Why we're all dyeing to be different
Jenny McCarthy, Kylie Jenner and Nicki Minaj are all sporting the latest trend - coloured hair. Longtime fan Andrea Smith explains the appeal
When I was a teenager, I used to bleach bits of my permed hair blonde, which in retrospect, must have looked awful with my bushy, black eyebrows. Don't judge, it was the 80s, and none of us were overly acquainted with the concept of a tweezers.
One day as I was wandering around town, I saw some punks with multi-coloured hair coming out of a salon, so I went in and emerged three hours later with a few pink streaks in my hair.
They were tame by today's standards, but when I walked into my convent school on Monday morning and saw the stunned reaction on the faces of my fellow students, I knew I'd gone too far.
St Paul's in Greenhills, Dublin had a very strictly enforced dress code, and no jewellery, make-up or any deviation from the regulation uniform was permitted. I knew I was going to be in serious trouble, so I decided it was prudent to launch an offensive.
The principal, Sister Mary Clare, raised an eyebrow when I entered her office sporting fuschia locks, but listened patiently as I poured out the sad, Oscar-worthy tale, complete with crocodile tears, of the 'auburn' hair dye that had reacted with perm solution to inexplicably turn my curls pink.
It was a tragic outcome, I sobbed, and I was devastated by the result, particularly as the salon couldn't touch my hair for at least three months to 'rectify' the problem.
The head nun agreed that it was a most unfortunate situation, and dismissed me saying that she hoped the other girls wouldn't take it as a licence to follow suit, and that, dear friends, was how I got away with my first foray into a lifelong affair with pink hair. Sorry, Sister.
Ironically, once I left school, I embarked on a series of part-time jobs through college and then proper jobs after that where I had to look businesslike, so my hair was forced to remain dark brown.
People of my vintage will recall how we had to follow strict dress codes at work, right down to the tan tights and court shoes. But once I became a self-employed journalist at 35, I was able to throw off the shackles of conformity and started colouring my hair. Having tried any amount of variations on the theme with varying success rates, I finally discovered coloured hair extensions and was thrilled at the results. I have now had pink, purple, blue and green extensions for the past 10 years, and I never get bored with them.
I saw an old lady in Kilkenny with a multi-coloured ponytail and a garland of flowers in her hair last year, and I hope I'll end up like her.
I get my extensions done every three months by the lovely Therese in DnA salon in Perrystown, and it costs €370, including a cut and colour of my own brunette hair. Having tried other brands over the years, I love the Balmain ones she applies because the colour doesn't fade one iota.
I feel really dull and boring without them, and they're a definite ice-breaker when I'm meeting strangers for work. Little girls can't take their eyes off them in supermarkets, and random people come up to me in the street to talk about them.
I'm not such an unusual sight these days, as coloured hair is very trendy at present. While Nicki Minaj has been rocking every shade, pattern and style over the past few years, we've also had Kelly Osbourne's silver/purple hair, Kylie Jenner's blue hues, and Kimberley's Walsh's pastel pink tint.
The 41-year-old former Playboy playmate and actress, Jenny McCarthy, debuted her bright pink hair Stateside recently, while US television presenter Kelly Ripa took to Instagram to reveal that she's dyed her hair from bright pink to a bold ocean blue.
"It may be trendy now but we were doing it first," declares etiquette expert, Tina Koumarianos (62), of PartyandWhine.com.
"I never experimented with colour until my daughter Susie got at me in my late 50s. I was working for Image magazine, and was in the office all day and going to cover events at night.
"One night I came home, tired and ratty, and Susie told me to sit on the bathroom seat and said she was going to jolly me up. She started doing stuff to my head and I thought she was giving me a deep conditioning treatment, but when I looked in the mirror, there was this blue streak in my hair.
"I said, 'What have you done to me, you bloody lunatic! I can't go into work looking like that, are you mad?'"
Susie assured her rattled mum that they would love it in the office, and if they didn't, she would dye it back the following night.
Tina went to work, and her colleagues were so enamoured, they changed the colour of the hair of her cartoon image on her 'Ask Tina' problem page in the magazine.
After that, she went crazy and got Susie to bleach large patches of her dark hair, and dyed them every colour imaginable using Crazy Color hair dye at €4.50 per bottle.
While she mixes it up the whole time, at present Tina's hair has hot pink, deep purple and 'cyclamen' in it.
She had to ditch her beloved blue hue because she's a regular panellist on TV3's Midday, which is filmed in front of a blue screen. The graphics were projecting onto her hair and turning it invisible, so she had to revise her colour palette.
"I really went super-bright when other people started dyeing their hair too," says Tina, who says that she will never go back to her regular colour as the funkiness brings so much pleasure to other people. "My motto is 'go big or go home!'"
Tina's daughter Susie, a 25-year-old pastry chef and cake designer, thinks it's hilarious that her mum has embraced the vibrant look so whole-heartedly. When she was growing up, she had long black hair "like Wednesday Addams," and used to beg to be allowed dye her hair and get tattooed.
Tina wouldn't relent until Susie was 18 and legally an adult, and it was close enough to her Leaving Cert that her school wouldn't expel her.
"Mum wasn't impressed and used to say, 'I'd love to go there with you but we can't because of your hair," she recalls. "My attitude was that if anyone didn't like it, I didn't like them back."
Susie is currently rocking every five colours, including an ice-blue fringe, and it's grand in work as it's hidden under her chef's hat.
While she says the people who come to compliment her are often the most unassuming and conservative people, she notices that some old people cross the road when they see her approaching with her boyfriend Dan and his mates.
"Then again, that might have something to do with them all being big, hairy bikers and the fact that we all have lots of tattoos, leather jackets and big boots," she says.
"I never get bored with my hair, and the only reason I'd ever stop dyeing it would be if it fell out, but even then, I think I'd just tattoo my head to make it more interesting."
When it comes to the opposite sex, Tina says that while blondes are supposed to have more fun, her experience is that men love it when you have colourful hair.
A few years ago, Image put profiles of five people of different ages on a dating website for the purpose of gauging reaction for an article, and within a couple of hours, Tina's had 167 responses and every one of them mentioned her barnet.
"I was at a barbecue in Roundwood recently and three men came up to me and said, 'Love the hair', she says.
"I think I seem more approachable because they think I must be wacky to have coloured hair at my age.
"They see someone wearing pearls and a twinset with pink hair, and presume you must be gamey underneath all of that pearl exterior.
"It certainly works very well for me anyway."
And presumably, people do a double take when they clock the funky mother-and-daughter combo coming up the street?
"Oh Jesus, yes," says Tina. "They can't believe it. We're like the Kardashians gone wrong."