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Gimme gimme hair

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This story is part of an occasional series of articles from the Prague Wanderer, a webzine created by New York University students in Prague. Learn more about the Prague Wanderer here.

Settling into a wooden bench at Zanzibar, my new local café, I see a woman enter, coat to the chin, with shaggy shades of crimson hair framing her face. She makes me think: Brown or blue, long or short, choosing your coiffure is a definite statement.

A new hairstyle is far more permanent than expressing oneself through a new dress or picking out a pair of jeans.

If someone decides that one day they feel especially rebellious, rocking a studded belt is far less irrevocable than a mohawk and dye job. Especially if tomorrow he or she perhaps doesn’t feel so rebellious after all.

As someone that themselves has gone through the spectrum of colors and styles to find hair that tells the world who I am, hair is something I always notice.

Who are you? I am a chin-length bob, black- with-blonde streaks in the bangs kinda girl.

Prague is an especially interesting place to observe hairstyles. Czech people, no matter their age or sex, seem to feel free to experiment and express themselves through their hair.

Crammed on the metro at the Náměstí Míru stop, the train is packed with a myriad of color and cuts. The car is full of bright red locks, dark straight coifs, chin length, waist length, wavy, streaked.

There is hair excitement in the air, even if the general Czech mood is muted.

To my left, sitting down, an older woman stares pensively into the darkness,
sporting a short shaggy cut, severe maroon, with streaks of black.

In front of me, a young teenager, waiting between stops with her mother,
radiates straight brown hair with bubblegum streaks.

To the American eye these looks stand out immensely, and to see them in such multitude!

It’s not that these adventurous styles are something you would never see anywhere else, but its more here they are less the exception than the rule. Riding the long escalators up and down to each metro ride is a riveting hair experience.

Two specific styles have stood out to me among young Czech women.

The first is long, shaggy, layered, hair. It is waving and curling.

The second I’ve noticed is an angular look. Sometimes this is a pixie cut, sometimes it’s chin length, and sometimes it’s a little longer.

No matter the length, these cuts resemble each other in their sharp layers, and often their asymmetry.

Strolling through the Old Town Square quad packs of girls don side swept bangs falling delicately over one eye, short layers dancing around the crown of their heads, and the rest of the strands falling unevenly on their shoulders.

Something I’ve definitely noticed about Czech hair is that it no matter the cut, it seems to be itself. It’s allowed to do what it wants.

Alena walks into work everyday with her hair curling madly and beautifully in every direction, and it’s clear that this is what her hair looks like barely being touched.

Generally, Prague lacks the sea of over-coiffed blown out hair that swarms America.

Perhaps the polar opposite of the “over-coif”, dread locks are another style popular in Prague for both men and women. Dread locks are of course seen in the US.

However, the sheer number of times it is seen while strolling for instance, between the Staroměstská metro stop and Malé náměstí, makes it stand out.

In terms of women’s hair color, anything goes. Jet black, for instance, seems very fashionable.

Also, streaks of fun colors lace and sometimes totally monopolize girls’ strands. Fire engine reds, winy maroons, cotton candy pinks, violet purples and sun-burnt oranges dominate.

At the local Tesco a young girl caught my eye, plum red, with bright blonde streaks twining through her bangs and near her ears. A friend at her side, nonchalantly wore her hair a beautiful white blonde with black peeking out from below it.

Looking out on Wenceslas Square, while people shop and cavort, all of their colors merge; burgundy, ruby, indigo, emerald, charcoal, flax.

Czech women of a more mature age, I’ve observed, don’t seem to embrace the conservative tendencies of older women in the United States. While American woman seem to feel the need to tone down their look, and specifically their hair, as they get older, the Czech women I have observed in Prague often have much different standards.

Many Czech women go bold with their choices cut –often a youthful shag – and color.

Bright scarlets, clarets, and copper, and shades of orange are popular, sometimes covering the entire head. It is exciting to see experimentation and individuality among women of an age that at home seem to suffer from hair repression.

Men also seem to have more hair freedom in Prague.

Shaved is popular, but so are the mohawk, the mullet, and rat-tails, which might elicit scorn in trend-conscious New York.

My hair represents man’s eternal struggle: How does the soul shine under the crushing ceiling of society? Essentially it’s business in the front, party in the back.

An intriguing Prague look for men is an entirely shaved head with three or four dread locks vertical in the middle back of the head. The dreads are very long.

Vojta, 26, a Charles University graduate wears his dreads as if they were nothing special. Despite what I considered quite a hair fashion statement, he had nothing to say about his intriguing lock looks!

Prague dwellers are pushing new boundaries of hair, but they don’t seem to know it, they’re just used to being cool. Isn’t that what fashion is about anyway?

For now, I will continue to enjoy riding the metro, sitting in a kávarna, strolling through the cobble stone streets, while taking in the fabulous hair, and perhaps taking notes for my next trip to the

Who are you? Maybe I’m long layered cut, tinted red.

Katherine McBride is a third-year student at New York University studying art and revolution. She is from Boston, Massachusetts.

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