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

Thursday, 2 October 2008

The white stuff

white haired old gentleman

Despite being emphatically in the anti-grey hair camp when it comes to my own carefully tended barnet, I draw the line at male dyeing, sorry. And how strange it is that wealthy men like Paul McCartney can't afford a good dye job

George Clooney indeed does have it right, and I'm not even that much of a fan of Gorgeous George:

Friends, mostly women, tell me that George Clooney has perfect hair. A light sprinkling of salt and pepper, looking natural and suited to his age. Well-seasoned, in fact. I've no idea whether Clooney spends a small part of his fortune on his hair or whether it's natural, but it's certainly a model for others to aim for. Instead, even the wealthy come a cropper whenever they unscrew the toner.

I don't mean the Paul McCartney auburn rinse, during the high summer of Heather - having a different hair colour can be fun. I'm talking about the straight black and brown, like boot polish. Some people seem to deploy industrial-strength dye, as though it's a totem of manhood that their locks can stand up to the onslaught.Next time you see an ageing rock star, check out the inevitable goatee. Monochrome. Dark as a 1970s bass line. A case of "Hope I dye before I get old." My friend at the bar had the same problem. He didn't look bad, just weird, as if someone had dropped a wig on him. Bald would have been better.

I know this sounds less than gracious from a man in his fifties blessed with a full head of hair. But I, too, know what the hair police can be like. When things started to turn white, my teenage children used to play a game called "Hunt the Badger" in supermarkets. But I never dreamt of airbrushing out these signs of mortality.

So why do they do it? The most obvious answer is a desire to hang on to their lost youth, to summon some of the virility of the past by returning to the same colour. But that doesn't really work.

To have a lined and aged face under a helmet of black matting is only to draw attention to age, rather than to divert it. It's like putting a granny in a tutu.

17 comments:

fran martini said...

The Paul McCartney auburn rinse has long made me cringe. Mick Jagger's ditto. And as for Donald Trump's microfibre comb over, less said the better.

Perhaps this is just one area where it's OK for women - perhaps because we're used to it - but faintly ridiculous for men.

Lighter hair, or integrated colors and highlights, rather than a blanket brown or black, are more flattering for older people. Block colors accentuate bags and wrinkles and sallow complexion.

Gorgeous George's salt and pepper fleck is perfect. Ageing gracefully and elegantly. I'm still fighting the signs, but I'm more dignified about it than I used to be. Fears of mutton dressed as lamb loomed large.

Geraldine said...

I notice that women seem to go blonder the older they get. "Her hair has turned quite gold from grief."
But I wonder if that's a sign of ageing in woman just as much as the all-over black above a wrinkled face is in a man.
I don't have any grey at 56, but my hair is thinning. You can't have everything, can you. I'd love the mophead of hair I had as a girl and wouldn't mind the grey if I could have that back.

phyllis said...

Don't forget though that men also get grey in their beards around the same tiem it shows up in their hair, and it usually comes in pretty patchy. My husband's hair is goinG grey nicely, but his beard - not so much. That's why he's clean sahven and I'll bet Grogeous Geroge is for the same reason.

greying pixie said...

As the price of my favourite eye cream has just risen to £64, there is no way in the world that I can consider maintaining dyed hair.

Perhaps the whole male/female thing is to do with length of hair. The only time I've ever agreed with Julie Burchill was on the fact that if you decide to go grey, keep it short.

But what of role models for women? There are so few. So perhaps I should adopt George as mine for those weak tired moments at the end of the day! In the meantime I shall not rest from mental strife nor shall my sword sleep in my hand till I can call myself 'Silver Pixie'!

Arabella said...

I'm fortunate to have a hairdresser with skill to match the cocktail-mixing maestros at Bemelmans. Tones of brown for depth, with attention to complexion.
Last time in France I kept noticing a particular solid colour of aubergine/red on the heads of women over forty-five (I'd say). They couldn't all be going to the same hairdresser so I wondered what was going on? Is it a continental syndrome and should I be concerned?

Geraldine said...

Arabella, you're right. My French French teacher has that colour hair!

Kelly said...

