Because you can't have depths without surfaces.
Linda Grant, thinking about clothes, books and other matters.

Sunday, 25 May 2008

Gay or grey

Let me very firmly indeed declare myself on the side of the author, here:

I look dreadful with both white hair and blonde hair. I am a dark-haired woman. And so shall remain.

And there's the rub. Women will admire Anna Ford and the rest of the glamorous grey brigade, but they will hesitate to follow suit. We don't want to go grey because of ageist prejudice, but the guilty secret is that many of us are scared we haven't got the cheekbones or the chutzpah to carry it off. My suspicion - and OK, it's deeply unsisterly - is that some women are happy to turn silver because they know they still look hot; it's not so much authentic ageing as a subtle assertion of superiority.

The other problem about grey hair is that it is such a high-maintenance option. You don't have to get your roots retouched every five minutes, but if you want to stay fabulous, the rest of your grooming has to rise exponentially. Flawlessly styled hair, immaculate clothes and perfect make-up are indispensable, as is a trim figure.


phyllis said...

I've had some interesting discussions with my hairdresser about grey hair,and he firmly assures me that any woman who has that beautiful Amanda Priestly white-grey hair is in reality doing a fair amount of work to maintian it. Evidently, grey hair can take on a yellowish cast, among other things, and he tells me he a several clients who regularly treat their grey hair to keep that lovely color.

greying pixie said...

Well, where to I begin?

Firstly, how serendipidous that you should post a quotation from Betty Jackson, one of the most stunningly grey women I've ever seen. I really don't think the Observer journalist has looked very far at all for examples.

Secondly, my hairdresser would agree with phyllis, but has assured me that it is still much easier than maintaining grey roots, as you only need to white rinse every three months or so - I'm not at that stage yet, but knowing that this awaits me in years to come is a comfort.

And thirdly, Linda, you may well be a dark haired woman now, but in 10 to 20 years from now still to be a dark woman will look hard and unflattering to your face, which will also be 10 to 20 years older. It should never be assumed that colouring the hair will make you look younger - colour has to be considered very carefully or the opposite can easily be the case.

I, for one, rejoice at the gradual change in my hair. Yes, it does demand higher maintenance of other areas, but so what?

Linda Grant said...

I go to one of the most expensive hairdressrs in London to make sure that my hair colour is not hard or unflattering. The colour I have is nothing like my original colour. But it is neither grey nor blonde.

Wendy said...

It remains to be seen how I might look fully grey, but at the moment I am at an awkward stage where the grey deadens my face rather than enlivens it, but has not yet fully taken over or asserted dominance. (And as a masters swimmer, I add to the hair colour issue as I dunk my hair in a chlorinated pool six times a week.) So I have returned to a blonde like that of my early years (my hair has darkened considerably in adulthood). I wear it short and as it grows out it seems tipped or highlighted; every three months I colour. What will happen in the future remains to be seen, but it pleases me at least that I will have options.

lagatta said...

I see that my Guardian comment repeated twice! Funny how moralistic some of the commenters are - they do raise concerns - is dyeing hair actually a health hazard, and does it increase the risk of going "bold" as the commenter put it?

I have my hair coloured at a salon - not one of the most expensive ones as I couldn't afford that, but a neighbourhood salon that does a very good and careful job, using little peroxide and a European colour that I researched (EU standards for such things are very high).

My hair was originally almost black; I have it a bit lighter and a bit more reddish (but it is important not to go overboard with that either). I look sad and mumsy with greying hair, and worse, since I'm an artist-type and dress a bit boho, with greying hair it can really have that bedraggled ageing-hippie look, oh my.

Perhaps when it is really white I'll accept that and just put a nice rince in it, or perhaps not. I have a wonderful friend in Paris who is a good 20 years older than Linda or I are, and she has a mane of hair in that rather outrageous and deliberately arty orange colour favoured by many a Parisienne of the more "arty" type. She looks vibrant and wonderful.

She is a very strong feminist, by the way, but not looking invisible is a big part of that for her.

Anonymous said...

Isn't it interesting the demands we make on ourselves? You can go grey if you're gorgeous, thin, perfectly groomed and dressed.

I think it depends on what your skin tone is, generally. My grandmother went grey very early in her life and her hair turned a gorgeous snowy white. She had no money to spend and her hair remained snowy because her hairdresser (back in the day of weekly sets) used peroxide to keep the colour clear. She was not thin, wore inexpensive clothing, though she was well groomed. I am biased, but I know she attracted men well into her 60s, until her death.

