Why It's Fashionable to Go Grey

Grey hair is being celebrated on the runway, writes Vogue's Sarah Harris

Sarah Harris at Paris Fashion Week. Picture / Dan Roberts.

Celebrity hairdresser Nicky Clarke recently urged the Duchess of Cambridge not to reveal any more silver roots, declaring it would be an all-out “disaster”. Well, the only disaster I can foresee would be for him: if all women followed Kate’s lead, takings would be seriously down at Nicky Clarke HQ.

“Unfortunately,” he continued, “it’s the case for women — all women — that until you’re really old, you can’t be seen to have any grey hairs.”

Oh dear, Nicky Clarke. Really? One asks oneself if he is in the realms of the fashion industry at all? Or a dinosaur sat atop an ivory tower with no access to vogue.com, Instagram or any street-style blog for that matter. Perhaps it’s so high up, there is no WiFi. How else would he have missed the trend for delicious silvery locks that has been steadily spreading now for many seasons?

To cast such trite aspersions is like saying that women can’t have long hair the other side of 40, or that a 57-year-old man can’t have a blond, flowing, tonged (?), highlighted (?), backcombed (!) bouffant, whether they’re a celebrity hairdresser or otherwise. Ahem. Glass houses Clarke, glass houses.

But each to their own. I’m not suggesting the Duchess of Cambridge does go grey, but I bet she could pull it off if she did. Imagine how pretty ethereal, silver tresses would look with her wardrobe of sugary Emilia Wickstead frocks, twinkling Jenny Packham gowns and heirloom tiaras; grey hair and diamonds — I hardly think there is a better combination.

Grey hair is now celebrated: on the Chanel runway, in the Celine and Saint Laurent ready-to-wear campaigns, and among the legions of young women who have recently experimented with pewter pigments, from Kylie Jenner, Rihanna, and Jourdan Dunn, to Nicole Richie, Ginnifer Goodwin and Madonna’s daughter, Lourdes Leon, to Kate Moss, Lady Gaga and the original poster girl, model Kristen McMenamy, whose poker-straight steely mane is a thing of absolute wonderment, particularly given she was once a flame-haired redhead.

Nowhere has the #Grannyhair trend been more enthusiastically embraced than on social media platforms, Instagram and Pinterest, where thousands of under-30s have been posting silver selfies.

I’m naturally silver (I’ve always preferred referring to my hair as “silver” rather than grey, which has bleak connotations) and, before that, a brunette, but those silvery strands started showing when I was 16, and yes, at that age I was mildly mortified. I spent every other Saturday bent over the bathtub — along with my two friends, one blonde and the other, darkest brown — dying it some kind of copper colour. Not because I hated those first few grey strands but more because it was the thing to do on a Saturday afternoon back then in the mid-90s. My hair colour was a slow transformation, it never went through an awkward phase but grew more multi-coloured, as the silver strands steadily threaded through the brunette and even blonde.

During my late 20s — long after the appeal of those wash-in/wash-out dyes had worn off — I grew quite fond of the way my silver flickered when it caught the light, and more than anything, I liked the rebelliousness of my hair; the fact that it’s honest and non-conformist.

Other people seem to like it, too. It’s memorable, it’s an icebreaker, and lots of people seem fascinated by it. I remember being with my mother — herself all-silver since her late 20s — as a child and listening as stranger after stranger approached her to say how much they loved her hair. Now, that’s become me.

Not a week goes by without at least three people — men and women — remarking on my hair. My husband has only ever known me with silver locks. Recently a debate between two friends took place on my Instagram account, one telling the other that I dye it, and then the other insisting that I don’t. It went back and forth for a whole afternoon until I chipped in.

The truth is, most people who don’t know me think that my hair is dyed, or at the very least think that I tinker with highlights or some kind of salon trickery, which I take as a compliment if they think I’m paying for hair like this.
Admittedly, the texture of my silver does work in my favour; thankfully, it’s soft and silken as opposed to coarse and wiry. There are downfalls: yes, it can sometimes make you look older, and yes, when you’re looking tired, grey hair doesn’t help matters.

It can also be expensive (but not as expensive as dyeing it every four weeks) and it does look its best when it’s blow-dried, but then, doesn’t everybody’s? Also, silver hair care (which takes out discolouration caused by pollution, chlorine and the sun, keeping it on the brighter side of steel) is expensive. Philip Kingsley’s range is a favourite, but I’m not a slave to specialist purple shampoos.

Grey, silver, ash, pewter, salt and pepper, steely hair — whatever you call it — no longer implies that its wearer has given up. Far from it. A woman brave enough to wear her hair silver is surely the ultimate sign of confidence, and Clarke’s opinion that it’s okay for a man to go grey, yet not a woman, is fiercely outdated.

So come down from that old ivory tower, Clarke. The view is much better down here. And there’s WiFi.

— The Daily Telegraph

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