Splitting Hairs is our monthlong exploration of hair based on a survey of women across America. It’s like you brought a photo to the salon — we’re giving you exactly what you want.
If there is one part of my body that has gone through the most transformation over the course of my life, it’s my hair. I flat-ironed it pin-straight during my MySpace years; I once chopped crazy middle bangs in a misguided attempt to look like Jane Birkin; and, two years ago, I bleached it within an inch of its life after a particularly rough breakup. They say you wear your heart on your sleeve. Mine is all up in my hair.
Lately, I've been pretty okay with my hair. I like the length; my natural color has returned to health; and I’ve accepted my cowlicks — and that I will only ever have bad-girl bangs in my dreams. This means I style my wavy hair the same way pretty much all the time: blown out halfway and air-dried the rest, and parted to the side. If it's day two or three, it'll be unbrushed with a TON of dry shampoo in it. I like to call it sex hair without the sex. (It’s been a dry summer.)
Since I don’t change up my hair that often, this sameness is reflected back to me on my dating apps. Swipe through my profile, and my hair is practically cut-and-pasted on my different makeup looks and outfits, across all the photos. And thus, an experiment was born. In an effort to break my summer hair (and dating) slump, I’d reboot my Tinder profile once a week for five weeks, replacing my hairstyle — and only my hairstyle — each time. Everything else in the photo would stay the same: they’d all be selfies posed in my bathroom. (It has the best lighting. Let me live.) I’d wear the same makeup and clothes. My bio would remain untouched.
Wanna know what happened? Over the course of the five weeks, I matched with 116 guys on Tinder. If I’m going hard on my dating apps (like swiping-multiple-times-a-day hard) I can usually match with up to five guys a day, so this number was fairly average for me. But the difference was that certain hairstyles netted many more matches than others — and it turned out that men in NYC, where I live, have a pretty clear preference for one style in particular.
Read on to see what I learned during five weeks of hair experimentation, all in the name of landing a date.
I started off with the hairstyle I’m probably the worst at — a chignon. I never wear my hair up because I think my nose looks big. Stupid, I know. If I were more confident in my contouring abilities, it wouldn't be an issue; instead, I hide behind my hair.
I twisted my hair into a low chignon, using Meghan Markle as an inspiration. I did not come out looking quite as regal, however — and this is not a style I'd wear on the regular. It’s a little too pulled together for me. My brand is French woman sex hair. I know who I am. This chignon felt like I was cosplaying as a Vineyard Vines model, and I’m not here for that.
And as it turns out, men didn’t dig the vibe either. I matched with about 12 men over the course of the week. Of the 12, two actually messaged me — one guy was Italian (so am I) and lived in New Jersey (which is where I'm from), and the other was a clean-cut bro who lives around Union Square. Neither panned out to a date. In the end, I think the chignon was a little too stuffy of a hairstyle for dating apps, not to mention, it just wasn't me.
Dates Landed: 0
After the disaster that was the chignon, I decided to come down to earth a little bit. I am not someone who loves a ponytail, either. (The nose thing again.) I also think I look better with a little part in my hair, and a ponytail doesn’t really allow for that.
But I did dig the ponytail I wound up tying up for my photo. I’d applied some IGK 30,000 Feet Volume Powder to give it some texture, and to keep it a little closer to the messy hair I tend to love. Because of that, the pony itself had some gorgeous weight and body to it. I felt right at home.
Dudes loved the ponytail, too. Over the course of the week that I ponied up, I matched with 25 guys — double the amount I saw during chignon week. Of those 25, who were quite a mixed bag, I got five messages, mostly from professional-looking men in suits who posed in their photos wearing Ray-Bans. I made plans to actually meet up with one of the guys. He was exactly the type you’d expect to love a gal in a ponytail — a trainer 10 years my senior with bright blue eyes, who lives in Murray Hill.
He also, as it turns out, wound up being a flake. The night before we were set to go out, he texted me telling me that he’d decided to get serious with another girl he was seeing and didn’t want to waste my time. While I respected his forthcomingness and his courage to not ghost, I was still kinda pissed. It was a great ponytail! So instead of meeting him for coffee, I stayed home and ordered pizza. It was also great.
