Gray: the new hot neutral – for hair.

Good news! If you’re starting to see some gray hairs sprouting up and making panicked calls to your stylist, put down the phone. Gray hair is a growing trend.

Kate Moss sported gray streaks at an event in January.

The New York Times reported a wash of silver among the young and fashionable in April:

Also caught up in the silver rush were pop icons like Pink, who showed off gray-tipped strands at the Grammys, and Siobhan Magnus, the “American Idol” contestant, who accessorized recently with a skunk streak and spectacles.

In embracing a tint their mothers would have shunned, such role models are lending gray new cachet, giving shades from ash to ermine an unlikely fashion moment. Now, some say, the trend, which trickled down from the runways of Chanel, Giles Deacon and their rarefied ilk to fashion hot spots around the country, seems poised to go mainstream.

The UK picked up on the trend late last year.

Ironically, gray hair seems to mostly be in vogue among the young. It’s seen as sort of punky and subversive and the next logical step for young trendsetters who already have blonde and pink in their rear-view – while women whose hair has gone naturally gray are still spending money to color their locks. The grass is always greener on the other side. But even that may be beginning to change. Model Kristen McMenamy, a household name in the 1990s, has grown out her hair into flowing silver strands.

Kristen McMenamy in August's Vogue.

McMenamy says she stopped dyeing her hair six years ago:

“You can get older and still be rock ‘n’ roll. I thought all that gray hair would make a beautiful picture.” She added, “You’ve got to keep moving forward.”

Of course some people, like stylist Louis Licari, are bucking the trend. Licari says that gray hair “gray hair makes women look older and their complexions dull and drab…” Easy for him to say. On men gray hair is considered distinguished and handsome (see anyone nagging George Clooney to get a dye job lately?). He goes on to sat that the artificial grays being displayed by young women like Kelly Osbourne are attractive precisely because they are fake, and that natural gray is unflattering and “creates a huge burden for most people trying to look their best.” The point of which seems to be that your hair is only OK if it’s fake. But don’t worry; Licari ends his article by saying that you have to be comfortable with your appearance, even if it means he’ll tell you that you look old.

But in fact going too dark with hair color can create too high a contrast with skin that loses some of its luster with age, and that can make you look older unless you’re willing to cake yourself with makeup (which can in turn settle into fine lines and cake up). So maybe nature knows what it’s doing. To that end, StyleList has put together tips for making the most of your gray, from hair maintenance to makeup tips.

I think Licari has one thing right: you have to be comfortable. If you love the way you look, then who cares what anyone else thinks? Going gray can be tough on women when we’re constantly pressured by advertising and magazines to stay somehow perpetually young and supple, and those first strands of silver can deal a devastating blow to our self-image. (I say this out of personal experience; I’m currently in a constant state of worry over the increasing number of white hairs I’m finding mixed in with my natural red.) So if for whatever reason fashion has turned in such a way as to make one facet of aging acceptable, I say go with it if you want to. (And if it makes you happy, go with it no matter what fashion says. The best kind of beauty comes from being happy.)

Of course the weirdest part of the gray hair trend might be the fact that it has somehow made Lady Gaga’s current Vanity Fair cover seem almost mainstream:

Lady Gaga on the cover of August's Vanity Fair.

Who saw that coming?

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2 responses to “Gray: the new hot neutral – for hair.

  1. I have some white working it’s way in. When I color or highlight my hair, it’s never to hide them, but more to play while I’m still at an age where that’s acceptable (not all of us have stunningly red hair all on our own!). Since I don’t seem to have my grandmother’s genes of no gray until 80, I’m praying it’ll come in a pretty shade more on the white side.

    • If I had more guts I would totally play with my hair color. But I’m too afraid of ruining it! Maybe when it all goes white I’ll dye it pink to make up for lost time.

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