Tuesday, July 27, 2010

A Gray Moment?

Gray hair is having a moment…Perhaps this is the breakthrough gray hair has been waiting for: acceptance in the worlds of modeling, film, music and television.  No longer relegated to your grandma and her friends, it is now understood that gray hair signals still-sexy maturity, wisdom, and of course, longevity.

We have been treated to Anderson Cooper’s short gray locks, and his admittedly worldly-wise commentary on CNN for years now.  It is not just gay men who admire his looks – the man’s hot.  I venture to say that a large part of his allure is that hair.  It gives him an air of authority, charm and intelligence. 

In my gray-haired macho-man collage I also include Sam Elliott (a man I’ve admired since the 70’s) and Richard Gere.  Both have been improved by graying hair.  Those early salt-and-pepper looks of theirs were attractive, sure.  But the full-blown total gray-white look is amazing.  Sam Elliott was always attractive in that Marlboro Man way: lanky build, huge mustache, deep voice, long hair.  He’s lucky to have a full head of hair, and the looks to pull off keeping it long.  Now that it’s gone platinum – wow!

Richard Gere on the other hand, has been going gray for a long time. Longer hair, shorter hair - whatever a movie called for -  his salt-and-pepper look was attractively scruffy or executive-y.  Now he’s gone white and it looks great.  It’s an asset.  Projects wisdom and still-sexy masculinity past fifty. 

When I was a child, gray hair (not to mention white hair) was for “old people.”  That meant my friends’ grandparents and the elderly that we were supposed to give seats to on the subway.  Although I am graying, my hair is still brown (and I help it along).  But for years now, I’ve envied women whose hair has gone completely gray or platinum.  With a good haircut, conditioning, and attention to the color (no yellowing…),  the many shades of gray are dynamite.

What about the women:  Well, that’s where the true change has  come.  In the August 2010 issue of Vogue magazine, the model Kristen McMenamy sports long, long gray hair.  It’s fantastic and shocking.  At first glance, I thought it was a wig, but was happy to confirm that it is not.  Perhaps Vogue will continue to use models with gray hair; perhaps this is just something they were trying out….Obviously, I hope it’s a sign of the times. 

Ever-beautiful, ever-lasting, ever-enchanting model Carmen Dell Orefice, of course, is the exception to the rule.  Gray-haired models may not have ruled the runways or the fashion pages, but ever since Carmen turned gray, she has been the diva of platinum.  One can only wish upon a star to look half as good as she does in her seventies.  

Some actresses  have gone gray to great success:  It’s usually the European ones, though, who choose not to dye:  The great Dame Judi Dench and Helen Mirren, for example.  I hope when the time comes for Kate Winslet and Cate Blanchett, that they too go gray gracefully.

As to the Americans: Two great examples:  Jamie Lee Curtis, who’s been letting it all hang out for about a decade in an attempt to show what people really look like as they age.  She looks better now than she did at 22, I swear.  And, the singer Emmylou Harris.  Her platinum is a definite “yes.”

I don’t expect all of us will be letting go of gray-covering hair color.  Hair color has a permanent place in the cosmetics counter and the salon.  But I do hope  that “gray moment” becomes a tide of acceptance. 

‘Til next time. 

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