Can older women look good with short hair?

You know how it is with hair, you always want what you can’t have! Recently I’ve been looking longingly at women (make that girls) with short hair and wondering – could I, should I? Then last week I came across this image of Ann Hathaway’s new hairstyle and the longing became an obsession.

I started an opinion poll with friends and family to see if they thought  I could get away with it,  Answers varied from “no, you’ll look like Ms Lomax” (butch media teacher – nice woman, but no style icon) from teen daughter, to “of course you could, it would look fab, I’ve always liked you with short hair,” from my best friend. Love her, but she’s remembering the pixie crop I had when I was 17 and had a jaw line!

And here lies the problem, what looked good when you were young, is not necessarily a good idea when you get past 40, no matter how confident you are to carry it off.  Until now, I’ve never understood women who keep the same hairstyle for 30 years. You know the type, (apologies if you are one) they spend a fortune at the hairdressers and come out looking the same as when they went in! Something I couldn’t contemplate – until now.

Since I was old enough to say crimping irons I’ve always been a fan of a extreme “do”. I’ve done 70’s crimped (think Toyah), backcombed punk (Siouxsie Soux but ginger), Rockabilly (huge and I mean huge quiffs), retro 50’s rolls, 60’s beehives, short bobs, severe 80’s fringes and numerous gamine pixie crops. In fact it’s a miracle I have any hair left at all, the way it’s been abused it over the years.

Until I hit 40, I had never done long, straight grown up hair, having always (rather smugly – I’m not proud to say) considered it a bit mainstream and boring, and besides I had a real fear of turning into one of those middle aged women with mid length, highlighted layers and a half fringe. You know the look – it says ‘I may be older but I’m still sexy and young at heart, but I left my style somewhere back in the late sixties’. Think Jo Wood and wives of heavy metal band members.

On no, the ageing rock chic look was not for me and I would never get caught in a hairstyle time warp and become defined my ability to have long, feminine hair – or so I thought!

After some extensive research (google) I decided it was possible to look good with short hair over 40 –  just look at these lovely stylish, chic older women – and I should just go for it.

But wait – they all have blonde or grey hair – and I have (dyed) red hair, is this a sign that’s it’s not for me? After all, I don’t want to look like Sharon Osbourne or Ann Robinson, do I?



  • Amanda says:

    Hey, less abuse about the Rock Chick hair please, it’s taken me ages to grow my Patti Smith look. Ax

  • Jane says:

    and very good it looks too – Patti Smith more indie and definately NOT Jo Wood!

  • Amanda says:

    Ok you’re off the hook Ax

  • Sue Evans says:

    I have the same problem Jane, not knowing what look to go for, coupled with old-age hair suddenly not working as a bob anymore ( not to mention people stopping me and asking me if I am Zandra Rhodes …….). Love some of the pixie cuts you Googled but sadly my jawline went south about the same time as everything else. I might take up wearing a hat and then I won’t have to worry about what my hair is doing ( rather not doing) anymore …..

  • Sue says:

    I think you might look less visible with short hair.Just my opinion.From the photos you have shown on your blog, I rather like the red.(Also ,I think there may be something amiss with your site today? It was quite difficult to get to).Sue

  • Miss Maudie says:

    Yet again Jane, I am relating totally to one of your posts! In my youth I too had spiky punk ‘do’s’, gamine crops, birds nest french pleat ‘do’s’, Louse Brooks bob’s – you name it I had it – I used crimpers, rolled rags, went through industrial quantities of Elnette to keep it all in shape. As I got older I tended to stick with the bob shape – in one form or another but decided 2 years ago, at 45, to go for the big chop! I wanted my hair to be a cross between the gorgeous thatches of Dame Judi and Emma Watson – I hummed and haad for ages, terrified that my lack of jawline would make me look like a Star Wars extra but you know what – I absolutely loved it! Friends said how much younger I looked and that they wish they had the courage to do it – I actually felt younger than my 45 years too! (Mind you, my 2 teenage daughters both commented that I looked liked “a lesbian art teacher”??!! but care I did not!) However, two years on and I am gradually growing my hair back into the old familiar bob – also ending my long-term relationship with my hair dye and letting myself go grey – now that IS terrifying. I would not hesitate to go short again but at the moment am liking the idea of a grey bob with Suzy Menkes style fringe/quiff…….. wish me luck! xxx

  • Sarah says:

    I’m 50 and went short about 5-6 years ago. I stick with my natural colour (tinted to cover a bit of grey!) through most of my hair and have a dramatic red stripe through the front. It was pretty much universally approved off when I did it (including my husband who I thought liked long hair) and I got a lot of ‘it knocks 10 years off you’ comments. I’d say the advantage of short hair is you can have fun with colour, if it doesn’t quite work one time you can do something else the next (or work up to a bit more drama). Also, I wear glasses all the time now and it it doesn’t crowd my face. I do have a square jawline though.

    The one thing I would say is keep a bit of softness around the face, which pretty much everyone apart from Jamie Lee Curtis and Annie Lennox have done. Also, remind yourself that these are all very good looking women, and we are lovely but not movie star beautiful, and need to adjust expectations accordingly :-)

  • jane says:

    Oh good advice ladies and I can feel my confidence growing!! But it is all about the jaw line, and lots of make up!!

    Sue, I love that people ask if you are Zandra Rhodes!! You are much younger and she is tiny!!! really really tiny -we saw her at the advanced style launch and I was shocked how small she is!!


  • Sue Evans says:

    Well, I’m not exactly Amazonian myself am I !! Guess it’s the combination of red hair and mad clothes that get people confused ……..

  • Sarah says:

    I think if you get the cut right the make-up isn’t an issue. I notice if I go a bit too Anne Hathaway (lovely on her, but then she is very pretty) that I wear an awful lot of lippy to counteract it! But most of the time it’s flattering enough for me not to worry.

  • Sue Evans says:

    Jane I have been thinking more about this and my worry is if I go for the crop to avoid the Zandra connection, taking my southwards jawline and hatchett face into consideration, I could end up looking more like Mo Slater out of Easties than Jane Fonda ……..Anyone got a good knitting pattern for a balaclava ?

  • Lesley says:

    I’m 58, was born a dark brunette, and two years ago stopped colouring my hair after 20 years. I am no beauty, wear specs and have no jawline. Well, I actually have two or three … My expensively maintained brunette shoulder-length hair was non-descript at best, ageing at worst. Knotting it into a loose chignon made me look more like a flustered nun than the arty, insouciant intellectual I’d aimed for. Today, my short, unstructured, textured Judi Dench is SO much more flattering and draws the eye away from my lack of jaw. I go for bright watermelon to warm reds in lipstick, bright frames on my specs, and have not looked back. No bad-hair days.

  • Jane says:

    Hahha – loving the images of Mo Slater and flustered nun. So its a bob for the rest of our lives then!!

    Sue you have gorgeous hair, what about another colour to make you feel different?


  • Tracy says:

    I went from an easy bob to short hair last summer at age 49 after seeing Judy Dench in “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel”. I want to look like her when I’m that age, and I thought I’d start working toward that now.

    I’m not much for making a statement with my looks, but I just love the short hair. My beauty routine is very minimal, so I’m not really saving time, but it’s a lot easier the rest of the day. Definite thumbs up!

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