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When it comes to trend spotting, sometimes it makes sense to head right to the top…of the head. When we say “80’s” music, shoulder pads, or neon jelly bracelets may come to mind, but almost undoubtedly you think about hair. Big bangs, tight curls, macho Mohawks, creative colors. They all serve a more symbolic purpose than it may seem. It’s not uncommon to hear a cohort characterized by the way they wore their locks – bobs, pompadours, bee hives, feathered locks, afros, and “poofs” – or a star to transcend because of their hair – Farrah, Dorothy Hamil, Mr. T, “Rachel,” Vanilla Ice, Snooki, and, of course, the Bieb.

And, if you want to understand a cohort’s connection to convention or to read into their beliefs and values, you may want to pay attention to the changing look and length of youth’s locks!

Like Samson, girls know that hair holds power. So, what does it say that Miley Cyrus just got rid of hers? Is she too young to remember what happened when Felicity lost her trademark tresses? Is Miley’s bright blonde shade and punked-up style a personal statement, PR move, or, possibly, a ploy to just fit in? We think it could be all three.

Of course, Miley might be engaged in a very age-appropriate search for identity, and she just happens to be doing it under the spotlight (see our blog post about the first time Miley started to explore). It’s possible that she’s trying to shock us to ensure that she stays on our minds. But, could it also be that Miley’s look is part of a bigger statement being made by many youths right now?

It was just a few months ago that Katniss’ feminine braids – which created an intriguing contrast with her powerful persona – dominated fashion. Taylor Swift, with her twirly tresses, dominated our list of top musicians. Stars stopped hiding their use of extensions and started showing off the ways they made their hair longer with ease.

Now it seems hair has flipped with even Willow Smith foregoing whipping her hair back and forth for a shorter look.  Miley’s move may be more about asserting her independence from the haters who question why this 19-year-old needs to get engaged to finance Liam Hemsworth, who, ironically, shared the screen with Katniss’ braids in The Hunger Games. Rihanna recently donned a daringly short do as she courted controversy by embracing her ex, Chris Brown. Perhaps, like getting over an ex, getting a haircut just helps you get over hurtful words and the scrutiny of the public and the press.

Or perhaps this look is about a bigger trend? It seems that 2012 is the year of girls empowerment: from the Fab 5 of Olympics fame and survivalist stars like Katniss, to the empowered sounds of Selena Gomez, Pink, Beyonce and Rihanna. Girl power isn’t new but what may be new is what it looks like right now. It’s a trend we’ll be watching, but right now it seems most characterized by:

  • Substance over style. Power gained through ideas or talents, not through press.
  • Physical strength, along with feminine fortitude.
  • Savvy over sass. Think less sassy sayings on their backsides and more smarts about managing their career, image or relationships with authenticity.

And focus over frolic. We don’t see Lindsay on this list. We don’t see scandalous celebs making their presence known. Instead, girls’ re-empowered might be a reclaiming of girl power by real girls – even if they are still famous ones.