I last colored my hair on February 1, 2015, which means that, in the months since, around eight inches of protein strands have emerged from my scalp in an unencumbered shade of murky-ass puddle water. Or mousy beige. Or, more generously, cookie dough.
My initial avoidance of the hairdresser was less noble than Shrek’s — that beloved and heroic sheep in New Zealand who avoided the shearers for six years thus amassing enough wool to make 20 suits — but just as reasonable: it’s stupid expensive. Like lunch-times-15 expensive.
But after a while my motivations began to shape-shift into something else: my weirdo in-between color was growing on me (wink wink). Inch by inch, amidst the bleach and rainbow balayage happening all around my person, my dull mop started to feel a little more like a contrarian statement.
Like most adult-onset dishwater blondes, I ran around the playground with a vibrant yellow flash atop my head under the naive assumption that my color was set in sunny stone. When I got older and it began to darken into the color of wet sand (old oatmeal? Fig Newton? paper bag?), I was indoctrinated by capital-S Society (a privileged one, to be fair) with the idea that the natural next step was highlights or dye or anything other than the mousy situation that would otherwise occur. And so that’s what I did. When I could afford it. And when I couldn’t, I thought my hair looked, well, “blah as fuck.”
This time, I feel different. I’ll admit sometimes just looking at my hair color makes me fall asleep, and I haven’t not eyed the rose-colored conditioner I’ve never used but toted around to four different apartments because I just might maybe use it soon. Ultimately, though, I’ve stayed true to my private little quest to keep it real.
But have I tapped into a trend or am I just lazy? I asked Lindsay Mannering, a deputy Editor at Bustle who recently decided to go back to her natural brown, why she gave up on her highlights. She said something that might get to the heart of it: the color felt like an accessory she couldn’t take off.
“Being blonde made me feel dressed up in a way, akin to red lipstick and heels. Which is great for when I was in the mood! But not for everyday.”
It makes sense, doesn’t it? For those drawn to the unassuming ease of minimal makeup and messy hair — and, in particular, how they take a humble backseat to the wardrobe below — it’s not so surprising those same people would start to find uncolored hair kind of intoxicatingly whatever.
Roxie Darling is the head colorist at Hairstory, and I asked her if she’d noticed a shift in her clients. “I think the same generation of girls who were playing around with their hair five years ago are growing up and wanting to take their hair in a more natural direction,” she said. “The cool girls that made ombre popular, are now rocking more natural, subtler colors.”
As for whether she’d call it a trend? Not really. More like color-fatigue. “I don’t think it’s a trend, I think it’s a certain group of people who’ve played out all of their options.”
So maybe we’re drawn to subdued hair colors because they offer a rebalancing of the scales, yes, but is it a reach to also theorize that as fashion shifts away from minimalism — a neutral playing field that welcomes or even calls for a statement up top — our reliance on our hair to say something novel is relieved? That in the hands of the maximalist movement we can just go buy 15 lunches instead?
What do you think? Is no hair color is the new no makeup? Is dull hair kind of cool or blah as fuck?
Photographed by Krista Anna Lewis.