Fifty shades of grey (hair) isn't the look for every man
As more Irish men dye their hair, Graham Clifford follows suit
The pretty blonde in the television advert smiles and asks "can I borrow some sugar?" as she knocks on her new neighbour's door. The young greying gent spots her through the peep hole and shouts "sure, just a minute." He jumps out of his apartment window, races through the streets like a mad man and bursts into a convenience store which sells a men's hair dye. He sprints home, shampoos in the dye and opens the door. Their eyes meet and electricity surges...and all because of the dark head of hair on the sugar-donating neighbour.
Television adverts such as this attempt to convince male viewers that hiding those grey streaks will increase their chances of finding love and help maintain a youthful image.
Those in the know believe that more Irishmen than ever are now dyeing their hair.
"About 20pc of our bookings for colourings come from men," says Michael Maguire, salon director at D'Arcy's Hairdressing in Cork city. "The younger guys will change their hair colour normally, whereas those aged 35 and older come in to get their grey covered up."
In recent years, I've noticed a rapid increase in the number of grey hairs on my own barnet. Each time I get my hair cut at the barbers, I look down to see grey hairs speckling my gown.
So I decided it was time to bite the bullet and take to the hairdresser's chair.
It's early morning and Cork city is just waking, yet I'm surprised by how conscious I am of others in the salon. "A lot of men are still nervous about getting their hair dyed in a hairdresser's," explains Michael. "We actually have space upstairs and some men will request to get the process done up there so there's a little more privacy."
He takes note of my skin colour and then it's time to decide on my new look. Somehow, I'd always convinced myself that my hair-colour was dark brown - "in fact it's more dark blond," sayss Michael.
He and I flick through the colour chart and decide on a shade that closely resembles my natural one before I sign a waiver indicating I have no history of skin allergies.
I start to feel a little apprehensive, but, with his cool and collected manner, Michael puts me at ease as he explains that there's a fine science to altering hair colour as he brushes on the dye.
Within minutes, my head is covered and I'm placed under a heating device (aka the headmaster). I can't help but feel like a elderly old dear - all I'm missing is a head full of rollers!
The headmaster ends its cycle and I'm brought to the sink area for a wash of the hair. I ask Michael if those who self-dye with a bottle from their local pharmacy need to be extra careful?
"Big time," he replies. "Some will see a shade on their friend and think that it will also look good on them but that's a major mistake. We all have different skin tones, warmth in our hair and so on and we need to take everything into account when choosing the correct shade."
I return to my chair without looking in the mirror and it's time for the big reveal. On the count of three I spin my chair around and there staring back at me is a handsome, debonair, dark-haired gent -probably in his late 20s!
This dark-brown colour, I'm told, will last until Christmas. With your average man's hair-dyeing application costing between €30 and €60 at the hairdresser's, it seems like good value.
All in all, the experience has been extremely relaxing. Would I get my hair dyed again? Probably not, but now I can understand why more Irishmen are getting their roots touched up on a regular basis.
Anthony Kelly, barbershop owner, Fermoy, Co Cork
"I started turning grey when I was in my late 20s. Initially, I used some dyeing products to try and darken it but I quickly
realised it was pointless. My father and the other men in the family went grey when they were young, so I believe it was in the genes.
"Once I accepted that grey was really my natural hair colour, I kind of enjoyed having it at a young age, to be honest.
"As far as I could see, there were two major advantages to going grey when I did. On the sports field, you could be marking a player and he'd look at you at the start of a game and think 'this fella is over the hill, look at the grey hair on him'. But when the first ball came, I could use that to my advantage and dance rings around him - like that grey-haired Italian footballer Fabrizio Ravanelli used to do.
"Also, you get the most visible sign of ageing out of the way quickly. There's no fretting every time you see a grey strand in the mirror. Volume is now more important than the colour of your hair. I think some lads are obsessed with covering up the grey and many are under pressure from their wives and girlfriends to do so. Luckily, I don't have any of that pressure to deal with."