Too close for comfort: Are shaved heads finally acceptable for women?

Natalie Portman with her head shaved for <i>V for Vendetta</i> in 2005.

Natalie Portman with her head shaved for V for Vendetta in 2005. Photo: Getty

Just as she was finally getting that ever-changing hue of blonde under control, Charlize Theron has gone and shaved her head. Shock, horror.

It's for her new role in forthcoming Mad Max: Fury Road and, as much as we'd love her to take her trilby off and show her new 'do in its full glory, the actress seems cagey about the look.

She needn't be. Not only is she beautiful and would probably look good with a bad case of the mumps, a shaved head on a woman should be no cause for raised eyebrows or fevered visits to milliners in 2012. Or should it?

Back in 1991, Sinead O'Connor's dimple-cheeked prettiness was offset with her unapologetic, punky, shaved head - deliciously effective and at odds with the melodrama and it's-a-girl-thing emotion of hit Nothing Compares 2 U - and she still stands out as having balls, even now, twenty years later. O'Connor owned the style (honourable mention to Erykah Badu) in the Nineties.

But, since then, the famously shaved head has resided firmly in four camps and four camps only: Actresses who have gone under the razor in the name of art (or showbiz); a symptom of the ultimate 'troubled celebrity' (a pair of words that seem to go together like toast and vegemite) - to wit, Britney Spears. Or a fearless, elemental Amazonian beauty that only supermodels dare dip into - a la Agyness Deyn and Alek Wek; and the brave symbol - embraced by some, hidden by others - of a battle with cancer.

And that's where Charlize, her barnet and her celebrity clout come into it. Could she help destigmatise the 'do where a host of actresses - Demi Moore, Natalie Portman, Samantha Morton, Cate Blanchett and Cynthia Nixon included - have so far failed? Of course, it's a personal thing, but a bit of gusto and the Prometheus star's dabble with boyish charm may go some way to elevate the close crop to something of a more covetable fuzz, finally giving a buzzcut fashion sensibility... if we ever get to see it, that is.

Shorter looks are, after all, firmly in as the long, layered looks of the early 00's have lost their lustre, says Joey Scandizzo, who won Hairdresser of the Year at annual beauty industry behemoth, Hair Expo.

He told the Herald that "Long hair’s boring because the thing is, people want that long hair but they never actually do anything with it – it spends the whole time being tied back off their face because that’s the easiest thing to do."

Getting rid of the lot is certainly one way to eradicate a wayward fringe or flyaway hairs, drastic as it may be. But, given even model Charlize has developed a penchant for hats, how workable is the look - and will we see the start of a wave of minimal crops, close shaves and breezy bonces any time soon?

Jacqueline Newman of Tigi, who saw every hairstyle under the sun paraded at last weekend's Hair Expo, is sceptical. "Aussie women love their long, blonde hair - people here aren't very daring with their hairstyles. We love cutting-edge, fashion-forward looks at Tigi, but we doubt a shaved head will take off on the highstreet any time soon."

She is all for shorter, more sculpted and playful styles. "Daring to go to a shorter style is the most refreshing makeover a lady can have - get rid of the length and have some fun with the renewed body and life of the hair. And it's so much easier to make look edgy and on-trend."

There are no rules, she says, when it comes to choosing a style - individual interpretation is what new styles are all about. But if you're ready to opt for the chop, the key, she says is to go for a look that works with the maintenance levels you're willing to commit to and to be liberal - experimental colour is easier to reverse when short, so be open-minded when it comes to dye.

Charlize Theron shaved head: Too close for comfort?

Charlize Theron shaved head: Too close for comfort? Photo: Getty

And simply because you're going mega-short doesn't mean you must relinquish any semblance of girliness. "If you're going to short, it needs to be adaptable - you want to be able to feel daring and confident without without losing femininity."

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There's the rub when it comes to firing up the clippers: It may only be a few millimeters shorter than a sculpted, chic, short cut, but to have a shaved head as a woman, is, if not exactly taboo, still seen as a statement rather than simply a new haircut.

To many, a shaved head means giving up a lot more than clumps of keratin - it's a surrendering of what is seen, the world over, as a flag of womanliness, sexuality and attraction: a set of gender markers that is not likely to subside anytime soon. And certainly not while Charlize's (professionally required) haircut manages to attract such an avalanche of attention.

It's hair, it grows back.