Letting go, giving back
It's taken Kitteridge Russell about six years to grow his hair down to his lower back, now he's cutting it off for others to wear.
Russell underwent a major change Wednesday, Feb. 27, when he cut off 21 inches of hair to donate to Children With Hair Loss, a Michigan-based nonprofit that collects donations of human hair to make into hairpieces for children with conditions like alopecia and cancer.
CWHL provides the children and families it serves with replacement hair systems for free each year, up until they turn 21, according to the organization.
"This is my first time," Russell said Wednesday of donating his hair, just hours before going in for his appointment. The 22-year-old has been planning to donate his long locks for a while.
"It started about a year and a half ago," he noted. "I was looking on a website with tips for taking care of my long hair. I found this website called The Longhairs. They are doing this donation drive called The Great Cut. They want to get 200 pounds of hair donated by March 16. It's quite ambitious."
While he's accustomed to trimming his mane, today's appointment has taken a lot more mental preparation. Long hair has become his trademark. His friends, family, and even his customers know him as the friendly Grocery Outlet employee who oversees the wine section, and has "beautiful hair."
He's wanted his hair long ever since he was a child, Russell recalls.
"When I was a little boy, my mom would always ask me to brush her hair for her," he says. "She didn't have a daughter until after me. I always wanted long hair like mom. I was a little bit of a rambunctious child trying to get my hair long. I finally have hair down to my butt."
Before he arrived for his 1:30 p.m. appointment at Cut N' Up salon in Scappoose, Russell had taken the time to brush and neatly braid his hair into a ponytail.
"When he first came in for a haircut, he came in with a big bun and when he took it down, I was so jealous because he's got beautiful hair," Anna Davis, a hair stylist at Cut N' Up, said Wednesday.
Davis has 25 years of experience cutting hair, but on Wednesday, she couldn't help but give pause. Davis used caution with each cut, stopping to check in with Russell as she clenched Russell's 21-inch braided ponytail in her hand and sheared it off.
Russell decided he'd keep two long pieces toward the front of his face, to braid in contrast with what would soon become a neatly styled traditional short haircut. "It's actually more cathartic for me," Russell admits. "I was ready for a new badge, as they say. I can get a fresh start, get a little weight off my shoulders, and help children."
This story has been updated to correct the last name of Anna Davis.