"To have a lined and aged face under a helmet of black matting is only to draw attention to age, rather than to divert it. It's like putting a granny in a tutu."

definitely. Even though (in the most obvious example) George Clooney obviously has gray hair, he still looks young. He would look much older if he had it a solid, unnatural color. Sadly, I think many women do themselves a disservice by dying their hair that way. I'm not saying women shouldn't dye (I do!), but that they need to be more conscious and subtle with it as they get older

metscan said...

He is so cute and the grey is real charming.

Sophia said...

In my opinion, hair has to match complexion and eyebrows. George Clooney is a great example!

lagatta à montréal said...

No way I'm going blonde though. I'd no sooner channel Donatella Versace than Silvio Berlusconi.

I do have my hair coloured - I used to do it myself or rather have a friend do it, but the colour got too harsh so I have it professionally done. A bit lighter and redder than it was when I was young , but certainly not "light". I'm not a pixie, I'm a mamma Roma, and would look like a butch prison matron with short hair, or at least a sad domestic drudge with no life of her own.

Reddish hennaed hair (though it is actually done nowadays with hair colouring) has for a long time been a badge of a certain post-1968 féministe mais féminine type of Frenchwoman. Guess they are all pushing 60 now. Or 70, in the case of my friend V, who has long had a lion's mane.

I think one of the major factors is that so many men suffer male pattern baldness, some when they are not yet 30. A full head of grey or silver hair is "distinguished" on a man for that reason.

Duchesse said...

Even worse are the blonde "highlights" wich make a man look like a 1970s secretary (female).
Legatta is spot on re "that red". It is political as well as aesthetic.

lagatta à montréal said...

I have been musing that the great Fonteyn was still in a tutu when she was amply old enough to be a granny...

Rosaria said...

Lagatta: Re Margot Fonteyn - touche! (minus grave/accent, can't find them)

As for Donatella Versace (the Plastic Fantastic), she looks almost as frightening as Michael Jackson.

I disagree that grey hair looks better short. I've seen some beautiful, shiny, straight grey manes, about shoulder length.

greying pixie said...

lagatta, I also see myself as a Roman Signora very much aspiring to the Dolce Vita style. And technically speaking I should call myself 'Greying Tossed Salad', but it doesn't quite have the same ring as 'Pixie'. But I do get quite upset that so many so-called Italian ambassadors of style are actually in no way exemplary. In Rome there are many more elegant, attractive women than say Sophia Loren and definitely than Donatella Versace, both of whom I consider to be the stuff of nightmares these days.

rosaria, I agree with you regarding longer grey styles, and I see such women often too, but I do believe they are the exceptions that prove the rule. If it were easy to wear longer grey hair, I'm sure many more women would do so.

Rosaria said...

Hello GP...as I understand it, hair becoming grey also becomes slightly coarse and a tendency to be dry. Glossy silvery manes are probably slick with product, and then blowdryed and straightened. All very time consuming.

Wavy or curly hair would be more difficult and more expensive to tame. Get caught in the rain and POOF! the expensive do turns into a brillo pad.

Good quality hair color these days contains excellent shine and conditioning properties, anyway.

greying pixie said...

rosaria, let's just say no one ever said ageing was easy! It's all so time consuming these days, I just can't bare the thought of yet another task, ie. worrying about roots every six weeks. And I'd rather save the money for a real nice piece of pair of earrings to give my ageing face a lift! My hairdresser says she will advise me when I could benefit from a silvery rinse every three months to stop the yellowing effect. But I'm not there yet apparently.

But going grey is not an easy path for me. This year in Italy I was under the scrutiny of my Italian aunts who definitely disapprove of my silver streaks! The funny thing is their mother (my grandmother) used to disapprove of their dyed hair. You just can't please everyone all of the time!

Completely Alienne said...

I am lucky that, at 52, I haven't had to worry about greying yet. I have two or three white hairs that appear from time to time which my kids gleefully pull out. But I am lucky as neither of my parents were fully grey till their late 70's. I am not sure what I will do if the silver becomes more noticeable - perhaps by then I will be old enough not to worry. My grandmother had the most beautiful white hair, so perhaps I will also be lucky and end up with that. In which case, I will keep it long.