Privilege Blog

Why Cut A Long Graying Braid?

By the time I got a haircut, my gray braid had grown down past the middle of my back.

I loved the thing, in and of itself. Gray for pride in aging. The format, in my imagination, honored women protecting themselves from work injuries, burns, gears, small children’s maple syrup hands. So I liked what it stood for, but in the end, not the style. On me. That pinhead problem. You know, tiny head, larger nose?


And, I could not wear this much hair down for more than 2 minutes. January was the last time I gave it a shot.


Some fun new hairpins helped with updos, but the chop kept calling. Maintenance conspired; my hair tangled, needed combing, got pulled out by said combing, and so on.

Off to my SF haircut guy of at least a decade. Hadn’t seen him in two years. Et voila, post-chop bathroom selfie. The color, by the way, is how my hair grows from my head. Silver, blonde, gray, brown.


Jacket: UNIQLO (no longer in stock. Although they do have a website, with UNIQLO, best to go and see what’s there)
Watch: JORD
Scarf: Etro
Bag: Bottega Veneta

I am pleased.

Maybe the particular length and shape warrants a little deconstruction? A discussion of motivation?


  • While I don’t care about looking young, or up to the minute, I do like to feel modern and au kinda sorta courant.
  • If a 58-year old Polished Tomboy’s gonna be running around town in New Balance, Adidas, torn jeans and a big wood watch, the haircut has to bring said polish. It’s hard to wear sweatshirts with dignity, when your hair escapes into tendrils and tarnish.
  • And, if said Tomboy appreciates a vestige of feminine edge, a little loose straight hair goes a long way.


Bomber jacket: Mary Katrantzou for Adidas
Tee: UNIQLO (still looking for tops that are less revealing of a midlife torso, but *shrugs shoulders* I’ll get there in time)
Jeans: 10-year old Levi 501s I destroyed all by myself, moving through life
Sneakers: New Balance 420s

Looking at these photos, it dawned on me that, in addition to my own social/style motivations, the cut was inspired by Alyson Walsh at That’s Not My Age, and Lyn Slater at the Accidental Icon. They both sport gray hair in sleek straight cuts. Note: look to the pros when considering a big change.

By the way, I insisted that I be able to ponytail up most days. Sturdy is as Sturdy does. Some compromises are unthinkable, even for beauty.

Clothing for the post, some exact, some similar.

Where the exact item is still available, I’ve also linked to it in the photo lists above. I have to say, I was worried the Katrantzou/Adidas jacket would be too much print for me but I absolutely love it. Mary Katrantzou is burning up the stylosphere these days, and I’ve always had a soft spot for Adidas. On sale for $89 at Barneys, I paid full price from net-a-porter. I’m wearing a Small – note that the cuffs are not as stretchy as one might want, but that compromise? OK, fine. And here’s a wilder one for 2016.


Monster truck in an alleyway, courtesy of San Francisco’s small businesses, and freeway underpasses everywhere. Affiliate links may produce commissions.

106 Responses

  1. A thousand times prettier! And maybe even shorter the next time? I say this because I just realized with this new cut that most of your silvery-gray is in the front. If your hair were shorter (between chin and top of shoulder) it would look more like the fabulous Ann Bancroft-ish streak it is!

    1. @Sisty, I debated going a little shorter – I just might, next time. With my WASPy looks, if I go too short I immediately look like a golfer. Which I am not.

  2. I know that there are some who do not like long hair on older women. I am not one of those people! After all, I have long hair myself–about the length yours is after your cut.

    Every so often, I just HAVE to have it cut. I’ll be going along just fine, and then it hit me–my hair is TOO long. So, I totally understand. Some polish is important.

    I like how yours looks.

  3. You got lucky on the color. The streak in the front is distinctive and the rest of your head isn’t too salt and peppery.

  4. While I don’t care about looking young, or up to the minute, I do like to feel modern and au kinda sorta courant.

    Yes. I do not want to be frumpy. I would like to have some degree of style, even if at this moment, I am working from home, wearing gym clothes and a ponytail. I want style when other people see me. Otherwise, I want extreme comfort.

    1. @the gold digger, Exactly. It’s about the social context and identity, says the woman currently wearing pink plaid flannel pajamas and a navy cashmere v-neck;). Oh, and sheepskin slippers.