My red hair is going white, but after growing out a piece to see how it looked, my hairdresser and I agreed it just wasn't going to work for me.

My point is, why is this such an issue? Women should stop over analyzing and dress, colour, whatever to please themselves. And they should definitely be doing it for themselves by the time they go grey.

Deja Pseu said...

Not all of us go grey in that fabulously silver way. Some of us end up with something the color of cardboard.

I've been various shades of red for the last 25 years, and it actually flatters my skin tone much better than my natural color (dark dishwater blonde). I tried going lighter blonde for about a year last year, but felt that it made me look washed out. The trick as we age is to find a tone that works and then soften the color a bit as we age. My "red" today is much less bright than what I started with in my late 20's.

e said...

that book about how to look ten years younger covers this topic. it says if you're going to have grey hair, then the rest of you -- hair style, eyebrows, makeup, figure, clothing style -- has to be immaculate and wonderful all the time, in order to wear what grey hair cn be pereived as -- a sign of old age (rightly or wrongly). wear frumpy or daggy clothes -- you look old. have no hair style -- you look old. neglect your brows -- you look old. it's interesting to consider, and think about next time you see women looking super with grey hair (tae that pic of meryl streep), and those not. my mum has beauiful silver hair (i hope i go that colour) but the minute the style needs a trim and tidy, or she doesn't tint in her eyeborws, she looks less than her usual cool self!

Anonymous said...

I don't see how colouring grey hair will let you off other areas of personal grooming - you will just look frumpy with coloured hair, that's all! And I don't believe colouring the hair helps with ageing anyway - men often fall into this trap of old face, coloured hair - ugh!

Judith in Umbria said...

It was with joy that I found my hair had finally become a beautiful gray/white color this year. It started with a white blaze when I was 23 and then took its time getting past a long Willy Nelson period.
Not ever having been much of a slob, I find little difference in other grooming efforts, but then I do reserve to myself the right to one day say "Don't care! Lalalala, can't hear you!"

Anonymous said...

Grey hair doesn't have to take more maintenance than any other color. I've been silver for almost 20 years and use a color enhancing shampoo every other day. That's it. And I get stopped on the street by people telling me how much they love the color.

I also take issue with the whole "if you're grey every thing else must be perfect". Why would it be any different than another hair color? You can be fabulous with blond, red, black, blue, purple hair. It's a matter of style, not size.

Anonymous said...

My pepper's getting a bit more salt in it, but I just feel like I'm stepping onto some endless treadmill if I start coloring it (and around here, a large number of women who don't go grey suddenly go a similar shade of dark red, which almost never looks good). I see an increasing number of women whose hair looks quite good with their natural grey, and I hope to join their ranks.

While I don't agree that you have to be better put together everywhere else, I think that it's generally wise to make clear from your presentation that your hair is not a random exception to your thoughtful dressing but instead a part of it.

I do find it interesting that coloring seems to have become the default in some circles, and I don't think that thoughtless coloring is much rarer than thoughtless grey, and it often looks considerably worse.

Mary said...

This is an issue very close to home for me. I read the original article and was pretty outraged I have to say. So now if you are grey then either you don't care what you look like - unless you are super-groomed of course - or you're narcissistic enough to think that your face is stunning so you can get away with it! Thank you, Sister! Yet another way to lower a poor soul's self-esteem.
I could write reams about my own experience, but since perhaps it's a bit singular I won't. There has been anguish and too much time and money spent. And hairdressers tend to be very anti-grey - understandable when you think about it - but again not helpful to the self-doubting.
I have tried (again) recently a shorter style in an attempt to avoid the aged-hippie look afore mentioned. Still not sure.
But I have had people stop me and say how much they like the colour. Shows how few of us there are, I suppose. I have also had some total stranger (a bumptious male) at a party asking why I didn't dye my hair!!
The thing for me about the picture of Anna Ford in original article was that she was wearing shades of BEIGE! No way could I do that!

Susoz said...

When you get to the point of having white regrowth, maintaining dyed hair is a major hassle. And in my experience, dyed white hair loses most of its quality. My usually voluminous curly hair had gone dry and lank from permanent dying. I decided to go grey as a way out of a vicious cycle. My hair has recovered its texture and vitality. I can't say that I love being grey/white (at age 51) but it's a reality which I have had to accept and it's given me a sense of liberation, after years of covering up.