April Fool: Let hair be light

Shop Girl by Kitty Kaufman

If you fell asleep in the last century, say 1999 and woke up today, along with needing a haircut, you would conclude the world is nuts. That what you used to call life is upside down and there is not a single thing left that might be called logic or common sense. Today's example is smack in the middle of the front page of The New York Times, with art.

The new trend: young style setters paying good money to streak their hair gray. The story goes on to report that a 28 year-old digital director used a lavender tint with hopes of emerging a "rock 'n' roll fairy princess." She wanted to be noticed and though it doesn't say if she became a princess, it's what happened after that brought her notoriety. The lilac faded to gray and as it happens it was New York Fashion Week and her wish came true: she was noticed.

The Times writer, Ruth La Ferla, reports that models at Chanel and salon clients in Manhattan have been requesting gray streaks for the last six months. Everyone quoted in the story is 13, 16, 28 or "a renegade" meaning no one who's asking for gray streaks is old enough to have any real gray to worry about. Of course.

We are spending over a billion dollars a year, according to Nielsen and La Ferla, to cover what happened though we swore it would not. Even if our mother was gray and our father was not, his genes would trump hers. It would happen to other people but not to us. But it did. My then hairdresser convinced me we could hide the gray by doing streaks and that would put off the whole "have to touch up your roots every six weeks." He might have said sun-kissed but maybe not.

What it looked like was someone whose hair was turning gray who was trying to hide it with blonde streaks. No one was fooled, least of all me, but it did buy time. Finally there was too much gray to hope that the hairs he pulled through the tiny holes in the cap with an instrument of torture would be the ones that were gray. One day he insisted it was time to cover the brown and gray and blonde with what we hoped was a good match.

To me the new look was startling. Of course, no one noticed or if they did, they didn't say anything. Later that week a friend saw me for the first time with the new color. She notices everything and here's what she said: "Oh, you look great. You are so not a gray hair person." It's true, I'm not a gray hair person. (I see my present colorist more often than you might imagine. Or maybe not. There is a plaque over my chair in the shop and my frequent flyer card is all punched.)

Anyway, I read Ms. Ferla's story. It's dated April 1 and in the comments, people wrote: "Is this some kind of a joke?" I wondered too along with thinking about other new century styles like people embracing tattoos and the piercing of parts other than ear lobes.

I used to know someone, a young woman, who started getting tattoos some years ago. She showed them off publicly and they were not small. She told me and anyone who would listen how she was planning for the next one and where it would be and how big. I said, very carefully, that she should imagine for a moment 40 years into the future and what it would be like to be 60 with tattoos that don't wash off. "Oh," she said, "I will always love my tattoos." (I haven't seen her in 15 years. I wonder if she still thinks this way and how many more she got and what her kids think.)

Now, "Young Trendsetters Streak Their Hair with Gray" is the second most emailed article of the day and I can see why. Of course I sent it to my colorist and knowing her, she is laughing her head off.
"Young Trendsetters Streak Their Hair with Gray"

© April 2, 2010 Kitty Kaufman is a New Yorker living in Boston.
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