LOWER EAST SIDE — Anya Ayoung Chee's right and left side of of her head represent her past and present.
On the left is a mane of dark locks that reaches the middle of her back. They helped the Trinidadian compete in the 2008 Miss Universe beauty pageant.
On the right side, her head is shaved down to a short stubble, representing her current identity as an edgy Harlem-dwelling fashion designer.
"I just believed that hair carries memories," said Chee, 30, who left the beauty queen life three years ago when she got the new look.
"When I cut it off I let go of the past and looked to the future."
The side shave — also known as a floppy Mohawk and a partial undercut — has been a growing trend among fashion forward women. From Miley Cyrus putting pictures of her new shaved-side blonde hairdo on Twitter to Karl Lagerfeld's model muse with a partially shorn scalp appearing in Chanel’s 2012 "Boy" campaign, the style has been propelled into the mainstream.
"I woke up one morning and said 'I am going to do it,'" said Caroline Tseng, 24, who runs the fashion blog Street-Spotted.
“The hair dresser was like 'Are you sure you want to do this?'"
The night before she had bumped into a friend at a party who had the style, which becomes instantly incognito by flipping the longer hair over the shaved section like a giant comb over.
"I didn’t realize she had the haircut until she put her hair up and I realized I had nothing to lose," said Tseng, who also holds down a corporate job in advertising.
After months of pondering the style, it was a solidarity shave by a friend that pushed Williamsburg resident Brit Resetar over the edge.
"She went first and I said ‘Ok let’s do it,'" said Resetar, 24, whose boyfriend spontaneously completed the task during a social gathering in January.
Resetar fears "that awkward" stage when she would eventually decide to grow her hair out again, but for now her long black hair is a complete contrast to the dramatic shaved side.
At 29, Liz Horton feared getting the shave would put her in the midlife crisis box, but a recent end to a long-term relationship spurred her on.
"Oh man, am I crazy?" asked Horton, as she waited for her partial undercut at Lower East Side salon Pimps & Pinups.
"Its just hair and it will grow back if I don't like it," she reassured herself.
"All of this [hair] has seen a lot, so if you get rid of it it's kind of like starting fresh," said Lizzy Weinberg, a hair stylist at the salon on Stanton Street.
With a buzz of the razor, Weinberg got to work as Horton's long dark locks fell to the ground.
"Not everyone can rock it," said Weinberg. She accredited the trend to British model Alice Dellal who did the partial shave about two years ago. Dellal later became Lagerfeld’s muse in the Chanel "Boy" campaign.
However, dealing with the lingering taboo against women with shaved heads — think Britney Spears’ 2007 meltdown with accompanying head shave — has been difficult for those with the look.
"When I first got it done apparently one executive thought I must be going through a lot of emotional trauma," laughed Tseng.
"There have been some funny comments," she added.
For Resetar, convincing her Italian mother she is still on the straight and narrow has been difficult.
"'You move to New York, you get your head shaved and tattoos,'" said Resetar, repeating her mother’s anxious comments. "She doesn't get it — different worlds, different times."
Along with Resetar's mother, Russell Manley, the founder of salon Tommy Guns on Ludlow Street, is also not a fan of the look.
"We are kind of reluctant to do it," he said, even though a few clients a week come in to get their monthly re-shave. He referred to it as a “lame, half attempt” at a full head shave, but acknowledged its benefits.
"They can feel edgy and still be conservative," said Manley.
As for Chee, who is in the midst of preparations to show at this upcoming New York fashion week, the cut gives her a versatile look.
"I love it. It has become so much a part of me," she said.
"I felt trapped by the rules and this hair style really released me to be myself."