The new Fifty Shades of Grey effect: why going grey is sassy, sexy and a political statement
December 12, 2014 | By:

Women going grey is not as acceptable in our society as it is for men. Which is wrong wrong wrong, and why Claire Mason is joining Kirsten McMenemy and Jamie Lee Curtis in going grey and proud

Celebs with grey hair. Kirsten McMenemy 2013

Kirsten McMenemy (50) was renowned in the 80s and 90s for her androgynous look. She has been letting the grey show since 2010

For the first time in my life, I’m totally on trend. Fifty Shades of Grey is walking out of bookshops (and e-readers)… and appearing on my head.

Follicles that until a while ago could be relied on to be their usual dark mouse began to change. The odd grey hair started emerging where previously a brown one grew. Not enough to notice initially, but soon whole colonies of the things were sprouting on my scalp.

All this is in direct opposition to the many youth-prolonging activities I had started to practice. Namely, washing my make up off before bed and yoga.

Throughout my earlier decades, I’d happily go to sleep with the day’s slap still on, but, as if by magic, on one of my more recent birthdays, the scales fell from my eyes and I realised just what a mistake I’d been making.

Now I don’t enter REM sleep cycles unless I’ve just about steamed every pore individually and applied some heavy-duty unction to my skin.

By the way, it works. I think. Put it this way, I’m certainly looking cleaner if not quite 25 again.

It was the same with flexibility. I thought that some people could touch their toes and some couldn’t and that I belonged to the latter camp. Then a health and fitness expert told me you’re only as old as your spine, and that was it, I signed up to a yoga class pronto.

A more aligned posture shaves off years. All the compliments convinced me I was on the right path.

Yet the greys keep on coming. And I welcome them.

Making a statement by going grey

I’ve decided that I’m going full-on activist with this. Let’s face it, men’s bodies will never be as loaded politically as women’s. They have their meat and two veg and precious little else. We women have all our bits and a canvas. From the advent of puberty, our actions speak much louder than theirs.

The mere act of a woman not shaving her armpits is political. Men failing to shave is either no big deal, or Movember. Which they’ve only had since 2004.

So why waste a good opportunity to make a statement? What a pleasure to stick two fingers up to society and its expectations of women just by letting nature take its course. You know, the way men have been doing for years.

Brands, having woken up to the silliness of using 22-year-old models to advertise wrinkle creams, now pounce on female celebrities as soon as they start clocking up years on the birthday clock beyond 40, and make them the face (or hair) of their hair colouring products.

All look fit, healthy and fabulous, but all make sure to entreat to the camera that they’re not letting a grey hair get a foothold on their head. Subtext: grey equals old and undesirable in a woman.

Men look distinguished; women look their age

I’m not convinced Richard Gere had this concern when he was filming Pretty Woman. At 41 years of age in the movie, he certainly sported a head of salt and pepper hair – and with a lot more salt than pepper.

Admittedly, that film takes us back to 1990. In the past 24 years, hair products for men have appeared on the shelves and the adverts for them are becoming more and more commonplace.

Is this because men are feeling the pressure to cover their grey in these increasingly youth-obsessed times or is it a natural progression of the metrosexual trend? Perhaps society is now allowing men to express a little vanity.

One thing is for sure, and that is that the messaging is subtly, but distinctly, different to that of the female equivalent. It’s all about men having the freedom to choose to disguise their grey if they wish, rather than presenting colouring your hair as an essential piece of maintenance once you reach a specific age. Then again, men don’t get to be seen as firebrands for letting the grey grow.

My quest to go grey naturally has led me to a whole underground movement on the internet for this cause. Websites, blog posts and Pinterest pages abound, all united in the celebration of women who go grey.

It might have been once that a grey-haired gent was distinguished, whereas his female counterpart was looking her age (why is that not a positive thing anyway?). But ladies, we’ve oh-so-cleverly turned that little double standard on its head. Now, and increasingly more so, the short cut to transmitting an aura of confidence and sassiness is a glorious head of grey hair.