That prams and art are not mutually exclusive.

Is it OK to go grey?

By Gillian Harrison

I found my first grey hair when I was 17. I remember plucking it in disgust and disbelief before obsessing over that little grey strand, and the next that arrived in its place.

Crazy as it sounds, finding a cure for grey hair became my secret obsession, like searching for gold at the end of the rainbow. I experimented with black hair dye and red henna. I coated the greys with brown mascara. I tried Chinese Medicine and B6 supplements. I cursed my genes. Nine years ago, I eventually found my rainbow in a hair salon in the North of England and my gold came not in a pot, but a bottle. Blonde foils worked nicely, the grey blended well and although I had not found a cure, I had found a way to (almost) forget.

I’ve touched up the highlights every 12 weeks since.

Then, yesterday, ironically while at the hairdressers, I read Anna Johnson’s article in Australian Vogue, ‘Dodging the Silver Bullet’. Johnson found her first grey at 21 and like me, has dyed her hair ever since. I handball Johnson’s question to my hairdresser: “Is it okay to go grey?”

The response came quickly: “It’s okay for some”.

Who are the ‘some’?

Sarah Harris, Director of Fashion Features for British Vogue, is one of the some. Harris noticed her first grey at 16. By her twenties she had embraced her silver streaks. (Harris refers to her colour as silver, not grey, the latter being a colour she admits carries connotations).

Sarah Harris combines grey with grace.

Sarah Harris UK Vogue

But what are the connotations Harris speaks of and why are they so important?  The pre-conceived ideas that plague our attitudes towards beauty, body image and ageing are deep-rooted.  So deep-rooted I realize as I watch my hairdresser chop away at my split ends, that I wonder if my ideas about my hair colour are not my own but instead the suggestions from the collective consciousness: Grey is dreary. Silver is special. These connotations must have a deeper impact than we imagine as this is the only reason I can think of for me hating my grey without being able to explain what it is I hate about it. I can understand why Harris chooses to sidestep the implications of grey.

Besides, the word “fake” carries its own connotations. The online world especially enjoys its inhabitants upfront and honest. On-line, we cheer for the women who share shots of their post-baby bellies or speak openly about everything from plastic surgery, weight, body image and beauty to the removal of pubic hair. So why can’t I can’t accept a few grey strands? Why am I embarrassed by the lack of pigment in my hair?

Bill Cosby said grey hair is God’s graffiti. The bible called grey hair a crown of glory. I like Sarah Harris’ description best;

“I love the rebelliousness of my (silver) hair — it’s honest and nonconformist.”


Is it time for me to give up the blonde? Do you have grey hair? Is grey hair okay only for some?

16 Responses to “Is it OK to go grey?”

  1. lisaschofield1

    I’ve always been a bit smug about my lack of greyness. Maybe it’s hard for grey hair to grow in the dry dusty birdsnest that is my hair. But recently, a silver streak is making it’s presence known. As a late comer to the world of hair dye, I feel that I’ve got years of dye jobs ahead of me before I let the inevitable happen. And as I see it, (and being a young’un in my 40’s), I’m completely freaked out at the thought of growing old and being past it – will people want to read my writing if they know my age, will I be categorised as an older women, when inside myself I screaming “but I only feel like I’m still in my 20’s”, keeping the greys at bay is something I can control. There are so many other signs of growing old that I can’t.

  2. rhythm & method

    My relationship with hair dye began when I was 15. Instead of being a mousey brunette, dyeing my hair red ignited my whole face; my eyes became greener, and my skin seemed paler and more even in texture. Becoming auburn also seemed to externalise my inner feistiness.
    At 32 and 355 days (who’s counting?) I do have some silver hair popping through, but it will be a while before I have to negotiate silver regrowth. I like to think I will own it, but for me it depends on whether it’s drab, lifeless grey or silver like a fox?
    I think Sarah Harris is a magnificent example of owning your unique, flawed beauty. Wonderful post Gill. x

  3. Rae Hilhorst

    I have been grey since my 20’s and have coloured my hair forever. My hairdresser refuses to let my grey hairs show. I think I have that odd grey colour, if I had Sarah Harris’s hair I would wear it with pride xx

  4. Maxabella

    This is quite startling to read, Gill. I have JUST coloured my hair with a home dye kit for the second time in my life. My hair is still wet as I write this.

