As soon as the eighth season of The Big Bang Theory began airing, Kaley Cuoco with short hair made headlines and Penny’s new look took center stage. Over the summer, the actress decided to cut her hair, first into a sleek, shoulder-length bob. After her, into a chin-framing cut, and finally into a pixie . This caused a lot of mixed feelings among viewers, including GLAMOR editor Lindsey Unterberger, who wrote: “The same haircut that I find so chic on Kaley, I hate on Penny.”

Kaley Cuoco (Penny Hofstadter): I just cut my hair off and didn’t tell anyone. I did it for an indie film called Burning Bodhi , and I basically showed up at a party for BigBang with short hair. Chuck [Lorre, co-creator of the series] hugged me and said, “Wow, look at your hair!” and I answered: “Do you like it?” I don’t know if he was being rebellious. I mean, I did it for the movie, it was my excuse to cut it. At that time we were going to start the eighth season and something had to change. I was bored and sick of my hair, and the funny thing is, I thought that by getting my hair cut I would spend less time in the hair and makeup chair, even though I loved the hair and makeup team. But my attempt to spend fewer hours on my hair ended up backfiring: short hair required much more time. I was like: this is the worst decision I could have made! What was I thinking? I thought I was buying time, because I hated having to get there and get ready. That’s why she wore her hair up so much in the sixth and seventh seasons. So I cut it off and it ended up being more work because it wasn’t easy to style.

Chuck Lorre (co-creator, executive producer): Nobody told us about the haircut! When you think about it, it was quite a surprise. I wish we had been aware. If she had come to me, she would have told her how the ratings for Dharma & Greg dropped when Jenna Elfman did the same. And they also went down on Felicity. The audience had become infatuated with the character, and not just his behavior, his flaws or his strengths, but also his appearance. They became an icon and despising that public attachment was a mistake. I witnessed first hand. It would have been the same if Johnny [Galecki] had come to the closing party and shaved his head. We are all in this together! But I love that Kaley recognized it. He is very self-aware and we survived. So if we’re talking about bumps in the road, that was a small one.

  Kaley Cuoco: She justified it because Penny was starting a new job as a pharmaceutical representative. If she could adapt, so could her hair. [Laughs ] I remember the writers imagining what Sheldon would say when he saw her hair and literally couldn’t let it go, it made me laugh. And it is that just seeing the problems that he raised was already fun. I remember when the actors of other series cut their hair and I thought: “Why would they do that? And then it was me and I did it. Anyway, there will always be haters . Welcome to the business!

Jim Parsons (Sheldon Cooper): It’s one thing to change your hair for a play that lasts six months, and quite another to not change your hair for over a decade. There comes a time when you just go and do it and it’s better to apologize than permission. 

And as much as Cuoco had to spend more time in the hair and makeup room on shoot nights, she still loved the cut, although everyone else… Not so much.

Kaley Cuoco: It was fun, I liked it. I’m sure my hair was being talked about all over the place, but I didn’t pay as much attention to what people were saying on social media. I remember we had finished an episode, and as I was walking to my dressing room, an executive said to me, “I want you to know, who cares what other people say?” And I said, “WHO said WHAT about my hair?” Her eyes widened, and I said, “No, seriously, did someone say anything about my hair?” And she was like, “Oh no, no, I think that’s great.” I guarantee that that woman probably remembers that moment a lot. It was not a good night for her!

Cuoco wore a wig in this episode (season 9, episode 1, “The Matrimonial Momentum,” opposite co-star Johnny Galecki as Leonard Hofstadter) as it was a follow-up to the season 8 finale, and her pixie cut was growing out. . She delves into the subject of the wig—including her hilarious current whereabouts—in The Big Bang Theory: The Definitive Story of the Epic Hit Series .

 And yes, while it was shocking to see Kaley Cuoco with a brand new short hair and wardrobe, it also had to do with her desire to be taken more seriously, especially as she began a new career as a pharmaceutical salesperson.

Mary T. Quigley (Costume Designer, Co-Producer): When she got her hair cut, I wanted her style to be more elevated, more mature, more linear looking clothes with a certain edge. It was a sign to mark the new direction her career was taking and leave the Nebraska farm girl style behind. Not that it was just that, but she seemed a lot more Los Angeles now. I put a couple of leather jackets on it. Penny knew that she should go to Nordstrom Rack instead of Nordstrom. She also got a bunch of Theory outfits on her. In fact, the pink outfit she’s wearing when the elevator opens in the series finale is Theory’s.

Kaley Cuoco: Penny’s look was very specific in the beginning, and she changed a lot, which I loved. She got a little more businesslike, and in the last few years, I’ve worn about 400 Equipment shirts. To this day I can’t wear another Equipment shirt. I have put on all the patterns. I look at them and I’m like, “It’s Penny!” I can’t take them anymore. But what we love most about Penny is her sweatshirts and her t-shirts, and all those cozy scenes. And I also loved that, she would read a scene and exclaim: “Oh, another comfortable scene!” But I also really liked her when she started to get super professional and she stopped being a waitress.