Every day, Gen-Zers find a new way to let their elders know their millennial is showing. Perhaps the quickest way to spot an aging millennial these days is to look at how their hair is parted. That onslaught of center parts we were previously warned about? It’s here, along with a Gen-Z discourse built on shaming millennials for their side parts — the relics of an unhealthy youthful diet of cringey emo swoops and side bangs. Forget what those hairstyle face charts once told you. Your face is no longer Oval, Square, Heart, nor Circle; if it’s wearing a side part, it’s just Old. Feeling confused? Attacked? Let’s dissect.
Where did this all start?
Simply asking that question is an indication you may be a side-part-wearing Old, but it began where all things begin: on TikTok. The part discourse reached its first peak last summer when Gen-Z TikTok user @Lady-Gleep made a declaration about hair division that’s now divided down generational lines: “Prove me wrong, but I don’t think there is a single person who looks better with a side part than they do a middle part.” Gleep then asked anyone with a side part to make it a middle one — to prove her point that “the middle part is far more supreme” — and thus the #MiddlePartChallenge was born. Those born after 1997 hoped Zoomers would finally see the center-parted light, while many millennials clung even tighter to their security-blanket side parts, pointing out that Gen Z has also endorsed things like snorting eels and eating Tide Pods.
But wait, aren’t middle parts also old?
Technically, yes. People have been parting their hair down the middle since who knows when. It was definitely the thing to do in the 1920s, 1970s, and the 1990s — hell, even Queen Victoria is rocking a middle part in this super-old portrait. Time is a flat circle and trends are cyclical, so the easiest way to think about it is that side parts, while technically also old, just aren’t old enough to be considered not-old again, like middle parts. They need to age a little more before they’re eventually considered young again.
Why do the youths like middle parts so much?
Middle parts picked up a divisive reputation because in terms of math and such, they shine a spotlight on symmetry. They also put all of one’s face front and center with nowhere to hide. Gen Z is a generation that champions embracing flaws, like the under-eye bags you’re so quick to shun, so it’s no surprise it supports a part that proudly bares it all. This preference for center parts can also be seen in the vintage hairstyles Gen Z has embraced with open arms: Pigtails, space buns, buns held up with claw clips, and those two little tendrils are all very center part–centric.
Side parts have their strengths though, right?
For sure. They can make you look mysterious depending on their depth, and they can help one disguise many things like cowlicks, thin patches of hair, a pimple, or even a botched eyebrow. Side parts are also known to increase the perceived volume of one’s hair by piling it all on one side. Wearing a pronounced side part in our current climate can also show you’re anti- anti-aging, which is admirable.
Now I’m having a crisis. What should I do?
Before succumbing to the whims of peer pressure, have you ever asked your hair what it really wants? Do some head-banging and see where it prefers to fall on its own — teens, hairstylists, and your “good side” be damned. Alternately, you can simply leave your side part right where it is and wait for it to inevitably come back in style once Gen-Zers become the New Olds and the generation of New Youngs behind them shames them in some fashion. Still suffering from decision paralysis? Perhaps the zigzag part, a fun middle part made up of many smaller side parts, will bring you peace.
Actually, I’d very much like to be excluded from this narrative. Can I avoid having a part altogether?
You could try getting a bowl cut (though, fair warning, all the cool kids are parting those down the middle too), or you could go for one of those partless, face-stretching high ponytails like Ariana Grande routinely does. Wearing a hat or a beanie will also help you fly under the radar, but if you really want to unnerve people, whip out the confounding aughts poof.