  5. LOVE. IT. Natural grey hair really likes to be smooth and sleek, which for people with wavy hair like me, poses an interesting conundrum. It’s still long enough to whisk back into a ponytail or bun as well, which is always good.

    1. @Highland Fashionista, I’m certain I’ve pinned it, then. I long to stop coloring and see what happens. Is it anti-feminist that I’m envious of my husband’s still-pigmented hair? It means that if I’m all grey/white and he’s not, I look older!

  6. “By the way, I insisted that I be able to ponytail up most days. Sturdy is as Sturdy does.”

    That’s what I would generally tell my stylist… except in a different language.

  7. Very nice and it looks so sleek and healthy. I am in the process of growing out my shorter style in favour of a slightly longer one… Want to be able to pull it back in a pony tail for life in the garden and when playing with the grandchildren.
    Love those uniqlo tees….they are so versatile.

  8. I wouldn’t change a thing. Keep the shine and movement in your hair. It is a great accessory, completely modern and flattering.

    1. @Susana, Thank you! I will do my best – it’s possible I will need to get hold of a ceramic hair straightener for date nights etc.

  9. Love the new length. And the Etro scarf. Elegance is the privilege of age.

    By the way I am rocking your white Vince shirt. Must post a pic next time :)

  10. Crazy about your hair and the new shorter style. In fact you were an inspiration on allowing my grey to come in and stop the coloring crazy train. Once the color was all grown out I asked the stylist for a cut that was neither Aging Magnolia Beauty Queen nor Helmet Hair News Anchor look. Received a new, edgy, choppy style which suits my life and looks, so it was totally worth the leap.
    Thanks for introducing a new designer to me too- that jacket looks wonderfully hip without contrivance.

    1. @Elizabeth, I LOVE your descriptions of haircuts to avoid. Edgy and choppy sounds perfect. And my pleasure on the Katrantzou intro – I think you’ve put your finger on it, the hip is achieved without contrivance, so it’s wearable.

  11. Glad you’re loving your hair! I can relate because I liked my strawberry blonde/gray/blonde wavy middle of my back hair but it had started to get more dry & tangled. Feels so much better now that it’s a bit shorter! And mine had to still be long enough for a ponytail too.

  12. Great cut. Love it on you. Agree completely on ponytail non-negotiability–even if, in my case, it does invite the occasional “May I help you, Sir” when I’m wearing a cap and sunglasses. I like to think it’s my gravitas ;)

  13. Oh, selfishly I am sorry to see the braid go! But only because I aspire to have a braid again. However the new version is enviably sleek and modern and the length is just right. (And, FWIW, still up-do-able; mine is about armpit-crease length and one twist and three U-pins will hold it for hours.)

    1. @maryn, Thank you. I have every intention of using the U-pins for nonchalant updos when a ponytail isn’t quite enough.

  14. Haha! I’m another one who goes to the hairdressers and demands the ability to ponytail. Definitely non negotiable.

    Love your new length. Also love the jacket. Kinda sorta au courant indeed!

  15. I Love this cut — to be completely honest, I’m pretty envious because I completely agree with you about the need for some polish and the way that a sleek straight haircut confers that. My own mop, not so much, and like you, I’m just not willing to spend hours of my life styling it (and ha, as if I have the skills!)
    Also admiring the integrity of those 501s….nicely done, oh sturdy one, nicely done…

    1. @Frances/Materfamilias, A sturdy thank you! And, I think curly gray hair looks amazing in a braid, and wonderful with architectural simple clothes, or monochrome outfits. Much better than straight and smooth.

  16. You look wonderful with your new haircut. You were also part of my inspiration to let my gray grow out, and I’m a few months into that process right now. (An excellent new hairstylist has been a big help in that process.) Alas, my hair will never look like yours, because when it gets past mid-neck I start looking like the triangle-haired woman in the Dilbert cartoons.

    1. @MJ, I can relate, MJ. My hair has turned curly on the bottom/wavy frizzy on top, so I get the Bozo effect. Not nice. But I refuse to blow-dry in the summer heat, unless I MUST look nice for an outing.

    2. @MJ, I’m honored to have inspired, or at least encouraged, any aesthetic choices. Hair is a big one.

