Discovering what lies beneath

A little break in service from my normal crafty blogging – but important just the same

Who knew? Who knew that under my progressively blonder hair there were the most extraordinary brunette stripes. Regular, quirky about 1 inch from the very front of my hair line. They are so very individual. This year…no, these two years have been full of surprises. Sometimes we don’t even know who we are and what lies beneath.

I have, my friends, been going grey since I was quite young – for nearly half my life. I started disguising the wisps of grey hair with highlights. It was expensive hobby which became annoyingly time consuming. As I became increasingly grey my hair was dyed lighter and lighter. True confessions; I began to be frustrated by having to touch up the roots so frequently. I could see it was damaging my hair. I also saw some photos and thought…’argh that colour just does NOT suit my face’. I am too lazy to be on-it and too vain not to care!’

I have in my adult life known some utterly fabulous grey haired women. My own grandmother has a gorgeous grey pixie cut. My closest work colleague, Cathy, has the most admired hair of any woman I have known. Salt and pepper when I first knew her 25 years ago and now a thick mane of silver. Glorious!

In the craft world I have always admired the style and chic crops of Debbie Bliss and Juliet Bernard. Natural, edgy…cool.

But lets be honest until recently, the fear has always been…grey hair ages you. You will become seen as too old, too invisible and irrelevant. But the nagging inauthenticity of how I looked started to shift something. Before lockdown I shared an open-plan office with a much younger woman who had a glorious salt and pepper bob. I never told her how much I admired her look – her hutzpah. But she gave me courage. The wonderful growing community of #silversisters and the #grombre phenomenon on Instagram showed me there was a changing mood for grey. Let’s be honest if Sarah Harris of Vogue isn’t cool – then who is?

I had always said that at my next significant birthday I would take the plunge and stop dying my hair. But then Covid and lockdown came upon us and I realised that our enforced housebound existence was the perfect opportunity. I think many women thought the same.

I really wish that I had recorded the date of my last dye. I think it was probably February 2020. Now eighteen months on I am nearly dye free with my mid-length locks. There seem to be two schools of thought. Go for the chop, have a buzz or pixie cut and then grow your hair to your favoured length. I went the more torturous route, watching the grey roots work their way down my scalp. Honestly the most painful part was not that difficult. In lockdown I barely saw anyone – and it is really hard to see people accurately on Zoom meetings.

Nearly at the full transition how do I feel? Some days I have my doubts. I think that there are friends who think my new tone ages me. Some days I care…mostly I do not. Will I be invisible? Will I be overlooked for job opportunities? Will I be seen as irrelevant? Well we will see, but luckily I don’t think with my hair. To quote a good friend and an excellent t-shirt – ‘Underestimate me…that’ll be fun’.

The good news is my hair is falling out less, my skin tone looks more like me and I have both more time and change in my pocket. The biggest delight is discovering what was always there, hidden. My quirky dark stripes. Not dyed, not placed, just naturally there. It brings a smile to my face. When I have faltered then I have found new confidence in wearing brighter colours, stronger lipstick, fun jewellery. I have never wanted to be mousy and I am not about to start now.

This is my own journey and we are all very different. Making this decision was hard but logical. The timing was right for me. For others it will be different. However if you are looking for courage to embrace the grey then I would encourage you firstly to look around. So many women have taken lockdown as an opportunity to emerge as a Silver butterfly from a Covid chrysalis. If you are on Instagram it is worth following the hashtags #silversisters and #grombre. Also check out the account of Luisa a wonderful Australian model and photographer @thesilverlining_1970. I have also been encouraged by the author Viv Groskrop, the Fashion Icon Sarah Harris and more recently actors Andie McDowell and Dawn French.

grey-hair-emma-varnam

Will I keep my new silver locks? I think so – it’s such a transition that the thought of doing it again seems ridiculous. Thankfully the ‘silver fox’ concept doesn’t just belong to men and the idea of what is beautiful, trendy and chic is changing. I have found my new badger stripes, why on earth would I want to cover them up!

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