‘I am genuinely excited to look like my dad’: how oyster grey hair got hot

Julia Fox, Winnie Harlow and the USA footballer Sergiño Dest are among the big names choosing a look associated with ageing. What’s behind the trend?

When 2022’s trend generator Julia Fox attended the Council of Fashion Designers of America awards earlier this month, for once it wasn’t the barely-there dress that hit the headlines. Instead, it was her hair, which was dyed an unmistakable shade of oyster grey.

Fox commented on the look at the event. “This is a love letter to getting older,” she said. The actor and model is 32.

Fox is not the only younger woman embracing this hair colour. Ariana Grande experimented with the shade in 2018, when she was 27, while Zosia Mamet (34), Jade Thirlwall (29) and Winnie Harlow (28) have also been seen sporting the grey look. Men have been getting involved, too, with USA defender Sergiño Dest sporting oyster grey hair in Qatar during this year’s World Cup.

“I think the term ‘grey hair’ still connotes ageing,” says Jacqueline Kilikita, the deputy beauty director at Refinery29. “But words like ‘oyster’, ‘pearlescent blond’ etc are taking what is essentially grey hair and giving it a buzzy new name. Perhaps these names are making grey hair cooler or more accepted.”

It’s a trend that is taking off beyond celebrities – specifically, as Kilikita says, in this oyster grey (sometimes also called silver grey) shade. The hashtag #silvergreyhair has 1.9m views on TikTok – with much of the content skewed to younger creators. Salons including Rush, Blue Tit and Bleach also report an increase in requests for the colour.

Why are younger generations taking to a hair colour so associated with age? The contrast between a youthful face and grey hair could be seen as a visual stunt or a bit of a humblebrag – or it could be that they are aiming to “accelerate” the ageing process so it’s less noticeable further down the line. Or – perhaps – we might actually be at the start of a change in societal norms around the symbolism of grey hair.

“As winter quickly approaches, the trend will become even more popular,” predicts Seung Ki Baek, an artistic team member at Rush. We started to notice this trend in the summer season but, as the weather gets colder, many of us look to cool down our hair colour.”

Singer Ariana Grande tends to her silver grey tresses.
Singer Ariana Grande tends to her silver grey tresses. Photograph: NBC/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal/Getty Images

As Ki Baek implies, grey hair for this younger demographic is an aesthetic choice – rather than an inevitability to be either embraced or covered up – and a move away from previous conversations surrounding grey tresses. When actors including Helen Mirren (77) and Andie McDowell (64) appeared on the red carpet with grey hair earlier this year, it was viewed as something empowering for older women, who are rejecting the idea that to be beautiful you also have to be young. McDowell called the look “badass”, echoing the sentiment of social media’s #greyhairdontcare hashtag.

To an extent, the movement of older women embracing grey hair has also pushed back against Fox’s comments and a TikTok where she complained about anti-ageing labels on beauty products, proclaiming: “Getting old is fucking hot. It is sexy.” Carol McGiffin, a host on Loose Women, said: “She started off well because she said it was about the product, and then she just said: ‘Ageing is great, ageing is hot.’ She’s 30 years old! Tell me that when you’re 62, love.”

The actor and model Ocean Navarro sees the colour as an aesthetic choice. The 26-year-old prefers an oyster grey shade and first dyed her hair this colour in 2018. “I just love how it brings out my features, and it’s such a sleek colour that matches my skin tone well,” she says. Navarro says she grew up wanting grey or silver hair. In fact, she says: “I am genuinely excited for the day I am just like my dad, who is all white and grey.”

Oyster grey, done right, has a different, almost otherworldly quality that feels far away from common-or-garden grey. “It features glimmers of shimmering silver tones – like that of an oyster shell – and is truly mesmerising,” says Ki Baek.

Older people embracing grey are encouraged to use treatments and masks to ensure their hair looks its best. But achieving this colour with dye is an even more time-consuming and high-maintenance process – especially for those with naturally dark locks, who will sometimes have to have their hair lightened several times before the grey colour is applied.

Ki Baek says balayage grey styles – where oyster grey colour is painted on sections of hair and blends with the natural colour – is also popular with those who are just beginning to turn grey. “It’s the perfect colour that allows you to blend or embrace your natural greying hairs,” agrees Kilikita.

Ki Baek believes the combination of younger generations experimenting with oyster grey and older people embracing natural hues can only be a good thing for an age-diverse idea of beauty. “Grey hair is now seen as trendy and cool,” she says. “Older men and women who sport this hair colour are no longer seen as ‘old’. Instead, they are seen as stylish.”


Lauren Cochrane

The GuardianTramp

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