  17. You look gorgeous, Lisa!!! Fresh, modern and pretty. That’s what I think of when I see this photograph of you.

  18. You look great in your new cut! Is it naturally straight and sleek, or do you have to work at it with devices or product? The reason I ask is that every four or five years or so I decide to grow my hair longer (despite knowing that long hair doesn’t really suit me). And every time I’m surprised at how much effort it takes to make it look good. Lately, I’ve settled on a short cut that works for me – Claire hair from House of Cards.

    1. @Sheila, It’s naturally straight – ish. I’m going to say it’s about 95% straight? And gets 100% straight pretty quickly. The look in the photos is totally due to my stylist – blow dried, straightened, product. But since I will almost certainly be wearing a ponytail for daily casual life, I don’t mind the need to straight iron. I am hoping that I can let it dry by itself, then just use the iron when I want some polish. Of course, I have to learn to USE the iron, having never done so, but, hey, keeps the brain nimble;).

  19. I think it looks great, and your hair looks healthier. We all love to grow out our hair must be a generation thing. I just got mine cut in May it was down to the middle of my back and it natural curly and I have to blow dry it out after each wash, thank goodness that’s once a week. I just couldn’t hold my arms up for that long, I have DDD, so I had it cut so it hits my collar bone. I love it, husband has to live with it. Falls under shit happens.

  20. I love your new hair cut. Your hair reminds me a little of Julianne Moore in the Hunger Games.

    I love braids too, but on little girls. I never see little girls with braids anymore. I wonder why not?

    1. @AK, I wonder why the girls don’t wear braids. I should ask my nieces. (I had to look up Julianne Moore in HG, thank you, and, it is kind of similar!)

    2. My hair was almost always in braids as a little girl. I was in elementary school from 1958–1964. Recently, I took at look at some group photos of my elementary school classes and was surprised to see that not that many little girls wore braids. In one group photo, three of us had braids. And that was the maximum.

      I can french braid my hair and do it occasionally. THAT is why I would like longer hair, but on a daily basis, I find Lisa’s new length more manageable.

  21. Liz, I was crazy about it on IG and love seeing it in full context.

    I has no idea how long your hair has gotten.

    You were totally due for a chop and you got such a fantastic one.

    You look beautiful, your hair looks and must feel fabulous.

    You know I’m a bob wearer, but if I had your locks…

    So j

  22. Like it lots. It looks like it has some movement–not as weighed down. And the color variations are v cool.

  23. Like your other commenters, I think your new cut is terrific! I think you could even have a braid (just not as long) sometimes, if you pine for one.

  24. Love the cut! I’ve been thinking of growing mine out(again) but long hair does not really suit, and I never wore it down before. Of course that was before I knew about using flat irons, so who knows. I love my iron now, and need it to keep my short cut sleek and polished. I can air dry and flatten, but my hair is definitely more polished if I blow dry first.

  25. Your hair looks great, very polished. I love the different shades too. You’re almost inspiring me to grow mine long again.

  26. Fabulous and flattering all the way. You are a brave woman getting the chop. I’ve always been a litte scared of stylists. Adore the natural shading.

    1. @Chronica Domus, Oh, when we finally have our morning at the Ferry Building, I will tell you the name of my hair guy. He is the absolutely best, and not remotely scary.

  27. Soft Surroundings has tops that are kind to the midsection without making you look matronly.

  28. I think that’s a really great classic all purpose haircut, Lisa. It looks a lot like Marissa Mayer’s cut. I always thought it looked so simple and maintenance free and simultaneously elegant. I wear mine that way, same length and side part, but it’s slightly wavy and I don’t bother to straighten it artificially, just let it air dry.

    1. @Mary, Marissa! I’d much rather have her hair than, say, Meg Whitman’s. No slight on Meg – smart woman. Just not my hair preference. Thank you. And I haven’t yet let this air dry – I’ll be curious to see what that looks like.

  29. WOW! Love at first sight! I think the biggest trade off -change is how shiny and sleek your hair is now- the braid could not convey the shine as well as this.Your color is now such an asset!! You can really see it now. I now have a goal to aspire to. Got my hair cut but it is too short now and I do not like retired soccer mom bob-cuts at all. Your new cut is going to be my new look next time. Thanks! And ps- you need to get you a monster truck….

