old idea of femininity thrown their way, but nothing compared to what Spears faced.

It’s still seen as a statement, sure, but one of insurrection rather than insanity. And looking back at the footage of Spears’ own buzz cut, we maintain that that’s exactly what hers was as well.

Image credits: Getty Images

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