Nfld. & Labrador·Point of View

Grey hair is in vogue for women in St. John's — and I'm on the cutting edge

After 20 years of colouring my hair, I have decided to join the increasing number of women who are growing out their natural grey.

Weekend AM host Heather Barrett is going full silver fox, and she’s not alone

Weekend AM host/producer Heather Barrett is making a fashion choice to go her natural grey. (Stephanie Tobin/CBC)

Last fall, as my hairdresser was combing dark brown dye through my hair, she remarked, "Yup, your hair is pretty white under there."  

For nearly 20 years, I went to the salon every couple of months. I plopped agreeably into a chair with a fashion magazine and a cup of coffee for an afternoon while a stylist covered up my rogue grey hairs to match my original hair colour.  

But getting my hair coloured had become an increasingly expensive and frequent chore. My roots needed touching up every few weeks, and I didn't have the patience or skill for at-home colouring kits.  

Then and there, in my hairdresser's chair, I decided I was done.

A growing — and greying — trend

I'm not the only one.  

I've been spotting women of all ages around town rocking full and partial heads of silver, white and grey hair.

On Instagram #grombre — "the radical celebration of the natural phenomenon of grey hair" — is a thing, with artful photos of women of all ages in the process of going from salon dyed hair to their natural colours.  

"You're definitely seeing a lot of younger women with grey hair," confirmed Robert Reid, a hair stylist at the Head Room Salon and Spa in St. John's.

Reid said cool colour tones like blue, violet and grey are big for hair on fashion runways right now. He figures about 10 per cent of his clients, mostly young women, are getting him to strip out their hair's natural colour and replace it with grey from a bottle.

Robert Reid, a stylist at The Head Room Salon and Spa in St. John's, figures about 10 per cent of his clients are dyeing their hair grey, and another 10 per cent are ditching dye for their natural grey hair. (Heather Barrett/CBC)

"And I think that's opened the door to older women," he said.

"They look at it, think it's cool, and they do it."

A 'mini rebellion'

Reid's stylist colleague, 28-year-old Sarah Downey, is delighted that grey hair is in, since she discovered her first silver strand at the age of 12.

"In the past few years I've been embracing the fact that there is grey, and using those greys as free highlights," she said.

Sarah Downey, a stylist at The Head Room Salon and Spa, combines her natural grey hair with salon colours. (Heather Barrett/CBC)

Downey's hair is a striking mix of natural grey strands against black hair, with bright green accents.

"I feel like it might be a bit of a mini rebellion," she said — a way to push against workplace beauty standards predominantly set by men.

"There's something mystical and wise about grey hair."

A change ahead

Head Room client Michelle Cheramy is a couple of decades older than Downey, but she's on the same philosophical hair page.  

"I've always identified as a feminist," said Cheramy, a Memorial University professor and classical musician.

"There started to be a cognitive dissonance between [dyeing my hair] and what my real, true belief system was."   

MIchelle Cheramy, a flautist and professor at Memorial University's School of Music, has recently grown out her natural grey hair. (Heather Barrett/CBC)

Cheramy had been covering up her stray grey hairs since she was 24, mostly using at-home kits, and she was getting sick of it.  

She waited until her chamber music group finished some video projects, then warned the two other musicians she works with that her dark hair was going to change.

Fast forward a year or so, and now Cheramy loves her head full of silvery curls.

Not for everyone

However, Cheramy understands that going grey isn't for everyone.  

"I can't say that if I weren't in the job market, and I wanted to change jobs, that I wouldn't have kept colouring my hair," she said.   

"Just so that one additional barrier of perception of age wasn't not a factor in a decision. And it pains me to say that."

Also, Cheramy admitted that she really needs new professional headshots, but has not gotten them since switching to silver.

Silver fox, here I come

Like Cheramy, I'm holding off on getting new publicity photos.

It's been six months since I last had my hair coloured. So far, I'm enjoying the ever-changing splotch of grey on my head.  I've even had a few compliments on it.

As a Gen-Xer, I don't look like a young woman anymore, and no amount of hair dye is going to change that.  

And to be honest, it irks me that generally, grey hair reads as "distinguished" for men, but not so much for women.

It's time to celebrate silver foxes of all genders.

After all, Newfoundland and Labrador has the one of the fastest aging populations in Canada — maybe all the cool kids around here really do have grey hair.

Grey is a hot color at a hair salon in St. John's. Monica Kidd, former CBC journalist and current woman of many interests - talks about her latest projects. 33:54

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About the Author

Heather Barrett is the host and producer of Weekend AM on CBC Radio One in Newfoundland and Labrador.

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