My forehead remained bang-free throughout most of my childhood, but once I reached my teenage years, I began experimenting endlessly with different hairstyles. Bangs quickly became a staple across every hairstyling decision I made – even during my green pixie cut and ginger belly-button length phases.
Nowadays, I have an on-again-off-again relationship with bangs. Right before my birthday this year, I pulled the trigger once again but immediately regretted my decision. Full fringe just wasn’t sitting right with me, and I had acted on an impulse.
I know I’m not the only one. The very act of cutting bangs has a reputation of being a woman’s cry for help, and while I was certainly in a good headspace this time around, I know firsthand how a haircut can make you feel like you’ve regained a sense of control.
But are bangs really your best option for emotional relief, or are you allowing your inner self-talk to make rash decisions on your behalf? Before you pick up your own hair shears or text your hairdresser, it may be in your best interest to broaden your horizons about the bangs discourse. I did some of the dirty work for you and asked a bunch of my guy friends their raw thoughts on the many different types of bangs. Read on to see if, in the male gaze, bangs are a turn-on or a total turn-off.
Emily Ratajkowski: The Infamous Baby Bangs
The first picture I showed the guys was of the baby bangs that EmRata recently debuted, which were the subject of criticism from many online users.
Overwhelmingly, the guys were not impressed by her baby bangs, and quite a few pointed out how much better she looked beforehand.
“I love bangs, but these Romulan bangs are just the worst,” said one of the guys, who compared EmRata’s hairstyle to the social justice warrior (SJW) “Barber, I want everyone to know that I’m offended by everything” meme. Ouch! “Either have bangs or don't. This is the worst of both worlds,” he said.
Baby bangs have a rough and tumble reputation, originally evoking Hollywood glamor through women like Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday, Natalie Wood when she rocked gamine bangs, and of course pin-up fringe revolutionary Bettie Page. Unfortunately, these smallest-of-all-bangs have since been meme’d into oblivion due to their adoption by the riot grrrl movement, hipsters on Tumblr and Pinterest throughout the 2010s, and the Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminists, or TERFs.
“Bettie Page had shorter bangs, but they were thick and teased,” mentioned one of the guys, who felt that EmRata’s were too short, too thin, and perhaps not the right style for her face shape.
One of the guys thought this hairstyle looked so unnatural and uncanny on EmRata that it could have been photoshopped on. A couple other guys also pointed out how they felt this combination was weird with the rest of her hair being curly in the back. The overall sentiment from the guys was that EmRata is quite attractive naturally, but that this particular look detracts from her beauty.
“These Are the Worst Bangs on Earth”
So the guys weighed in on an objectively hot, bombshell model and actress who got baby bangs, but do their opinions on short bangs change depending on the woman? As I mentioned, baby bangs have long been co-opted from their Hollywood starlet glamor by more alternative – and frankly, aggressive – movements in modern times. Goth-inspired aesthetic trends popularized in online communities like Tumblr have cultivated an entire subgenre of baby-bangs wearers, some of which proudly self-diagnosed them as “ugly man repellent baby bangs,” for example.
Upon watching this TikTok user’s debut of her baby bangs, many of the guys were quick to affirm that these do indeed have “man repelling” qualities. One said that she looked like a “3rd Wave Feminist,” another noted that this once again reminded him of SJW memes, and one even said she looks like a “scary stripper.” A few of them said that if her goal is to turn-off men, she’s succeeding.
“These are the worst bangs on Earth,” admitted one of the guys. “From an evolutionary perspective, men (and women) are attracted to natural proportions and shapes because it signals a healthy partner. It also takes fairly healthy, full hair to make bangs work. I think that's why this look is a man-repellant – it makes young women look like they're balding or unhealthy or something.”
Some of the guys, however, took a more nuanced approach. One pointed out how the goth style could be attractive to guys who also like to appear gothic, while another thought she might actually look better with this haircut if the bangs were grown out longer and fuller.
Taylor Swift: A Woman Unafraid of Trying Every Type of Bangs
Though TSwift has tried what seems like every length and (nearly every) texture of hair, she has pretty rarely been seen without bangs in some way, shape, or form. The next photo I had the guys take a look at was Swift’s hairstyle for the “Lavender Haze” music video, a self-proclaimed “sultry sleepless ‘70s fever dream” where she wore choppy, tousled bangs.
Nearly every guy (except for one hater) felt that these bangs were a big improvement from the EmRata baby bangs I had just subjected them to. Most of the guys shared that this casual style of bangs gave Swift a natural demeanor.
“Taylor Swift perfectly pulls off the wavy free-falling bangs,” said one of the guys. “It gives her a ‘girl next door’ look and makes her seem more natural and less plastic. This look suits her very well. Hopefully she doesn’t grow tired of the bangs and decide to write a song about them.”
There are endless ways that a woman can wear wispy bangs, but the key that makes these hairstyles far more irresistible to the male gaze is how layers and slightly messy texture signals playfulness. A woman who can rock choppy bangs comes off as effortlessly chic. Can anyone deny the sex appeal that comes with “undone” hairstyles, without being outright unkempt?
“She looks great. This is a much more flattering look than the other examples of short or perfectly-straight bangs,” said another guy. “It's stylish without looking meticulously manicured and messy without looking unkempt. Two thumbs up for the more natural look.”
Lily Collins: Channeling Her Inner French Girl
The final celebrity subject for the bangs discourse was Lily Collins, whom I’d argue has stolen Zooey Deschanel’s throne for most iconic, blunt bangs in Hollywood.
