The Smith Chop: On the Cutting Edge

Photos by Lena Wilson '16 | The definition a “Smith Chop” varies from Smithie to Smithie.

Photos by Lena Wilson ’16 | The definition a “Smith Chop” varies from Smithie to Smithie.


Hira Himayun ’17
Features Editor

When Smithies first arrive on campus, they experience a series of changes in terms of their surroundings, peers, academics and life in general. While some people aren’t able to take these changes in their stride, others tend to fully embrace them and learn from their experiences. For many Smithies, the “Smith Chop” is indicative of this period of change. But what exactly is the Smith Chop?

You have probably heard of the term in the context of a new hairdo, but after taking into consideration how different Smithies define “Smith Chop,” it’s clear that this major change is not simply the name of a short, cropped pixie cut. Rather, it is a phenomenon that describes how, once a student comes to Smith, she gets some sort of a drastic haircut, be it from long tresses to shoulder length hair or a bob to a pixie cut.

However, the Smith Chop isn’t always meant to be a statement. Some Smithies choose to get the chop for purely practical reasons and may have had similar haircuts prior to attending Smith.

“I got my Smith Chop in Oct. 2013,” said Sidney Lu ’17. “Before, my hair came down to my chest and then I got it cut up to my jaw. I got it done because my long hair was hard to maintain. I originally wanted it to be shoulder-length, but this is how it turned out.” In some instances such as this, Smithies choose to get their haircut for reasons unrelated to the ideas associated with the traditional Smith Chop.

What exactly are the connotations of the Smith Chop? Many Smithies consider it to be a signal of change, a way to take on a new mindset or a chance to cultivate a new outlook on life by drastically changing their appearance. For others, the Smith Chop can indicate their feelings of liberation, an assertion of their agency over their own bodies or maybe just a change in style. For people who see haircuts as a deeply emotional and sentimental experience, it can signal a period of personal change and transition.

It was definitely a deviation from what I thought was my past or usual self,” said Sophia Zheng ’18 who cut her waist-length hair to a bob the summer before her first year at Smith. “In my younger years, I used to care so much for my hair that I’d cry when my parents made me get a haircut.” She explained that she didn’t have any particular reason for cutting her hair, but once she did, her haircut was accompanied by a wardrobe change. For Zheng, expression and personality played into her Smith chop.

“[This] really did change the way I behaved in some ways,” she said. “Before then I used to act very cutesy…once the hair was gone, all of that quickly reduced. My persona was sophisticated, so I projected sophistication. I [am] an adult now.”

For many Smithies, cutting off a significant amount of hair symbolizes cutting away the associations carried with it, such as memories involving people who knew you with your pre-Chop hair. Others use the haircut as a rebellion against traditional, socially constructed, mainstream notions of femininity and beauty.

“I got my haircut over the summer, sometime in the middle of May,” said Sarah Robbins ’17. “My hair was originally shoulder length; I essentially chopped it all off and had it shorter — almost buzzed — on the sides and longer on the top. I had been thinking about doing something different with my hair for some time while I was at Smith. I wanted something low-maintenance, and I didn’t like the upkeep of long hair because mine was thick and wavy and difficult to brush, so I decided to cut it short all around,” she said.

For Robbins, practicality played a large part in her decision to get the Chop as she felt she couldn’t maintain long hair as a busy college student. At the same time, the Chop also held greater significance for her in terms of her self-perception. “I was extremely curious as to how my face would look … if I just cut it all off…my new hair holds deep significance for me because I’m much more comfortable with how I look and feel … I love it now, and I don’t think I would go back any time soon.”

For many students, Smith is a place where they feel safe to undergo drastic change and feel that it will be accepted since the Smith Chop trend is so popular. Regardless of whether you get the Chop for practicality purposes, to take on a new look or persona, to make a statement or to welcome change, it’s definitely an experience that many Smithies believe is worth having.

One Comment

  1. Nice article. I presume SC doesn’t have a hairdressing school. This article seems to objectify students.

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