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Grey Matter: Why grey is the new black

Vivien Mitchell

There was an article in The Guardian last week about the merits of going grey.

It’s crazy how far this topic has moved over the last few years. Even a hint of grey used to be anathema to most women, for all the clichés we’d heard about – becoming invisible, looking like a grandmother, basically looking too old to be cool.

Grey is the new black. Or brown. Or brunette. Or ginger. Or blonde. Hip young thangs are literally buying into this new hair colour trend, actually asking for it at the salon. My teenage daughter thought going grey would be cool, but for anyone over 40 or going grey a little prematurely – and we’re the ones who’ve been dyeing our hair for decades – this is the most curious fashion trend imaginable. Wanting to go grey? Who would have thunk it?

Of course, once celebrities like Rhianna and Lady Gaga stepped out styling new shades of grey, it became a hot discussion topic. A grey matter. The older brains were trying to decipher the desire behind this look that had previously been the exclusive domain of the Mature Woman. After all, this is something we’ve been evading for….ever.

Younger brains were running wild with this new look, and I’m sure there’s been many an interesting conversation between mums and daughters and their friends, debating all the pros and cons of this new silvery look. Silver fox, by the way, might work as an attractive moniker for men embracing their grey with style, but silver vixen? I don’ think so. It’s loaded with connotations.

I’m in the category with the dubious honour of turning grey naturally. The ‘white stripes’ (as I try to affectionately call them), at my temples are indeed pure white, but with blonde hair, they blend in pretty well. One of my hairdresser friends said encouragingly that “you’re rocking those white stripes” but my younger sister was aghast. To her, it was a travesty to even consider such a cool grey notion and grey very much equals an epic style fail. So anyone my age is caught in the middle of a grey conundrum.

Young girls deliberately go grey, and we deliberately avoid it. It really is fifty shades of grey – fifty ways to interpret the same thing. To older women, grey is traditionally a problem to be reckoned with, but to younger women, it’s an opportunity to make a statement.

The old blue rinse set has also been re-worked to look funky. Where blue rinse used to be associated with grannies and their weekly wash and set, young people now pay handsomely for the laborious process of bleaching and dyeing to achieve any degree of blue, green, purple or pink. It’s curious to see style trends wax and wane. Oh gosh, don’t get me started on waxing.

Girls are always talking about how and when they’ll go grey. It’s a physical evolution as inevitable as laugh lines and wrinkled hands and menopause and is just one visible part of the ‘ageing gracefully’ process. I’ve had many a spirited conversation with girlfriends about how we’d never go grey. Well, not ‘til we were ‘really old’. The thing is, what we consider old keeps shifting, and those greys keep coming.

It’s often considered brave or courageous to embrace grey hair, and that’s a very telling result of the power of media and cosmetic brands. We look into the mirror, and we have to judge for ourselves about how we look. But we look into social media………and the reflection is one of glorious, impossible perfection. Actually, it’s no wonder we all face a crisis of confidence, and when to turn grey, is just one more vexing point for women.


Vivien Mitchell

Vivien is a mother-of-five who values kindness and connection. She is an entrepreneur, founder and designer at Solar Bare, a boutique sun wear label that offers stylish sun protection with distinctive prints. In a previous life, she was snr partnerships manager at Centenary of Canberra and has also managed some high-profile events around town. She is a consultant on partnerships and development in the arts and has travelled the ‘long-goodbye’ Alzheimer’s path with her mum. She’s a creative soul who loves writing, photography, fashion (in particular vintage and op-shop finds), coffee, French champagne, Tasmanian sparklings, family and friends. Vivien tweets at @Viv54 and is on Instagram @54viv. More about the Author

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