Hell no! Move over millennials, says Kerry Potter, 42. Crazy-coloured hair is the new way to take control of our looks and make a statement – at any age.
Pink hair, don’t care – well, so the adage goes. But I find myself caring a lot as I’m squirming in the chair at Josh Wood Atelier in London, watching my low-key blonde mop turn look-at-me pink. Or ‘coral and sherbet’ as colourist AJ poetically describes it while cheerily painting two different hues of semipermanent dye on to random strands of my hair (two shades give more depth than one, apparently). Despite assurances that I’m not going to look like I ‘work down Camden Market’, I’m racked with nerves. While a boldly coloured coiffure doesn’t raise a second glance in the city these days, how will it go down in the genteel Oxfordshire market town where I live? Will I run a gauntlet of sniggers on the school run? What’s a respectable 42-year-old mother-of-two doing with pink hair anyway?
The trend for bold hues has crossed over from catwalks, models and fashion editors to the mainstream, and it’s not just millennials who are having all the fun. Reclaiming the blue rinse? You’d better believe it. Helen Mirren, 72, has played with pink, ditto Dannii Minogue, 46, while legendary make-up artist Mary Greenwell, 59, is living la vie en rose and looking incredible with it.
Meanwhile, Ant McPartlin’s estranged wife Lisa Armstrong is showcasing a textbook case of break-up hair, having gone pink and then lilac in recent months. And it’s not just a London thing. ‘I’m seeing more women in their 40s and 50s experimenting with colour and being more adventurous,’ says Oxford-based colourist Zaneta Lichnova.
My own motivation for making a change isn’t connected with any dramatic, exciting developments in my life. There’s no new man or new job. I’m just a bit bored, frankly. And having experimented with multiple ear piercings over the past couple of years, I suspect that messing around with my hair colour is my latest midlife crisis signifier.
‘A lot of women find their hair colour in their early 20’s and stick with it for decades. And that’s when boredom creeps in,’ says Josh Wood, who has Elle Macpherson and candy crush, clockwise from above: Helen Mirren, Lottie Moss, Lisa Armstrong, Kylie Jenner, Mary Greenwell, Pixie Lott, Dannii Minogue and Nicole Richie, Kylie Minogue on his client list.
‘In the past, women would get to a certain age and cut their hair short. Now they want to look contemporary.’ And on a practical note, grey hair is the perfect base for interesting colours. They show up far better on silver than darker shades.
Psychotherapist Hilda Burke says that, for women in midlife, going bright can be about control: ‘As we get older a lot of changes happen to our faces and bodies that we might not be happy about. But with this we’re taking back control of our looks and actively choosing to make that change.’
Wendy Rigg, a 55-year-old fashion editor and grandmother of two, went lilac before attending Glastonbury Festival last year and loved it so much that her purple reign continues to this day. ‘I hate the idea of women getting to a certain age and feeling invisible, and going lilac means this doesn’t happen. Women have crossed the street to tell me they love my hair and that they’re going to try it themselves,’ she says. Then there’s the simple matter of just not giving a fig.
‘For some women getting older brings a wonderful sense of liberation,’ says Burke. ‘They don’t care so much about what partners, friends and colleagues think and will give themselves permission to try out things that they’d have felt inhibited about when they were younger.’ General perceptions of bold hair colours are shifting, too. Even for those of us in a traditional, conservative environment, it can work. ‘Lots of my City clients tell me they can get away with more casual clothes now, and that extends to hair,’ says Katie Hale, head of colour at Charles Worthington Salons.
‘Brightly coloured hair can be a sign of confidence and act like armour in the way red lipstick can. These days it can denote someone who is at the top of her career.’
And there are ways to nod to the trend without scaring the board of directors. ‘I have a lawyer client whose job limits what colour she can have her hair,’ says Hale. ‘So I do violet tips for her, which she can hide in a bun during the week and then show off at the weekends when she has her hair down.’
As for me, my pink definitely didn’t stink. In fact I absolutely loved it. I skipped home and immediately posted a photo on Instagram (naturally) which garnered more (positive) comments than anything I’ve ever posted. My husband loved it – ‘I thought you meant neon pink,’ he said, relieved; ditto my children, and I had a host of compliments from both my female and male friends (well, to my face anyway). The only person who wasn’t keen was my father, who stared at my head in bemusement and asked if I’d had it done ‘for a bet’. Cheers, Dad.
Daft comments aside, my new colour was both a confidence booster and a mood lifter – I went out that weekend and ended up drinking cocktails and dancing until 3am. It made me dress better – if you have beautiful hair, you want your outfits to be equally lovely.
And I didn’t need to make any knock-on, time-consuming changes to my make-up, as my new shade so deftly complemented my colouring. The only downside is that vibrant semi permanents fade so quickly. Three washes on and it’s barely visible. If you want to go bright and stay that way, you need to factor in upkeep costs, as you’ll be back in the salon chair once a fortnight.
Next up in the world of wild hair whims, Wood says, is tomato red, as seen on the A/W 18 catwalks at Miu Miu, Marc Jacobs and Alexander Wang. I’ll do it if you will…
Four steps to perfect pastels by colour king Josh Wood
1. Be prepared
Do your research – Instagram is a great source of ideas (I use it a lot to showcase my work). Lots of clients come in with Pinterest boards to show us what they’re after. Discuss what you like and dislike in depth with your stylist and set very clear parameters.
2. Find your shade
The great thing about bold colours is that there is so much scope – a good colourist will mix a bespoke shade that perfectly suits your eyes and skin tone. If you want to go bright in a sophisticated way, this is one of those times when you really should seek expert advice rather than doing it yourself at home.
3. Be bold
You can ask to see the colour in situ on a hair extension first and also have a strand test so you can double check that you like it. And don’t forget, brights fade within a few washes so they’re not a huge commitment. think of it as make-up for hair. Life’s too short not to experiment a little.
Conditioner keeps coloured hair looking its best. I advise my clients to apply a conditioning mask once a week.
Semi permanent colour at Josh Wood Atelier starts at £80 with a junior colorist. joshwoodcolour.com