How Harry Styles Helped Me Get My Side-Part Groove Back

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Middle of the pupil, up to the hairline, and straight back. That’s the comb-path of a perfect, face-framing side part. I ought to know; I’ve been doing it that way for nigh on 35 years.

Sheesh, "nigh on?" What am I, the old lady from Titanic?

I might as well be — at least in the eyes of teenagers today. Apparently, despite my unlined face (which is achieved when I stretch my fingers over the top of my forehead and pull back) and hip attitude (except toward jeans with holes in them — I’m not paying $50 for less fabric, I don’t care what American Eagle says), it is my side part that ages me into the granny zone and signals to the youth of the world that I have lost my coolness.

"All this time I thought teens were staring at my gray roots, and it turns out that it was my part that was aging me."

Well, joke’s on you, Zoomers: I never was cool. But I digress.

Could they be right? Has a hairstyle come along yet again that divides the generations? Are side parts really just for millennials and their hopelessly unhip generational neighbors, Gen X?

All this time I thought teens were staring at my gray roots, and it turns out that it was my part that was aging me.

Navigating the Hairy Waters

I started parting my hair on the side as soon as I started styling it myself. My older sisters had middle parts, like Laurie Partridge and Charlie’s Angels. I thought those styles were most unflattering, especially on me, and made me look like a homely Lhasa apso who would never win Best in Show. Wearing a side part framed our faces in soft waves, allowing even stringy, fine hair like mine a chance to look fuller, with more body. It was classic beauty, not a passing trend.


How is a millennial/Gen X mother to navigate these hairy waters? I don’t spend an hour with a box of Miss Clairol every month to look my age, for cryin’ out loud. Could it be time to shake things up and give that middle part another try?

Like Luke Skywalker, I need a guide to help me see my destiny. But whose advice could I really trust for this?

And then it hit me.

Harry Styles.

That’s right, the svelte young man formerly of the band One Direction. He’s transformed himself from a teen idol into a soulful musician, fashion icon, actor, and all-around laid-back and charming guy. He seems to just be so comfortable in his own skin. And his motto is "Treat people with kindness," which sounds pretty good to me. We could use a little more kindness in the world.

Now, how do I, a Gen X, patently uncool mother of four who’s clearly balancing on the precipice of a midlife crisis, know about Harry Styles?

My teenage daughter is a stan. Wait. Stan? Or stan? Whatever. A “stan” is what young folks today call a rabid fan. She loves Harry Styles like my sister loved David Cassidy and I loved New Kids on the Block.

It hit me with a profound punch the other day. I was desperately reaching into the void between her bed and the wall. That’s where she hides the Girl Scout cookies she secretly pilfers from the kitchen, which is a total rookie move. (Note: I am smart enough to hide mine in the slit I cut into the bottom of my box springs — those coils are the perfect size in which to slip a sleeve of Thin Mints.)

My prize clutched in my chocolate-craving paws, I rolled over on my back to stuff a few in my mouth and escape before getting caught in her room.

That's When the Angels Sang

That’s when I saw it. I gazed upward and was caught in the soulful gaze of the Harry Styles shower curtain she has tacked to her ceiling. Yes, shower curtain. But unlike my usual reaction of thinking how creepy the concept of a Harry Styles shower curtain is, I was instead focused on his glorious mane of hair, which cascaded around his chiseled and sultry yet impishly grinning face.

And it was styled with a messy side part.

The angels sang. I had been validated. When I triumphantly called her attention to the fact that even the great Harry Styles wears a side part and yet is the epitome of cool, she was quick to whip out her Instagram feed and scroll through the multitude of Harry shots. Side parts. Middle parts. Short locks. Long tresses. Even the occasional man-bun.

“Mom, Harry just does what he feels like. He wouldn’t judge your side part. He’d say do what makes you feel good. And I think you’re pretty, no matter what." She shot me a double peace sign, said “TPWK, bro” (that's "Treat People with Kindness") in her best Harry accent, and flitted back to her room.

What would Harry do? He’d say to be myself, but not be afraid to change things up a little, too. I should be comfortable in my own skin, er, scalp.

So now, I stare at myself in the mirror clutching my rat-tail comb and try to chart a new path. Side of the nose, up to the hairline, and straight back. I have progressed toward the centerline a solid inch and a half. Not Veronica Lake, but not Marcia Brady, either.

I like it. I’ll probably always end up with some kind of side part, because that’s just what I think looks best on me. But for now, I’ll give this little change a try.

Maybe this will throw those Zoomers off the scent. Not quite middle part, but not exactly a side part, either. Who is this daring woman who defies the rigid rules of hair-part etiquette?

She must be cool.

Tags: Empowerment, humor, Self Confidence

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Written By

Becky Hepinstall Hilliker

Becky Hepinstall Hilliker is the co-author of Sisters of Shiloh (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2015) and a freelance writer. See Full Bio

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