Dates Landed: 1/2
When I toss my hair in a top knot, it means one of three things: I’m either sweating my face off, cleaning my apartment, or about to scream at someone. Seriously. You know that song "Meet Virginia" by Train, when Patrick Monahan sings that she “pulls her hair back as she screams”? That lyric, I’m convinced, was written about me. And a top knot.
But in truth, I think I actually like the way I look in a top knot, and I've worn plenty over the years. In the ‘90s and early ‘00s, I wore them with butterfly clips and really thin tendrils of hair framing my face. I wore ballerina buns. I love a half-up top knot. For the purposes of this experiment, though, I wore it high, kind of mussed up, and super sexy. I hoped I did not have to scream at anyone.
I expected to get a lot of dates out of this top knot situation, because I was really feeling my look. But I got less interest than the ponytail. I matched with 18 men, chatted with three, and met up with zero. That said, one of the guys who I matched with specifically mentioned that he really liked my hair — which was a first for the experiment. But overall, this look was a bit of a bust. Drake lied when he said that hair tied is the prettiest. Do not trust Drake.
Dates Landed: 0
When I was in middle school, all I wanted was long, straight hair parted down the middle. From the time I was 13 up until I was about 18 years old, I would fry my hair with a straightener to get that look. And it wasn’t easy, because I have very thick, coarse, wavy hair. I embraced my natural texture about five years ago and haven't looked back. I didn't even own a straightener anymore when I took on this experiment. Luckily, I was hooked up with the new Revlon Salon Straight Copper Smooth Flat Iron to achieve this look. I made sure to keep my strands very straight and very flat. I didn’t want much body. I wanted to get my middle school hair back, and put it on Tinder (in the least creepy way possible).
And let me tell you, men ate this up like hot cakes. I matched with 32 men over the course of my straight-hair week, and talked to 15 of them. Granted, a lot of the messages were just the general “hey what’s up/any plans for the weekend/what do you do” banter before eventually going nowhere, but that’s still a 50% return rate, which is unheard of on Tinder. I made plans to go out with two of the guys, and did. One was a very handsome finance bro, and the other was a graphic designer with a side hustle as a bartender.
I opted to wear my hair wavy to both dates, and the finance bro didn’t say anything (he was also boring). But the graphic designer noticed, and actually asked if my hair is naturally straight or wavy. When I told him, he said he preferred the wavy look, which could've just been lip-service, but it was exactly the right thing to say. Good job, graphic design guy. We had a great time over beers and nachos, and made plans to meet up again. I won’t be straightening my hair.
Dates Landed: 2
For the last week, I wore my typical hairstyle — wavy with mussy texture. It’s been my go-to for a while, mainly because I’m incredibly lazy. I don’t love the way my hair dries naturally, but I also don’t want to spend all of my time drying it all the way. So I put some Ouai Leave-In Conditioner in it, dry it halfway with a paddle brush, and then let it air-dry the rest of the way before putting in some Verb Ghost Oil and volume powder in it at the end. Voilà. Sex-hair-without-sex hair.
Turns out, this performed under the straight hairstyle — but also better than the straight hair. Allow me to explain. I matched with 29 men, talked to 6, and then met up with one. He was a very attractive doctor-in-training with bright blue eyes and a beard. We went out for fancy cocktails, and then went out for shitty beers after the fact. He made me smile, and we laughed a ton. We made out in the bar, on the sidewalk, and then in the back of a cab. We had more beers. And before we parted ways, we made plans to see each other again. Our second date is next week.
With my wavy hair, I was just me, and I found that I enjoy myself more when I’m being myself. And that is probably the lesson in all of this. My hair wasn’t to blame for my dry spell. Sometimes you do ridiculously well on these dating apps, and other times you get two messages from two people who flake. That’s normal. It has nothing to do with you, or your hair, so you might as well wear it however you like. For me? It’s staying unbrushed, all the way. And with any luck, I’ll be able to start calling it “sex hair” again one of these days.
Dates Landed: 1