Lee Suckling: Is going blonde a cry for help?
The global shutdown of hair salons provided us with an interesting revelation: we realised how many of our friends weren't really blonde at all.
But while many saw their natural roots grow out, others decided lockdown was the perfect time to go blonde for the first time.
A quick reach for the supermarket bleach and you too could have been the proud owner of a pseudo-beachy mop for isolation. It would have looked fun for five days, but now the post-lockdown weeks have turned to months, lots of bottle blondes have been left with the horrors of straw-like hair and inconsistent regrowth that doesn't yet look nearly as balayage chic as they had hoped.
Dyeing your hair blonde during stressful times is quite a phenomenon. Broken up with your partner? Go blonde! Lost your job? Feel like you're getting too old? Or maybe just disillusioned with your future with no clear path forward? The answer feels like it will be found on a box labelled "Nordic" in colour.
Going blonde is a reinvention; one often sought in times of crisis. When people feel like they're having a bit of a rough time, we can seek dramatic, controllable change. Blonde hair offers just that. Every time you walk into a room, you will feel like a new person. It provides an immediate shock to the system.
It's perhaps more alarming when men go platinum, as opposed to women. Women are societally expected to dye their hair to maintain a certain appearance, whereas men have been left by common culture to be more comfortable keeping au naturel locks (whatever colour they may be). Therefore, when a man does change his hair colour, there's often a message in it. There's meaning behind the drastic change that goes against the expected.
Is the message when a dude goes blond (you remove the "e" when talking about a male, apparently), always "help!?" Let's look at some celebrity examples. Justin Bieber, Pete Davidson, Troye Sivan, Zac Efron, Zayn Malik… they've all gone platinum in recent years during turbulent times of their private lives or careers. Normally it's relationship break-ups (Bieber, Davidson, Malik), but in cases like Efron and Sivan, the blond look seemed to be some sort of unspoken signal to be taken seriously. At the time, Efron was trying to earn his chops are a serious actor (his Ted Bundy Netflix biopic had just come out), while Sivan was transitioning from teen YouTube star to queer icon. Coincidence? I think not.
I went platinum myself once, in October 2018. I'm now thinking about it again. The first time around it was due to malaise. I had Seasonal Affective Disorder and was desperate for summer after a long, freezing winter in Wellington which showed no sign of abating. I thought the blond might cheer me and my cold bones up.Advertisement Advertise with NZME.
Today, in June 2020, I'm coming out of the stress of lockdown and surviving on the wage subsidy , and I'm looking for a change. It's also winter again so I'm getting a bit SAD. A tattoo sounds fun but it's too permanent. Piercing? Not really me. New car? Can't afford it. So a $15 bottle of pharmacy hair dye might do the trick.
Yet I begin to wonder, for how long? What would I be trying to achieve with blond hair – what am I trying to say? Is it for shock value, a revolution of my self-image, because I'm just bored with the same face staring at me in the mirror… or something more serious?
It has been an anxiety-riddled, long, and boring first half of 2020. I probably crave the adrenaline rush of going blond. I think it will make me feel strong. Underneath that I surmise there are feeling of powerlessness. I, like all of you, have felt like I haven't been able to control anything for months now.
Perhaps that's my crisis right there. My cry for help. Newly-blond hair won't solve my problems, but I might feel reinvigorated and more capable. Is that such a bad thing? A little boost of confidence to get through? Time will tell. While a man dying his hair blond probably signals he's having a tough time, he also has the benefit of knowing that it's just hair, it will grow back, and any crisis-mode regrets can be fixed by a quick buzz cut.