    1. @susie, I’ll need help with the monster truck;). And, to be sure, the shine in my hair is due in large part to the straightener sealing the cuticle. I’ll do another post soon, with the hair au naturel. That is, if it’s not too crazy.

  30. It looks fantastic! Just gorgeous. So funny about the golfer, because with my hair short, that’s exactly how I feel, although everyone else loves it this way, and because I swim most days, it is easy.
    This post has me longing for long-ish hair again….How did you go two weeks without washing though? Some special trick?

    1. @kathy, Thanks! I bet you don’t really look golferish;). And, in a braid, it was easy to go without washing. Hardly mattered one way or the other.

  31. Thank you for the mention, Lisa. I think both old and new hairstyles are fab, but new is particularly chic and perfect for the Polished Tomboy. Have to be honest, my hair still has some blonde streaks in it but I’m working on that…

  32. Have you tried the t-shirts of Everlane? They fit a bit loose, if that’s what you’re looking for. (And their return policy is great, in case they don’t work for you.) Not a paid promotion; they’re just eh most comfortable and flattering t-shirts that both my husband and I wear. :-)

  33. I love the long, sleek look you on you. I think I would like it for myself, but my hair is too curly and fine. This whole effect, clothes, hair, etc., it perfect!

  34. Thanks for the mention and the compliment! My secret is a Japanese hair salon and a very talented Japanese stylist. He is a master at cutting straight hair.

    Accidental Icon

  35. You pull off both lengths of hair wonderfully! But the shorter version does look healthier & more stylish. Fun share!

  36. Lisa, your hair looks wonderful! The color looks different in different photos – I’m wondering which ones are accurate. In the one from the side, with your hair obscuring your face, it looks completely gray-free in the back, and a much darker color than I thought you had. in the next one, where you’re facing the camera, it looks blonde with gray streaks.

    I love the sleek look but I think it will look fine just air-dried, too. Your hair is thick, and has a little wave, so it will be a different look but just as great.

    I’m so tired of the constant hair coloring. My natural color is dark brown, so when the gray started coming in it just looked washed out. I started coloring for the first time in my life, a lighter color than the one I had when I was young, but still a medium-to-dark brown. Some years on I have so much gray that I have to get the roots done every 3 weeks. It’s a pain but I don’t want to go gray while I’m still working.

    1. @Marie, It is darker in the back. I am not sure if it is gray free, I haven’t looked at the back of my head lately! What I do know is that I have a broad silver streak at the front of my part – and there is some dark under that, and some blond mixed in. Then the back is much more uniform in color. Overall, my hair is quite stripey, by nature.

      I understand not going gray while working, but, I can’t help but wish it wasn’t really necessary…

  37. Your skin-tone works well with gray hair. My very pale skin, with a tendency for rosacea, always feels washed out. I’ve been all gray for years now and still go between the shorter bob and pony tail length in cuts. My goal being a style that feels somewhat “styled” … most days :) My hair has always been straight, which I now, finally, at 57 embrace. Very much enjoying your blog!

    1. @Paula, Thank you so much! Do you ever think of doing wild color washes? So many people here in California do a blue/purple temporary color that I’m starting to think it looks good:).

  38. All the cool kids are gray! That means soon hipsters will be dying their hair gray.

    I have the Annie Lennox cut and once, before I die, I’m going to dye it full on platinum.

    1. Ha! I was kind of scared to do too much, fearing I’d never see such sleekness again:).

  39. Re tees, may I suggest Madewell slub v-neck pocket tee, available in many colors and on sale now <$20. They are bias cut, so have lots of stretch without being tight. Length is sufficient for good coverage. I just discovered these, bought 4 and have laundered once– I'm very happy with this new wardrobe staple! (Love your new cut!)

  40. A very nice haircut, Lisa!

    I did like the longer hair on you as well. I have a personal preference for long hair. I lopped off about a foot in preparation for a trip (hot & humid weather & not wanting to deal with family comments) & one of my requirements was that I still had to be able to put it into a ponytail & braid it.

    Now that it’s summer, braids are my style of choice. It’s one of the few ways I can keep my fine, slippery, really straight hair up & out of my way. That & spin pins. :) I’ll have to try U-pins as well.

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