December 24, 2021
Mostly for the better, but sometimes for the worse (*sigh*), 2021 was the year that gray hair became a cultural phenomenon. Depending on the context, it was hailed—see the slew of high-profile women who have emerged with newly silvered strands and met enthusiastic praise—or in less progressive circumstances, criticized, most notoriously around the new Sex and the City series And Just Like That....
“The newspapers were breathlessly reporting that some of you were sporting gray hair,” Kelly Ripa said to Cynthia Nixon, who traded in her signature shock of red hair for her natural gray as Miranda, during a recent interview on Live with Kelly and Ryan. She was, of course, referencing the ageist commentary that’s surrounded the actors embracing their age for the reboot. To which Nixon replied, “Well, Michael Patrick King who is our chief writer and director, he was like, 'You know, a lot of women during the pandemic, they couldn't get out to the beauty parlor and they decided to go gray and then they decided that they liked it. So if it was going to be one of the women, we think it would be Miranda.”
The conversation around the cast of And Just Like That… was just the latest flashpoint in the discourse around gray hair that’s been happening amid the ongoing global pandemic. As antiquated, youth-oriented beauty ideals are slowly getting pushed aside, there are more women embracing their gray than ever before.
“This trend started almost a year to two before COVID-19 hit, but it wasn’t as popular as it is now,” explains Jack Martin, Hollywood’s go-to colorist for seamless gray hair transitions. “The lockdown definitely helped encourage women,” he continues. “Usually once a woman sees a little gray, they head straight to the salon. But while quarantining at home, they grew it out and it gave them a chance to realize how beautiful their natural roots are.”
Of course there’s no better study in this aspirational transition than Andie MacDowell and her arresting halo of salt-and-pepper curls, a product of both the lockdown and Martin’s expert touch, which caused a stir at Cannes Film Festival over the summer. When Vogue spoke with MacDowell about her decision to go gray, she didn’t downplay the politics that inherently went into it. “At first, I was so cautious because I didn’t want anybody to be upset,” explained MacDowell, in reference to pressure from her management to keep concealing her grays. “But then once I did it, it was just so clear to me that my instincts were right because I’ve never felt more powerful.”
Considering the world’s rabid obsession with the royal family, additional impactful endorsements have come from Princess Caroline of Hanover, the daughter of Grace Kelly, who unveiled a silver bob earlier this year, followed by Spain’s Queen Letizia, who arrived in Stockholm for a state visit with visible gray streaks woven through her deep brunette lengths this fall.
Whether going full-on silver or even just rocking gray roots as stars like Gwyneth Paltrow, (throughout her press tour for Netflix’s Sex, Love, and Goop), and Tracee Ellis Ross (holding a mug emblazoned with “Hair Care Is Self-Care” in a candid selfie on her Instagram), have done, it’s becoming more and more clear that gray isn’t something to conceal or be ashamed of, but something to welcome into your life as it feels right to you.
And for individuals on that journey to gray who feel ready to usher in a new chapter or even make silvered lengths their new calling card, more representation in the media is inherently empowering. It’s high time for a shift: As MacDowell, who has set out to upend society’s idea of a “silver fox,” put it, “We love men as they age. I would love the same expectation for women, and we’re getting there...you know, baby steps.”
Yes, I love that , also!
It happens and what happens is always for a reason!
I needed to stick with the tone, not because of fashion, because of the need not to spend.