Back about 25 B.C., the Latin poet Propertius wrote of enduring romance: “No rival will steal away my sure love; that glory will be my gray hair.”
Whether you wear it with pride or take pains to conceal it, that touch (or more) of gray has long signified experience and wisdom.
There’s no telling what Propertius would make of young celebrities — such as Kim Kardashian, Ryan Lochte, Hillary Duff, and Lourdes — choosing to dye their hair gray as a fashion statement.
But here in 2019 A.D., youngsters have taken a shortcut to gray power thanks to a convergence of factors, including prominence in haute couture, popularity on social media, and advances in salon technology. Experts in the field helped Considerable untangle the strands of the story.
The gray hair phenomenon’s roots go back to the turn of the decade. As far back as 2010, the Los Angeles Times commented on a surge in women letting their hair go gray naturally instead of dyeing it, and observed that several younger celebrities (including Gaga and Kelly Osbourne) had taken the silver look for a spin.
The article quickly dismissed it as “an oddball trend — and one that’s likely to burn out quickly.”
In fact, the rise of Instagram, the development of new hair-care products, and the mainstreaming of the look on runways and red carpets would go on to propel the gray movement to its current prominence in hair salons around the world.
Celebrity colorist and global hair color educator Chiala Marvici was succinct when discussing the origin of the trend with Considerable: “Fashion has definitely inspired the white/ gray trend.”
Marvici credits much of its momentum to fashion designer Jean-Paul Gaultier, who designed shows in 2011 and 2015 that featured younger gray-haired runway models.
Marvici told Considerable, “His catwalk show at Paris Fashion Week (in 2015) featured silver hair — and shortly after, we saw many other designers feature white hair on a number of runways that season.
By the summer of 2015, gray and pastel colors were regularly requested at salons, showing the growing popularity of the look.”
By 2015, not only was there recognition of a gray hair trend among younger people, but it had achieved the pièce de résistance of social media: it was now a chic hashtag (#GrannyHair), complete with how-to guides and best-practice manuals
L.A.-based stylist Fae Norris told Considerable that Instagram drove interest quickly: “If Instagram didn’t create the trend, it sure drove it fast. Where styles and new colors used to take months to catch on, it can literally be a matter of hours now.
And let’s not forget that color filters are on smart phones for a reason: They work! Norrise noted, “With the silver colored filters you see on the pictures it makes the gray look a thousand times cooler.
Mike van den Abbell, owner and stylist at Mosaic Hair Studio and Blowout Bar of Orlando, Florida, agrees that Instagram played a pivotal role in the trend, but believes another crucial step forward was in product development — specifically, a breakthrough in the bond-builder line of hair-care products.
“It is important to note that until a few years ago this wasn’t really possible,” van den Abbell told Considerable. “This new product allows stylists to push the envelope farther than previously possible when bleaching the hair.
Meanwhile, as more and more people are taking the plunge into new shades of gray, there is simultaneously a movement among the naturally graying of all ages to embrace not dyeing their hair anymore.
And no trend would be complete without some pushback. Some folks, including here at Considerable, haven’t stopped dyeing their gray hair and are doing just fine, thank you.
Whether you are dyeing it gray, covering the gray, or not dyeing at all, there seems to be agreement that it’s all about feeling good about yourself. And that while the gray trend will surely slow down, it also may have found a permanent spot amongst popular hair colors.
“I think this trend has some legs,” stylist Norris said. “In some ways probably more so than extreme colors. There seems to be a greater acceptance of gray tones so I think it might be around for a while.”
Added hair and skin care expert Adani Mahilli with Maple Holistics of Farmingdale, New Jersey, “It’s also opened the door to the fact that gray is a color like any other and not something that necessarily defines the aging process. It’s a shade in its own right.”