Servers Can’t Have Short Hair?

Five women shave their heads (Part 2)

Lee Ga-hyeon | 기사입력 2023/03/13 [10:18]

Servers Can’t Have Short Hair?

Five women shave their heads (Part 2)

Lee Ga-hyeon | 입력 : 2023/03/13 [10:18]

Changing myself to fit my hairstyle


▲ My hair has already grown this much since I shaved it. ©Lee Ga-hyeon


My hair has now grown a fair amount since the last time I shaved it all off. Now I’m up to about half the “normal” amount of shampoo when I wash my hair. When I sleep on it the wrong way, it sticks out in a cute way. A friend who shaved her head with me decided to shave the sides again. She also had her eyebrows styled, so now she makes an quite an intense impression.


Each time I go to my part-time job, the workers who arrived before me greet with “your hair has grown a lot”. Everyone I meet lets me know how my hair growth is progressing. And now I’ve become confident enough to ask them first, “My hair’s grown a lot, hasn’t it?”


Actually, I wonder every morning whether I should put on a hat before going out. I worried about this less when my head was smooth. It’s because as my hair grows, I feel like my head looks bigger, and I don’t like the way I look with hair that’s grown out just a little bit.


And I act more masculine(?) now then I did when my head was first shaved. I’m not sure what the right way to express this is - if I should call it a masculine feeling or a gender-neutral feeling. My gait is more swaggering and my face more impassive. Perhaps having very short hair feels more masculine than having a shaved head? Or did the feeling just need time to grow after I shaved my head? I feel myself acting like a different gender than I did when my hair was long.


Now that I think about it, I’ve always changed my outfit, behavior, and speaking style a little bit to match my hairstyle. When I had long, straight hair and bangs, I acted feminine and innocent; when I had long hair without bangs, I was a little chic; when I had short hair, I was lively and alert. I think I was trying to produce the person that people would expect from seeing my hair. A friend once saw me doing this and said, “You’re good at that.”


▲ I’ve always tried to match my outfits and even behavior to my hairstyle. ©Lee Ga-hyeon


Being called “sir”, manspreading, and more


I once was a few minutes behind my roommate in going out to smoke. She had been standing and smoking far from our building, and then started to head back towards me. I thought she was coming because she had seen me, but she walked straight past me into the building. I thought she must be in a bad mood. 


When I went back in, my roommate started and said, “Wait, weren’t you in the bathroom?”

“What? No, I was outside, remember?”

“What? I though you were in the bathroom.”


It turned out that she had seen me outside, and had started to come my way - but when she got closer, she thought she had made a mistake and that I was instead a middle-aged male neighbor who had come out to smoke in his underwear. So she had just walked past. I had been standing there in my summer pajamas – a red short-sleeved T-shirt and plaid shorts. I was shocked. I looked more like a man from a shorter distance? And not just any man, but a middle-aged ajeosshi, the epitome of maleness?!


I continued to be shocked by this for quite a while. I had known that I might look like a man from far away – but also from close up?! Just after shaving my head, I had gotten similar reactions when I used the women’s restroom in the subway, but the fact that this time it was a longtime friend made it truly shocking.


I also had a discomforting experience in the subway, actually. A young woman sitting to my left seemed to be shrinking from having any contact with my body. I realized that I made her uncomfortable. After a while, I started to nod off in my seat and listed toward her. She gave me a sharp push, bringing me wide awake.


The discomfort and feeling of having been wronged that came over me then made me think of all the men I had seen and come into physical contact with on the subway since first identifying as a feminist. I would sit between two manspreaders and use my own legs to force theirs closed, and would sometimes give sharp shoves to drunk men who slumped over on me. I hated the idea that men could use any space freely, and thought that their arrogance caused them to violate women’s personal space.


I felt wronged because I had had no bad intentions toward the woman, but I understood her actions. I thought that maybe, by using space freely, I had also been violating other people’s personal space. Had matching my attitude to my short hair led to that kind of behavior? I don’t think I will forget anytime soon the feeling of being someone that others feel uncomfortable just coming into contact with.


▲ Laughing at the instructor’s question, “When did you get out of prison?” © Lee Ga-hyeon


This month I went on a trip with a friend, and we went paragliding. The instructor who was paragliding with me asked, as a joke, “When did you get out of prison?” I burst out laughing, and continued for a while before answering, “You mean my latest stint?” And you may not believe it, but the instructor then told me that short hair suited me. At another time, I might have disliked this because it was an unsolicited evaluation of my appearance, but happily flying high in the sky made me generous. I said, “Thank you” and let it go.


Why I gave up on finding part-time work during Chuseok


A more surprising and upsetting thing happened when I tried to get a new part-time job. After spending September suffering from an empty bank account, I decided to stave off poverty at least a little bit by doing temporary part-time work during Chuseok[1]. Through a part-time jobs website, I found a job as a server in a hotel banquet hall. I had done this kind of work before, so I had experience and confidence in my arm strength. But something was bothering me. Women who work in banquet halls are absolutely required to wear nice shoes and a put their hair in a bun covered with a hairnet. I was worried that a short-haired woman like me wouldn’t be hired.


I sent in my application by text message and asked whether short-haired women would be considered. The hiring manager said yes, but asked me for a picture. I sent a photo of myself smiling in as friendly a way as I could. But the reply was, “I’m sorry, but you will not be considered for this position.” The hiring manager added that I could apply to work in the kitchen instead, but I was so put off by the initial rejection that I didn’t feel like applying for anything else there.


▲ My failed attempts to get a temporary part-time job during Chuseok. ⓒ Lee Ga-hyeon


Thinking that the same problem would arise with other serving jobs, I applied for a cleaning job at another venue. But this time the hiring manager refused me because they only hired men for that kind of cleaning work. And asked, since I was a woman, if I would be interested in serving work. I asked whether it wasn’t impossible because of my short hair, explaining that my hair was nearly a crew cut, and the hiring manger answered, “Then we don’t have anything available for you right now.” Clutching at straws, I asked whether I couldn’t work dressed like a man. They said no. They never even asked to see a picture. It seemed my gender had become neither male nor female.


It turns out that serving wasn’t just carrying around food and trays, like I had thought. It seemed there was also a duty, if you were a woman, to display femininity and have hair long enough to be put in a hairnet, so as not to upset the customers. Among all of the temporary part-time jobs available during this year’s extra-long Chuseok holiday, it turned out to be difficult to find part-time work that fit both my schedule and my hair length. I ended up resting and watching TV dramas during the holiday.


Honestly, more than when my head was freshly shaved, it is now that it has grown out a little that I am having more experiences that are new and surprising but also uncomfortable. I don’t want to become a masculine person, but it feels like I have to take on an attitude and behavior that fits my hair. Also, out of love for my body, I don’t want to cover my hair up with a hat, but my appearance in the mirror is so unfashionable that my troubles do not show signs of ending. My hair clearly has a bigger effect on me than just altering my appearance. So what should I do with it now?


Translated by Marilyn Hook

Published Sept. 30, 2017

*Original article:


◆ To see more English-language articles from Ilda, visit our English blog(

이 기사 좋아요
  • 도배방지 이미지