    I have a nice natural shade, so this is ALL about the grey coverage. I just decided that I felt too young to be grey and that’s only because in this day, only really old ladies are grey. Everyone else wears the colourful mask of youth.

    We all know it ain’t so, but I think our minds like to be deceived by our eyes. We want to pretend that getting older doesn’t change a thing. x

  5. MultipleMum

    Grey is the new black isn’t it?

    I am noticing more greys each day. Approaching 40 and considering what my move will be. Not sure if I am ready to embrace the grey but hate the alternative – all those chemicals…

    Let me know how your rebellion goes x

  6. Sharron

    I identify! Started going grey at age of 27, 15 years later and I am still visiting my loyal hair stylist for a full on dye job – incidentally in the North of England 🙂

    I think anyone can embrace any aspect of their identity, age, etc and whilst I chose in all other aspects of my life to age gracefully, with no surgery or botox, I will continue to die my hair for many many years to come.

    Grey is not for me, because having inherited my father’s grey hair I also inherited the fact that you could not dress my wiry little grey hairs as Silver if you tried. Its wiry, gray and makes me feel dreary. I am sure I could have paid for botox a few times over with the money I have spent on my hair, but I love the whole ritual of visiting the hair dresser and find having my hair cut, dyed and styled an affordable luxury that I look forward to

  7. Katie Paul

    I used to get blonde streaks until I noticed my regrowth was as light as the streaks (ie silver) so I stopped with the colour. I now have completely natural coloured hair for the first time in my adult life and I love it. It’s silver, grey, pewter, brown — like a calico cat. I can’t wait until it’s all silver!

  8. Michelle Weaver

    At 52 I’m still 98% brunette. The temples don’t look so good! The thing I fear is that the greys I do have are wiry, thick old lady hair that is very difficult to pull out. Is that my fate?

  9. beingmrsbrown

    I think about this all the time. I, like many of you, started going grey at 25. I did a lot of cursing my father and his ‘bad’ genes. At the time though I was already dying my hair any colour I fancied so I just kept on going. When I was 35 and pregnant with my third child, the prospect of sitting in the hairdressers for three hours was too much so, by default, I let my grey grow through. At first nobody noticed, but slowly there were more and more greys and I would see people looking at my hair as I talked to them. They were noticing. But guess what? It was liberating. Once people knew I had grey hair the secret was out and there was no point covering it up with hair dye any more. It still took me a long time though to fully embrace the decision.
    Grey hair is generally taken as a sign of someone getting old right? And we don’t respect the aged in our culture the way we should. Especially not age in women. I guess we dye our hair as a way of trying to remain youthful, of masking our age because as women we have some sort of used by date that we’re forever fighting.
    But in the same breath I think that each and every woman is entitled to do what they want to their hair and wear what they want because they are the one and only boss of themselves. We should never have to feel guilty about the decisions we make regarding our own beautiful strong bodies. If we decide to cover grey – good. If we decide not to – good.
    Now, would you believe, I have dark streaks put into my hair to make my ‘silver’ (I’m totally adopting Sarah Harris’s take on it) stand out more. I want people to see it. And I’m keeping it long (even though it’s more conventional to cut your hair into a ‘practical’ cut once you get ‘older’) because it’s my hair and I can do what I want with it. And I want it long, and I want it with streaks of silver. Going grey is not me giving up on style and fashion. Going grey is me being the me I want to be.
    Here are a couple of links you might be interested in…
    and a shameless plug for my blog… – this post includes a great picture of Tyne Daley with a quote from her about going grey.
    Thanks for a great read.

  10. Tas

    I do harbour a deep resentment that men can be so sexy or elegant with greying hair. George Clooney and Richard Gere come to mind as two men who were meh with dark hair but woah with those stylish grey temples. So why is it so much harder for women to carry off with panache?

    I am a dark brunette with ever increasing greys. I don’t think that I am too fussed about ultimately being grey (apart from the fact that those grey hairs seem to have a mind of their own) but the process of getting there doesn’t appeal to me so much so I am dyeing my hair every now and then when I have a bad day. Not sure of the solution but hope that as I get older, I can be more at peace with the process.

    Mind you, hubby didn’t get any sympathy when he found his first grey hairs a few months back (at the age of 40)…

  11. remodelingpurgatory

    I’m pretty much a “wash and wear gal” and I detest the 2 1/2 hours it takes every 6 weeks to keep my hair blonde rather than silver but no, I wouldn’t go grey. Someday but not yet. As much as I don’t like it, vanity is there.


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