In 2020, being a silver sister is seen as a symbol of freedom, acceptance of a certain stage in life, a badge of honour – just like smile lines and wrinkles. A decade or so ago, not so much. My friends thought I was crazy – especially as I was single!
I was 18 when I noticed the first grey strand amongst my almost black head of hair.
I don’t recall being shocked or horrified. What I do remember is that once I saw the first one, I kept seeing more on a regular basis and it wasn’t long before I succumbed to my first “color shampoo”. And so the cycle began.
I’m was never particularly adventurous about how I looked, outside of the odd mad snip of a very short bit of fringe, or adding a wine red / purple tone to the darkest brown that was rinsed through my hair every 8 weeks from the age of 21.
It didn’t take long before the colour shampoo progressed to a tint, and from 8 weeks to 6. Scheduling time for the 3 hours at the hairdresser was always a trial – between travel and crazy advertising work hours, keeping the grey middle path at bay was an ongoing struggle.
By the time I hit 40 I was almost completely grey. My mother had a magnificent head of almost white hair, and my older sister had taken the plunge. She cropped her hair short, wore it white and looked amazing. 10 years younger, I thought my almost black hair added a certain interest. However, I tried not one, but two hairdressers who thought “medium brown” was my path forward to “better hide the grey”.
Now I’m a lot of things, but I just couldn’t accept “medium brown”, safe, dull, middle-aged hair.
And then, a stroke of luck in more ways than one! In 2008 my agency started work on a massive programme for the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa that would roll out over the next 20 months. My fairly tiny team was going to have to deliver a huge, complex project and every second was going to count. As the grey roots made their appearance, the pressure of finding 3 hours to sit at the hairdresser was just too much.
I decided there and then that I was going to “go grey”.
I made a big point of telling everyone that they would have to lower their eyes from what was sure to become a disastrous visual atop my head. My friends all thought I was off my head but I just didn’t care. The economic shock of 2008 had me in “survival” mode, and delivering an extraordinary project meant we wouldn’t take a financial hit, like many others around us.
I have to be honest, it wasn’t pretty. But mostly, I had my head down, and all I did every now and then was chop off the brassy ends. Just over a year later I had more grey than brass, and then, finally, a head of pure steel, silver and a smattering of pepper at the back.
Suddenly, women were stopping me everywhere – in shopping malls, the airport, restaurants – telling me how brave I was, how I looked amazing …. I received more compliments for how I looked than I ever had with a head of rich, glossy, dark chocolate hair. I was astonished at the response. It had never occurred to me that so many women so badly wanted to be grey, but were too scared they’d look “old and done”, instantly turning into their mothers – unattractive, rather than vital, energized, attractive mid-lifers. Menopause and grey … For so many it felt a bridge too far.
More than 10 years on, my grey hair is still attracting compliments and comments. In fact, my hairdresser tells all her clients that she does my colour – until they see I’m in and out of the salon in 30 minutes.
What’s more, grey hair has become a statement – even youngsters are trying (which I must say annoys me … They really haven’t earned it!)
For those of you sitting on the fence, take the plunge! What’s the worst that can happen? You look like a skunk for 18 months, (insult / compliment courtesy of my daughter) laughing off how hideous what was your “crowning glory” looks, trying to ignore the wide-eyed stares of strangers (and friends) and along the way, if you can’t take it anymore, you head back to your trusty hairdresser and the bottle of colour.
Or maybe, you ‘metamorphosize’ into a silver-winged butterfly, free to show the world your true colour! And an added benefit is that you get to dictate your trips to the hairdresser, not the ever-quickening silver regrowth.
So for what it’s worth, here’s what I think: if you’re considering going grey, just do it!