The girl in the pictures and the hair that defines her


Jessie Warren

A few of the different styles and colors my hair has been within the last year or so.

Two times within the past year, my hair has turned a cerulean blue so impossible to remove. And both times, seemingly without fail, I despise the way it looks after a week of having it as such.

I toil away, trying to run from its clutches, doing unspeakable things to my naturally dirty blonde locks to distance myself from their suddenly navy seas. I transition through shades of deep browns and burnt oranges, all in a desperate attempt to remove the blue that overshadows the gilded waves that still remain.

Yet, even after I have gotten the blue out of my hair, and I’ve spent months regaining the blonde that I’ve had for most of my life, I become bored. And when I’m bored, the box of Kristen Ess blue coloring conditioner that sits dormant in my bathroom cupboard once again calls my name.

I cannot help it, and sooner rather than later, I just know that my hair will turn blue again—this time likely overshadowing my entire head, seeing as I’ve been slowly nearing that conclusion for an entire circle around the sun.

This twist of events is one that I would’ve never expected, seeing as for most of my teenage life, my entire self-worth has precariously hinged upon the appearance of my hair. As of my freshman year, I would trust no one with it besides my hairdresser, this rule extending even to myself. I didn’t understand how people were so nonchalant about box dyes and at-home DIYs—if I was going to do something to my precious locks, it had to be done picture perfectly.

Yet, this shifted after the 2020 presidential election when my dear friend Natalie Mix helped color a portion of it the same deep cobalt I would eventually come to loathe. Being the first time I ever took such a drastic step, these were also the weeks that I look back on with a poignant sort of nostalgia—not in the sense of wanting to return, but rather in sympathy with the person I was.

The truth is that, even though so much of who I am hinders upon my hair, that is not always necessarily a bad thing.”

Jessie with a blue underdye was living a life with entirely different conflicts and motivations, and seeing her through the photos and videos saved on my phone reminds me just how “me” I became, even through the struggles I faced.

This applies to every stage of my life that is accompanied by a new cut or color.

When I was barred from going to the hairdresser at all, and refused to let myself cut my own hair, it grew to unimaginable lengths over the quarantine of my sophomore year. That version of me was a complex and unique individual that I strive to become again, looking back on my long hair with content and a touch of regret at ever cutting it.

Then, in a flush of activity, it went from a short and straight bob to a wavy, shoulder-length do of shades of azure and amber. When people ask what my favorite color I’ve ever dyed my hair is, I always fall back upon the two times it’s turned a rich and recognizable brown. Not only does the color make me look all the more like my mother and brother, but it frames my face in a way that fills me with joy.

There are the bangs I’ve used in countless metaphors, them being one of the only things I’ve done to my mane that I’ve utterly abhorred. The two strips of sapphire that brazenly bumbled around my face, inflicting tears one minute and smiles the next. Then the brown coloring conditioner that turned my hair orange just as fall kicked onto the scene in full swing, the color disappearing almost as quickly as it arrived.

The truth is that, even though so much of who I am hinders upon my hair, that is not always necessarily a bad thing. Despite how I’ve funneled tireless time and energy into straightening it for school—only for it to poof up and be ruined by second hour—the technicolor quilt it has become within the last year has filled my life with a sense of character that would be lacking without it.

And tonight, as I peruse the halls of my camera roll, I’m thinking of once again diving into the cerulean depths of its expansive sea.