Fringe Theory: A Guide to Finding the Best Bangs for Your Face

Photos by Jane Bruce

More than the average haircut, bangs change a face. Ever since third grade, I’ve lived an episodic bang life. First I had ones that parted in the middle, then ones that fell to the side to accommodate a cowlick. Then I was bang-free for a long time, but that felt very exposing. There, after all, was my face—exactly as it was. Terrifying. For the last decade, I’ve had some form of bang or another.

Recently, I realized I didn’t understand bangs at all, or if they even improved faces—notably my own. Every bang I’ve had has been the result of a mood or wanting to cover something up, not because I’ve thought, “this specific kind of bang could make my face better.” I’ve considered them in a vacuum, like a statue; only, bangs have no meaning apart from the face to which they’re attached. To progress in my undirected bang-thoughts, I needed questions answered. For example: Why do bangs exist in the first place? Maybe it’s better when bangs aren’t there! Because sometimes I’ll see a picture of, like, Cate Blanchett and understand right away that it is fantastic to see every part of that face. Maybe bangs have quietly been making lesser faces out of all of us who are devoted to them?

To help me out, I got in touch with a professional. Gunther Allspach at Graceland in Williamsburg has been cutting hair for 23 years; he’s given bangs to my face, too. I tell Gunther, who is sitting at Night of Joy with a slushy Margarita that, once and for all, I have to know: Why should anybody get bangs? If we address bangs head-on, maybe we could leave behind a world filled with people who willy-nilly get them, and enter another where bangs are cut—or not cut—with total conviction, resulting in amplified faces everywhere. Gunther is direct; I knew he’d share the good stuff. So, with his expert help, I present a Guide to the Ultimate Bang—with tips on why they work and which are the ones that actually, truly, suit a face.

A Bang Is a Serious Thing
So many women I know are distressed about having or not having bangs, getting the wrong ones, and feeling awful about it. “It’s a topic that people are not talking about, and it’s a serious thing!” said Gunther. It’s life altering, even. “It can destroy you for a while, you’re like, I have to wear this fucking goddamn hat now.” This is the kind of thing that ruins months of lives. Or, at least, self-confidence.

The Number One Effect of Any Bang on Any Face: Looking Younger 
I didn’t get it at first. “It does, for sure,” Gunther emphasizes, like a man who’s cut bangs a trillion times. “Imagine a 75-year-old lady with long nice beautiful silver hair, like all of it pulled back, but then imagine her with bangs,” he prods. “It changes the whole thing—they’re suddenly a little girl.” An exaggeration,  but the thrust of it is true: The first woman is an older woman, the second woman is an older woman crowned with youth. Gunther thought it had to do with remembering childhood or littler girls or dolls, but who’s to say really. The man is right.

Bangs, Like Most Brilliant Creations, Were an Accident 
People started cutting layers into their hair in the 1930s, says Gunther, and all of the sudden shorter pieces started falling in front of the face. Stylists began taking those strands and—just as with makeup—creating greater facial definition. Fascinating. But how, exactly?

Bangs Are Like Little Arrows that Point to Various Spots on the Face 
Basically, a bang should point to that which you want to point out, accentuate. Is it your eyes? Get bangs that hang pretty much right above them. Is it your cheek bones? Get little layers, instead, strands that end there, and there your eye will look. Love your forehead? Wanna show off your whole face? Don’t get bangs! Any haircut should be done in the service of accentuating that which you love, or de-accentuating that which you love less.

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The Most Recent Bang, the Bang Curtain à la Carly Rae Jepsen, Is Weird
Gunther calls them, “the really serious ones with a really heavy arch that are right in your fuckin’ eye.” On the level of hair sculpture they’re interesting. But on a person not exactly: It’s like a sheet covering one third of the face. Not sustainable or practical. The face becomes the bang, rather than the other way around. A bang should never cover, it should boost what’s good.

The Longer the Face, the Longer the Bang; the Shorter the Face, the Shorter the Bang
A funny thing our eyes do is pick out the shortest piece of hair around our faces, and stop there, before continuing to scan downward toward the chin. On a long face, if the shortest layer is very short, your eye stops, and suddenly there is a lot of face left to traverse. So a short bang will make a long face seem longer. Same for a shorter face; shorter fringe accompanying a shorter face will make your eye feel like it has much more to look at before it gets to the end of it.

On Rounder Faces, Bangs Draw Attention to the Eyes
Because the eye stops where the shortest piece of hair falls, bangs can be lovely on a rounder face, directing the focus to the beauty of the eye. If the first layers stops at the widest part of the face, somewhere around the cheekbone, there your eyes stops, too.

If You Don’t Like Your Bangs, Don’t Get More of Them Cut at the Same Length
This shouldn’t need explaining, yet this is something that happens, and that I’ve done: Cut bangs, hated ’em, then thought the solution would be getting more, somehow. The solution to getting rid of something you don’t like is not making more of it, but letting it go, hiding the rest in your hair, or clipping them back, until they finally grow out.

Listen to your Stylist: Don’t Get Bangs if He Says One of These Things
Gunther used to accommodate a face that he thought should not be banged. Now, he’ll just say, “No, you can’t get bangs,” if he feels strongly enough about it. But if your stylist is not Gunther, and won’t tell you that you should under no circumstance get them, then listen for these cues.
1. “How abut a long bang?” That likely means: Don’t get bangs.
2. “How about a side bang?” That definitely means: Don’t get bangs.
3. “How about we veer away from bangs and have pieces that look like bangs?” Repeat after me: No Bangs!
If you hear any of these things, your hair dresser is too nice to say no to the bang, but they think you should not get them.

When All Is Said and Done, Should Any Woman, No Matter the Face, Get Bangs?
I had had this terrible hunch, in light of looking at classy women like Cate Blanchett, that I should  forget about bangs already. If you’re given this perfectly normal face, why hide it? Gunther understood my bang angst and gave me a beautiful, honest answer. “I love the non-bang look; I like it more often than not. I think women are really beautiful at all ages and aspects of their lives, and it’s gorgeous to have long hair that is pulled back, like with a stick, because you’re just like, ‘here’s my face.'”

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The Old Saying Remains: To Each Her Own Bang
Despite any anti-bang talk, Gunther is by no means actually against them. Because, as discussed, bangs show off a face, too, just in a controlled and specific way. And hair monotony is monotonous; a nice bang can be the change your winter needs. Most faces can take a bang in some form, and show the world a slightly modified, perfectly accentuated version of their mug.

Forget Everything You’ve Just Read
Gauge your face. Consider where the little piece of hair could fall to point out those nice cheeks of yours, or if tiny bangs could stretch your face out nicely. These things make differences. But the best things happen outside defined systems all the time. “I’ve seem some stuff that is not supposed to work look really, really, good,” said Gunther. The man, I knew, had a point. We see examples of this, not just with bangs but in life all the time. And maybe, therein lies the ultimate bang: the bang that fits no form, that follows no direction, but defiantly does exactly what it wants to anyway.

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