We grew up around women, and even men, who were always running to the salon (or the supermarket for box dye) at the sight of a grey hair. Even the most microscopic strand, nestled among a sea of non-greys, would get slathered in dye once it came out to say hi. Covering up grey roots or strands isn’t exactly the cheapest upkeep either. Even if times were tough, the hair maintenance cost seemed to take precedent. Forget about groceries or Christmas presents if your mom got a visit from the grey hair fairy, right? Well, maybe that’s an exaggeration—but it’s no joke when it comes to a woman or man wanting to keep their youth at bay. To most, grey hair represents getting old—a physical manifestation of time fleeting. So why is it that all of these young women and men have been rocking the look that so many have long feared?
Ryan Ashley Malarkey, winner of Ink Master Season 8, rocks her Great Lengths grey-tly. Bad joke, sorry.
I asked my mother, an enviably trendy and fashion forward goddess, what she thinks about the newfound grey popularity considering she’s been coloring her hair for as long as I could remember to hide greys. To my utter shock, she had actually wanted to try the silver locks out and excitedly ran to her hairstylist! After years and years of her trying to suppress nature, she had actually wanted to go grey. Her hairdresser refused. But why? He’s hip. If I asked for the silver tresses, he’d probably say yes. “For young girls, it’s ok to go grey, but for me? Apparently, I can’t do that because I’m old!”
A photo of me and my mother 20-something years ago. Do you see that high pony? Move the HELL over, Ariana Grande. (JK, we love you, Ari).
Sorry, one more. Look how cute she is these days! I sure as hell can not wear overalls and look this trendy.
“When you’re young” she describes, “you have a glow”. She believes this “glow” allows young people to get away with anything that may be considered “aging”. Of course, my mother isn’t old—she only perceives herself as old because that’s what society has conditioned everyone of us to feel once we reach a certain age. “Grey hair is associated with age, except if you have a youthful face to support it. Then, it’s hip and trendy and cool”. That kind of sounds like a double standard, doesn’t it? It’s fascinating that people who acquire this hair color “naturally” socially feel forced to cover up and hide it, while their youthful successors are shelling out loads of cash to their hairdresser to rock the look. The New York Times reports that going grey starts anywhere from $350 at most salons!
It’s high time we debunk the grey hair myth. Grey sets in at a young age for a much larger amount of the population than you may think. According to Huffington Post, at least 40% of the American population have started to grey by 40. Considering 40 isn’t elderly and nearly half the population experiences this greying phenomenon before “old age”, I’d say it’s fair we stop looking at greying as a sign of death and just accept it as a natural, non-harmful change within our bodies. As for premature greying, The Daily Mail suggests that it’s fairly normal for women to spot greys as early as 27, even though there are endless cases of men and women discovering them even younger. As for the UK, 32% of British females start greying before 30.
Writer Sarah Harris started going grey at the ripe young age of 16 and never felt the need to hide it.
Diana Jewell, author of Going Gray, Looking Great debunks the long-held ideology of greying and says, “The myth that gray hair makes you old is just that—a myth. If you were young, vibrant, active, healthy pre-gray, you’re still going to be that way. It’s all in the attitude you bring to it,” Jewell says. “If you think of it as merely another color choice, you won’t be afraid of gray.”
But association to aging aside, I asked my mother why grey hair MAKES an individual look “old”. Yes, we’ve long associated grey hair with elderly people, but what is it particularly about that color that further “ages” a person? She believes the various hues of grey and silver “accentuate a person’s face”. So if you’re “old”? It accentuates one’s wrinkles and the time that has been pressed within them. If you’re young? It accentuates a fresh-faced innocence of adolescence. Of course, this isn’t my opinion, but the twisted logic that seems to have been the footing for this extreme double standard about something as silly as a hue of hair.
Andy Warhol, an early fan of the silver hair trend, once defended the hue, saying “When you’ve got gray hair, every move you make seems ‘young’ and ‘spry’”—a much different thought process than what we’ve been conditioned to feel about greys.
It’s important to remember that it’s not only young trend-chasers who are revolutionizing the way we perceive a once abhorred hair color—many chic male and female trailblazers of various ages have embraced their naturally greying hair. And god bless ‘em for raising a huge middle finger to the idea that grey hair halts their youth. Anderson Cooper, Andy Cohen, and Catfish’s Max Joseph are three great examples of people in mainstream media who are NOT considered old by any means (in fact, they all have a very youthful air about them) and rock their natural colors with pride.
And silver foxes aside, let’s not forget our ladies. Jacky O’Shaughnessy became the face of American Apparel’s lingerie line at 62, letting her natural color take center stage and shimmer in all its glory. There is nothing remotely “elderly” about Jacky (and we very much envy how good she looks in her underwear). Stacy London of What Not to Wear fame aquired her famous grey streak at a very young age due to sickness, but never ever wanted to hide or cover it up. She tells Into the Gloss, “You can do whatever you want to my hair but you can’t dye my grey streak. It’s a part of me!”
These au-naturelle crusaders aren’t the elderly people historically associated with greying. Their grey is a sign of sophistication and individuality—perhaps why younger generations are leaping at it. For some, going grey means going against the grain. 16-year-old Ingvild Aslaksen tells the New York Times, “I was so sick of being so ‘normal’ and just felt like doing something crazy and impulsive. I think that girls and [women] all over the world should stop worrying so much about what other people think about their choices. One day we’ll all go grey, why not try it early?” For some youngsters, dying their hair grey wasn’t a matter of a serious societal statement or raging against the mind-control of media, but a symptom of being plain old bored with every other hair color. 23-year-old Ashley Laderer went for the grey/silver hue because after dying her hair a range of oranges, blues, purples, reds, blondes, brunettes (and everything in between) she wanted something more subtle. Upon GL Beauty suggesting to her that silver is rarely subtle for a 23-year-old, she tells us “Even though I wanted to tone [my hair] down, I didn’t want to be boring or basic”.
The babe-ly Ashley is ANYTHING but basic and rocks the hair perfectly.
The next time you spot a grey hair growing from your scalp, don’t panic. It doesn’t mean that you need to start looking into retirement homes. The loss of pigmentation is simply a natural occurrence that stems largely from genetics, stress, and other age-defying factors. Take solace in the fact that you aren’t the only one who may go grey younger than expected. And if you’ve been covering up those greys for years, remember—people are actually paying to rock what you’ve spent years trying to hide. Let your inner silver fox run wild. And don’t be surprised if your younger siblings, your kids, or you friends come home with the hair color at some point within the next few months.