The male verdict on blunt bangs was a little bit more of a mixed bag. Many of the guys felt that this was an improvement on EmRata’s baby bangs, but a step down from TSwift’s wispy fringe.
“These bangs are too heavy. They should be feathered or better layered or something,” said one of the guys, who pointed out how he doesn’t like when bangs cover eyebrows and obscure facial expressions. “Eyebrows and forehead should still be visible even if a person has bangs. It's just a bit much. Not awful, though.”
Quite a few of the men were really passionate about Collins’ Parisian-chic hairstyle, with one commenting how it makes her look cute but a “mature cute.” Straight-cut bangs are the most basic chop – and the easiest to maintain at home – which can elevate a woman’s look to “Chanel” rather than “Free People.”
Several of the guys weren’t actually fans of Collins’ bangs because of their bluntness and length, expressing that the look doesn’t flow well with the rest of her hair or that the crop felt too strong. One guy roasted Collins, giving his gut response: “Reminds me I need to shop for new lampshades.”
How About the “Universally Flattering Way To Do Cool-Girl Hair”?
For the last bit of visual fodder I subjected the guys to, I had them watch a TikTok where a girl cut her bangs in the “curtain bangs” or “bottleneck bangs” style.
Curtain and bottleneck bangs are low maintenance, great for warm weather, and exude youthful vibes. They’ve been very on-trend as of late, with Vogue UK even deeming them “the universally flattering way to do cool-girl hair.” But, how did the guys feel about them?
Ding, ding ding! Most of our men thought that this look was a winner. One guy said she looked “banging hot” (pun intended?), and a few pointed out how this face-framing fringe did her justice. One man admitted that he thought that bangs cut in this style are visually more interesting than ordinary bangs.
“Similar to Tswift, the free-flowing bangs suit this girl very well,” shared one of the guys. “The bangs having a slight wave to them gives her that ‘girl-next-door’ look.”
Interestingly enough, a couple of the other men compared this TikTok user’s bangs to Swift as well. One commented that this one and Swift’s were his favorites. Another explained why he thought hers and Swift’s style of bangs tends to work better than blunt, straight, or short bangs: “She's smart to layer her bangs in such a way that you can still see some of her eyebrows and forehead. You don't want the bangs to cover everything, but you also don't want the weird sickly baby bangs that all the liberal chicks get. This style looks full, healthy, natural, complimentary to her facial features, and feminine.”
“When It Looks Good, It Looks Great.”
As beauty can be subjective (though there are certainly objective elements to the concept of beauty, don’t get me wrong!), each of the men had very different takes on whether or not they like bangs on a woman overall. The general consensus for those who were on “Team Bangs” was that they have to be done right and match the rest of the woman’s hairstyle.
“It really depends on how it complements her look, as well as the execution, though usually I’d say I like it and find that it makes a woman feel more inviting and approachable,” admitted one of the guys. “I especially think of Zooey Deschanel as someone who does them well and looks really cute with them. When done well, it really creates a girl-next-door type of look that I can’t help but appreciate and admire.”
One of the guys shared that while he has always loved bangs, he doesn’t think that every woman can pull them off. He explained that bangs can bring out certain features that a woman might want to accentuate (like her eyes) and can be used to pull off a wide range of subculture styles – whether the aesthetic you’re going for is high fashion, alternative, bohemian, doll-like, or even, in his own words, “an elegant Cleopatra.”
Interestingly enough, when asked what the most visually appealing hairstyle, in general, is for their lady to have, bangs weren't really a dealbreaker! That said, nearly all of the guys said they prefer longer hair over shorter hair. A few men expressed how much they love free-flowing, wavy hair, and one even pointed to the “island girl” look – perhaps like our cover model Kahealani Papke – as his preference.
But, long hair doesn’t mean a woman can’t still rock bangs. One guy gave a special shoutout to women who wear tousled bangs in the front, but put all the rest of their hair up in the back.
“All I can say is that out of all the parts of a woman's body I spend time thinking about, the forehead is not up there,” admitted one of the guys. “Something about bangs – especially now that they're not the most popular contemporary style with young women – says confidence, poise, creativity, and, when done correctly, a robust sense of style.”
There is simply no shortage of hairstyles that a woman can choose throughout her life. Whichever she chooses to rock, however, does have the power to completely change public perception. But, don’t feel intimidated by change. As one of the guys so eloquently put it: “Hair regrows, the possibilities are endless, and styling hair is one of the best ways for a woman to express herself.”
Well, if you were on the fence about bangs before, I can only hope that this little experiment has given you a more well-rounded perspective on the perception of bangs. In fact, some people believe that bangs are making a comeback, so perhaps now is the best time for you to take that leap of faith.
A tasteful amount of fringe can help women who struggle with flyaways, those who feel self-conscious about having what Tyra Banks lovingly calls a “five-head,” and even women who have a lot of baby hair from postpartum hair loss. While you may get questions about your emotional stability if you choose to cut bangs – as some people have joked that bangs are an impulsive form of therapy – you should have fun experimenting with your hair because life is simply too short to worry about things that will indeed grow back!
Need a few pointers ahead of calling your salon? Hairdressers recommend that women with heart-shaped faces should try wispy bangs with long hair to be mindful of facial length versus width, women with round-shaped faces should try thick, side-swept bangs because they add angularity to an otherwise full face, women with long-shaped faces should try straight-across heavy bangs for symmetry and balance, women with square-shaped faces should try brow-grazing fringe bangs to soften the jawline, and if you’re a woman with an oval-shaped face, apparently your versatile face shape can get away with all types of bangs, including baby bangs.
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