So here’s my dilemma: it’s the Paris shows, I’ve got inch-long grey roots and there’s no chance of an emergency appointment with my colourist. Do I a) resort to a home dye job to tide me over or b) pretend to be an example of the latest beauty trend? After all, since the turn of the year Kate Moss, the models at the Dior and Chanel couture shows, and that other beacon of fashionability, the desperately precocious 13-year-old blogger Tavi Gevinson, have all taken star turns as silver foxes. Could that be me? Could I shake off the shackles of regular re-touches?
Actually, that’s a rhetorical question. Kate Moss can get away with pretty much anything and, on her, grey looks kind of funky and effortlessly cool (although the rumour is that her steel streaks were actually dry shampoo not brushed out properly, and not intended as “a look” at all). Besides, as with most fashion statements, grey hair looks best accessorised with a young face.
The most amazing greys I’ve seen are on girls in their early twenties who are fashion-fearless and have complexions fresh enough to withstand the washed-out effect grey hair can create. Grey is great painted on top of bleach blonde and dark roots, or worn in a top knot dressed up in a supersized hair bow. But I can’t help thinking that grey hair the wrong side of 40 is just – well, grey hair. Or is it?
I think of my friend P, who stopped colouring her hair several years ago. Now it’s a beautiful shade of metallic grey, and she wears it in a swinging, shiny Purdy cut that draws admiring glances in the street. Yet even she needs regular encouragement not to succumb to the lure of the dye bottle, as she fears her grey hair may be perceived as a sign of decline. I ping her an e-mail press release entitled: “Hot Hair Trend for S/S 2010 – Grey Streaks!”, and envy her confidence for holding out against the naysayers.
Then I think of fashion journalist Caryn Franklin, who once told me a story about how her former BBC bosses at The Clothes Show had pressured her to dye her grey streak. She refused, and it has since become her trademark.
Then there is Josh Wood of Real Hair, the London salon whose client roster includes architect Zaha Hadid and fashion muses Amanda Harlech and Daphne Guinness (the latter has managed to make almost an oeuvre out of her grey streak, and I believe she inspired the look at Chanel and Dior couture). Josh was also the person who, about eight years ago, advised me to go with my greying hair because he thought it would be bold and suit me. I didn’t believe him.
Coming from someone who relies on colouring people’s hair for a living, Wood’s opinion jarred. Wasn’t he supposed to be selling me the idea of colour? Shouldn’t I be fighting the ageing process on all fronts? I ignored his advice and embarked instead on a cycle of hair colouring that has turned out to be more of a commitment than some people’s marriages. Now, when I’m sitting in the tint chair, with still another hour to go and dye all over my mobile phone, I think back to that moment, and envy P her freedom. When I realise that I look like every other ageing woman who colours her hair, I envy Caryn her individuality. And I ask Josh if perhaps it’s time to rethink my earlier decision.
“If you’re going to go grey, you’ve got to groom,” he says, meaning blow dries, cuts, nourishing treatments – and perhaps some assistance from the colour bottle. “The greys in fashion are platinum, chinchilla, sable, anthracite,” says Josh. “It’s the juxtaposition of grey with other colours that makes it modern and striking. That lilac shade juxtaposed with baby blonde at Chanel couture was great, but won’t work on any woman who thinks it’s the low-maintenance option.”
Maybe Paris can wait – I have some high-maintenance hair issues to deal with.
Anna-Marie Solowij is a contributing editor at Vogue
More columns at www.ft.com/annamariesolowij
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