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Choosing a side — or none at all

Changing my hairstyle from a middle part to a side part helped me renounce trends and feel at home in my body

<p>&nbsp;Partaking in fashion trends can be fun, but I no longer feel the pressure to conform to them.&nbsp;</p>

 Partaking in fashion trends can be fun, but I no longer feel the pressure to conform to them. 

My hair has been through a lot over the years. I’ve experienced the childhood bowl cut, the hip length hair of my tween years and the obligatory trauma bangs. When I changed my part from the side to the middle in 2020, I was obsessed with being on-trend and distancing myself from a younger version of me. I spent years hiding behind popular styles such as loose-fitting clothes. But my recent decision to disregard trends — and part my hair slightly to the right — has allowed me to live in the present and embrace who I truly am.

I was a senior in high school when the pandemic hit the United States in 2020. In my quarantine confinement, I spent a lot of time scrolling on social media, becoming invested in whatever TikTok influencers told me to be interested in. As a card-carrying member of Gen Z, I was quick to accept the rapid shift in hair styles from the side part to the middle part. Following similar trends, I donated all of my skinny jeans to Goodwill and started to dress in oversized clothes, wearing long skirts, crew necks and baggy jeans. Even when I entered college — as I made new friends and tried new hobbies — I was still bound by the trendy styles I chose to follow years ago. 

There was one big problem with my new look — I could not pull off a middle part. To make matters worse, my modest looks were frumpy at best, and the baggy jeans did not flatter my figure at all. While I adhered to trendy styles, I felt that they were inaccurate reflections of my true likings. Not only that — they were external changes I used to hide internal doubts I had about myself. 

In my pandemic isolation, I made mistakes — not just in clothes but in my relationships with others. I struggled to be a good, responsive friend, and I tried to escape these faults by changing my appearance. As pandemic restrictions dissipated and I physically reentered the world, I recognized how a part of me still hid away. But I hesitated reverting my style back to its old look. I felt that backtracking would not only brand me as out of style — it would deem my quarantine reinvention a failure. If I was going to look like my pre-quarantine self, I would be back at square one, doomed to repeat the same mistakes she made.

My perspective on my hair started to change in the spring of 2023. I saw old pictures of myself with a side part and thought about how much better I looked and felt with that style. I started playing with my hair in my bedroom mirror at night and trying on clothes that did not align with the 2020 trends I had been holding on to. One night, I wore my hair parted on the side to a semi-formal dance. Oddly enough, I felt neither out of style nor like I had failed. 

My baggy clothes went out next — I was sick of hiding my body. I got used to wearing crop tops and mini skirts again. With each change in my appearance, I strayed away from popular trends. While I felt angry at myself for hiding away for so long, I also realized how easy it had been to fall into the catch of trends at seventeen, a time when I was trying to find myself. 

Changing my hairstyle allowed me to reconnect with a version of myself who was carefree and always looking for the next adventure — I had been hiding from her for years. That version of myself had made mistakes, but she didn’t have to hide behind a trendy persona. I worried that going back to an old style would keep me from living in the present. Instead, it allowed me to embrace every part of myself. I realized that I actually preferred straight-leg jeans to the skinny jeans of my teen years and the baggy jeans I hid behind during the pandemic. I was slowly learning how to define my style outside of trends.

It was around this time that I decided to delete TikTok and focus more on living a meaningful life. Don’t get me wrong — I still enjoy a fair amount of mindless scrolling, but it is nice to be away from the platform infamous for starting and ending microtrends. I am not always surrounded by people touting the next new trend that you absolutely need to buy. I now have the time to find out what I like and what matters to me.

It is quite a cliche to say that I feel more like myself now, but it is true. I wear my childhood favorite colors — light blue and pink —  every day. I style my hair the same way I did at 17 years old, and I recently discovered that I look great in low-rise pants. Partaking in fashion trends can be fun, but I no longer feel the pressure to conform to them. Every era of my life is still with me when I get dressed in the morning, but none of them hold me down. I see little glimmers of my past self every time I look in the mirror. I like to think that she would be proud of me. 

Julianne Saunders is a Life columnist for The Cavalier Daily. She can be reached at


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