The season’s new hair is swingy, sexy—and refreshingly easy to wear. Karlie Kloss gets the cut of the moment.
“Garren! Garren! I’ve been doing my homework!” cries Karlie Kloss, swinging open the front door of Patrick Demarchelier’s Chelsea photo studio.
It’s Monday afternoon, and Kloss—dressed in her model-off-duty uniform of a Marc Jacobs trench, Rag & Bone jeans, and flat suede Jimmy Choo boots—has just spent the weekend studying images of “sexy sixties” icons Jane Birkin and Jean Shrimpton at the legendary hairstylist’s request.
“I’ve been so happy/nervous/terrified for this moment,” she says, shrugging off her jacket. She’s made the decision to chop off nearly seven inches of her signature rope of dark hair, and, admittedly, she’s still contending with a slight case of “Should I or shouldn’t I?” butterflies. “I haven’t had short hair since the second grade,” she says. “It was a bob with bangs—and let me tell you, that was not a fabulous cut.”
Since first appearing in the pages of Vogue, the 20-year-old St. Louis native has quickly become one of the industry’s most recognizable faces, commanding a powerful presence on runways from Rodarte to Haider Ackermann and Lanvin. She recently bought her first home—a two-story town house in New York City’s West Village—and, along with friend Joan Smalls, took up the mantle of modeling icons Cindy Crawford, Shalom Harlow, and Amber Valletta as host of MTV’s House of Style, newly reimagined as a Web series. “It’s been a year of big change for me,” says Kloss. “Now feels like a good time for a fresh start.”
The look she’s here to get is short, choppy, and infinitely cool—and if you followed the spring collections this past September, chances are you’ve glimpsed its genesis. It first emerged in New York, when model Karen Elson, stylist Marina Muñoz, and front-row fixtures Lily Kwong and Margherita Missoni appeared with abbreviated, just-shorn hair that hovered somewhere below the chin. As the fashion flock rolled into Paris, the trend went with it: Arizona Muse—whose unstructured, not-quite-shoulder-length bob put short hair back on the map a few seasons ago—was spotted on the Anthony Vaccarello runway wearing a rumpled, piecey interpretation of her signature look, while Karl Lagerfeld collaborator Amanda Harlech turned up at Chanel with what hairstylist Sam McKnight labeled “a grown-up rebel undercut sort of thing.” Before long, the ubiquitous cut had been named the Chop—shorthand for its shaggy, just-took-the-shears-to-my-own-ponytail quality—and a fashion phenomenon was born.
“Short hair brings something different to the silhouette—a freedom of movement, shape to the shoulders,” says designer Olivier Theyskens, who was moved to try the look himself (abruptly shearing off the back-grazing mane he was known for) before sending his troupe of urban cool girls down the Theyskens’ Theory runway with the same unfussy, jaw-length style. Set against his tailored suits and floor-length day dresses, “the girls looked stronger, less romantic, more in control of their choices and their attitudes,” he said of the show.
It’s a confidence that translates to real life, too. Take Jessica Seinfeld, an early Chop pioneer. “I was 40, I wanted a change,” she says of the “emergency call” she made to her hairstylist Rheanne White, just over two years ago. “I said, ‘I need to get rid of my hair—I mean now.’ ” The ensuing style works effortlessly with her wavy natural texture and functions “as a great accessory” with favorite pieces like a Narciso Rodriguez jacket or a Sacai sweater-dress.
For Kloss, who describes her own hair as “shapeless in an anonymous kind of way,” the Chop is an opportunity to explore a bold new off-the-runway identity. As a model, she’s always loved experimenting with dramatic wigs on set, “but when it comes to my personal life, I’ve played it really safe.”
She sits down to negotiate the details of Karlie 2.0 with Garren—a man she calls “the Godfather of hair” before rattling off his list of best-known supermodel cuts. (“Linda! Christy! Amber! Karen!”) “We want it to be something short, choppy, easy, and chic, but with a rock-’n’-roll edge,” Garren says, referencing Birkin’s texture and Shrimpton’s bangs as starting points. “It’s not a Sassoon thing; it’s not a bob; and it needs to hit somewhere right about here,” he continues, motioning just south of her chin. It’s a length that, give or take an inch, he says, looks good on anyone.
Before Kloss (who has begun to fidget anxiously in her chair) has time to bolt for the door, Garren picks up his shears and slices a section from the back. “Holy cow, Garren!” she yelps, eliciting a good-natured laugh from the crew, which has gathered round to watch. She bites her lip nervously while he snips away, carving out airy bangs and strategically splicing away at the ends. Just as he’s having a go at a few stray bits toward the back, Demarchelier wanders into the room and pronounces the nearly finished cut “fantastique. You look really more chic, Karlie,” he says warmly.
It’s also gloriously low-maintenance, says Garren, who instructs her to “wash it, tuck it behind your ears, and let it air-dry. It will look just as good with jeans as it does with a Tom Ford evening dress.”
Meanwhile, Kloss has started running her hands through the feathery layers and craning her head for a better look. “I feel very French!” she says, predicting her new style will look even more fantastique with a strong red lip or a rim of smudgy black eyeliner. “I’m going to have to get used to looking cooler,” she declares.
Kloss gets a crash course in the cut’s cool factor two days later, when she sets the blogosphere on fire just by stepping inside the backstage tent at the Victoria’s Secret fashion show. (Later, there will be an impassioned Twitter debate surrounding the lingerie house’s decision to hide her chic new length under long, Angel-esque hair extensions.)
She calls the next afternoon with a full report: “I love it,” she declares. “I can’t stop touching it . . . it makes me feel more daring.” Perhaps, she muses, that’s because a shorter cut “actually takes the focus off your hair and puts the focus on you. I’m starting to realize that it’s all about confidence.” There is, however, one minor setback: “It’s winter, and I happen to have this very long neck. I may need to invest in some really warm scarves.”
by Catherine Piercy | by Patrick Demarchelier for @Vogue