Why the ladies just can't resist a silver
Don't despair at the first sign of grey. More and more men are happily giving up the dye job, says Joe O'Shea
George Clooney is standing up for Grey Pride. The actor and perennial World's Sexiest Man candidate turned 51 yesterday and feels that his salt'n'pepper look is fitting for a man of his age.
However, the question of to grey or not to grey is not so clear cut for a lot of Irishmen.
Recent studies suggest that men are getting greyer, younger (they are also apparently losing their hair at a younger age) with the blame being laid on everything from poor diet and the overuse of hair products to increased stress levels.
The average Irishman will now start to go grey in his early-to-mid-30s and many report seeing their first silver strands even earlier than that (with grey hairs in your beard the first, tell-tale signs).
And there is now a growing and almost bewildering number of dyes, foams, sprays and other hair-colouring products specially designed for men who want to hold back the march of time.
The world's most famous Silver Fox, George Clooney, says that no matter how light his hair goes, he won't be reaching for the dye.
"I hear all this talk about how grey I'm becoming, but I can't imagine ever dyeing my hair," says the Ocean's Eleven star.
Clooney has, of course, very strong Irish roots (though not of the follicular kind) and he points to his father Nick as a shining example of how that dark Irish look can still turn heads even when the colour starts to fade.
"My dad has a full head of white hair and I think it looks pretty good."
Clooney says he first started to notice that he was getting older when he watched his critically acclaimed, 2009 film, Up In The Air.
"It's interesting to watch yourself grow older on screen. I watched Up in the Air and thought, "who's that old, grey haired guy?" It was me," he said.
"I never wear make-up for movies. It's starting to show."
TV and radio broadcaster and honorary Silver Fox Marty Whelan fought his own, long battle with going grey but decided to call it quits a few years back.
Marty says he started going grey when he was in his early thirties and made the decision to dye mostly because of his career in TV.
"I started going grey quite young and my decision was based on being in this business and wanting to be in this business for as long as I could," says Marty.
"That's why I started getting the hair coloured. And of course, once you start getting it coloured, you can't really stop because you're thinking what will my hair be like if I stopped? You could be after going totally grey, so you just keep going with the colour".
Marty says he started to have second thoughts about colouring as he moved into his mid-forties.
"It got to the stage where it started to get silly, and I remember having conversations with the guy who coloured my hair, thinking that it was a little ridiculous, that at the first sign of a grey hair, I was running out to him."
"But it was about what I do for a living. And that's why the George Clooney thing is interesting because I do think attitudes have changed. When you have somebody like George Clooney and everything he is, and he's saying he is fine with going grey, I think that does make a difference to us mere mortals".
Marty says the reaction to his more natural look has been "very positive".
"It's been great, I probably should have stopped with the colour a few years earlier".
"Maybe people see a man with grey hair and they think that he's comfortable with who he is, people say grey hair on a man is distinguished and some women think it's sexy. I don't know about that but I'm happy the way I am now.
"And let's face it, a lot of guys are just happy to have any hair at all."
Marty may have given up the dye but an increasing number of Irishmen are now opting for help in turning back the grey tide.
Dublin hairstylist Linda Joyce specialises in colour for men and uses a "cold tone" technique devised for male hair.
"What we do is a progressive colour, that can be very natural, either tone down the grey or eliminate it altogether," says Linda.
"The hot tones that you would see in colours used for women do not work on men. What you should be looking for is a very natural, progressive colour that blends in very well. If it is done in the right way, it shouldn't be noticeable at all."
Linda says many of her customers tend to be in their twenties.
'They are guys who have started going grey very early and they don't want to look like that in their twenties. We have a lot of guys who have jobs that have them dealing with the public, and they want that youthful look," she says.
"Some guys get sent in for a colour by their wives or girlfriends, others hear about it from friends or are in here having a hair-cut anyway and they see a guy getting a colour in.
"I don't think it's vanity. I think it's about something that you might be insecure or unhappy about. If you don't want to be grey, or at least very grey, you don't have to be.
"I have one client who is in his mid-fifties and he was just white. He didn't like it so we gave him a more ash-blonde tone. It wasn't dramatic but he was delighted. His friends didn't even know that he had got a colour. They just knew that there was something different about him," she adds.
Linda believes that more and more Irishmen are going to get into the habit of dying (the Italian, Alfaparf Uomo system she uses works out at about €30 per month for her clients).
"The more Irish guys that hear about it and hear about their friends or guys in work getting in done, the more will be open to the idea of getting a colour. It's definitely getting more popular with Irish guys now".