A great article “Wearing My BT Badge with Pride” was posted on the BT website recently about conformity of dress in the baal teshuva world. Have a read of Ilene’s article.
I think the big difference is in the self-esteem of the individual. If one is comfortable with who they are on the inside then whether they choose to change their looks is an honest and true decision based on internal motives. Also, these people can better balance ‘the new frum world’ and that of the ‘old’, including friends, family, music, etc. If they choose not to integrate their ‘past’ lives they are also more comfortable with the decision.
Although going through the baalei teshuva process, especially at the start, is de-stabilising to some extent, the people who started off strong are better equipped to handle these new challenges and ups and downs.
What we need to do is look out for fellow BTs who aren’t that strong internally to ensure they take it really slow, and don’t just conform for the sake of conforming. The fall down for them is much greater when they realise that they’ve gone further than they’d have liked.